This month's One-Question Survey asked school librarians to reflect on what we've learned, and continue to learn, as school librarians dealing with our institutions' closure due to COVID-19. We specifically asked: "How do you see your future practice changing?" The most popular of the options that we included in the form was "increase the library's online presence" which garnered 311 out of 388 respondents (80%). We asked respondents to choose all that apply.Other highly rated options were "Expand digital resource offerings" with 275 librarians selecting it; "Revise library plans and policies for distance learning days and other service disruptions" with 244; "Explore more professional learning opportunities related to online tech tools" with 219; and "Implement a system for disinfecting/quarantining returned media on a regular basis" which was selected by 188 respondents.
While it is not surprising at all to see that a whopping 80% of respondents are seeing the need to increase their library's online presence as a result of closures, it might be worth our time to consider what this might mean in practice. For myself (Jen), I definitely already had an online presence. The library website is used daily by me and my students. It is accessed from within the library and from classrooms. The website is how students access the catalog and loads of digital resources. When I curate digital resources for teachers, they are found there as well. What I found, though, as we shifted to remote learning, was that I wasn't offering anything for parents who might be interested in helping their kids find resources. They were suddenly a captive audience that I wasn't prepared for. My site was built more for students who had gone through an orientation and were used to me popping in during a project and reminding them what they needed to use from the site. I also hadn't trained my teachers to use the site; instead I would simply send them direct links as I collected what they needed.
Looking at the library website through the lens of students who are doing projects at home alone or parents hoping to support their child,has opened my eyes to needs I wasn't aware of before. Jennifer LaGarde addresses these and other points to consider in her blog post about five things every school library website should have (https://www.librarygirl.net/post/5-things-every-school-library-website-should-have).
When considering a library's online presence, social media plays an integral role in advocacy and communication. Even more so when school is closed. The survey results point to a huge number of us realizing that we need to improve in this area. I know personally, prior to my library's closure, I had focused my social media to mostly Twitter. I used that platform for building a network of other school librarians and ed tech aficionados. I was networked with my teachers and administration, but hardly any students and parents. The current situation has clearly demonstrated what I was lacking and motivated me to increase the platforms I use in an effort to reach my other intended audiences effectively. There are several ways to do this, but one way is to use a third-party app to manage social media posts. Barbara Krasnoff has written an article for The Verge that does a great job of explaining why something like this is necessary and how using a tool like this pays off quickly in terms of time and energy (https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/24/18700806/social-network-manager-facebook-twitter-instagram-multiple-how-to-post-at-once).
Over 70% of respondents want to increase their digital resource offerings. This is great because the resources are out there. Right now, many resources that might usually be behind a paywall have become available. That means that now is the time to explore and try resources you've maybe heard about but haven't committed to. Beware of becoming overwhelmed. It is not possible to perfectly collect every single resource and artfully arrange them all for your teachers. It is not possible to personally check them all out. That is okay. Keep your teachers and students in mind, and trust yourself.
An important step, especially if you are new to the field, is to check if your state or local education cooperative has a virtual library presence. Kentucky has a well-established community and collection, the Kentucky Virtual Library (https://kyvl.org/). It is a consortium with members from schools, academic libraries, public libraries, and some special libraries. If your state does not have such a service, make sure you are leveraging all the district resources that may be provided to each school.
Do not forget to leverage the giants in this field: PBS Learning Media (https://pbslearningmedia.org), National Geographic Education (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/) and the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/education/). These resources, and many more, can easily be curated, in conjunction with your online presence, to meet the needs of your individual students, teachers, and content areas.
Once you find new digital resources, don't forget to share them! Part of this goes back to your improved online presence. Every time you meet with a class or a group of teachers, remind them of where and how they can access the digital resources you have collected.
School library plans and policies are often part of school improvement plans and district policy, but not necessarily in the context of remote learning. If your school or district has a plan be sure to read it, and better yet, be involved in the creation of it. This will be much easier if you have already been a member of committees, teams, or councils, where such decisions are made, but this could also be a chance to make your valuable voice and expertise heard.
Online professional development is not a new phenomenon. There are a wide variety of platforms and offerings already in existence for most content areas, including the school library.
School Library Connection (https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/webinars). One of the best collections of online professional learning resources is provided by our own SLC. There are free webinars offered regularly (see below for upcoming webinars). Subscribers also have access to a collection of archived webinars and workshops that focus specifically on topics relevant to school librarians.
The school library professional learning network for the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTElib) also offers an archive of wonderful webinars produced specifically for school librarians (http://librariansnetwork.weebly.com/webinar-archives.html).
Applied Digital Skills (https://applieddigitalskills.withgoogle.com/). As regular users of technology, it is easy for school librarians to assume that most of our students and their guardians have that same basic knowledge. Applied Digital Skills from Google for Education has lessons to help any learner from late elementary to adult with those everyday computer skills we take for granted. There is a wide variety of lessons provided on things like basic file organization, digital citizenship skills, writing strategies, research, and more.
And, don't forget the AASL Learning Library (https://aasl.digitellinc.com/aasl/store/31/index/126).
While policies and procedures will vary greatly from school to school, many of us may work in a school that has a flu or infectious disease policy. At Jen's school, this was only recently written and it was in response to COVID-19, but will be used for other situations as needed. It is important to make sure all aspects of the library program are considered as the policy is adopted. For the physical collection, things we discussed included: anything that would be a reason to stop checkouts, how long to quarantine returned items, how staff should be protected while working with those items, how to recover items during or after a closure, when it is appropriate to expand/remove checkout limits in preparation for closure, and when heightened measures may take place while the library is still operational.
As you craft your policy, take a look at the recommendations for disinfecting books and other collections from the Northeast Document Conservation Center (https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.5-disinfecting-books).
The Inquiry Arc: Where Social Studies and the Library Meet with Jacquelyn Whiting and Drew Colati on April 27: Learn more and sign up here.
Fostering Student Agency: The 10 Questions Framework in Your Library with Laura Gardner and Chaebong Nam on May 12: Learn more and sign up here.