"Welcome to the Library!" Orientation in a Virtual, Hybrid, or Social-Distanced Environment
Editor's Note
I just wanted to start out by saying hello! I am joining the School Library Connection editorial team as the Curriculum Connection Editor with this inaugural editor's note. I have served as an elementary and high school librarian in Nebraska, was a lead teacher/research librarian for library services in a large metropolitan district (curriculum development/instructional coaching), am entering my 10th year as adjunct faculty for the University of Nebraska-Omaha Library Sciences Program, and am a board member of the Nebraska School Librarians Association. I will be joining a new school district this fall and will serve as the school librarian for North Star High School in Lincoln, NE. I have written for SLC in the past, and I am excited to be involved in a new way that will help me highlight the work of school librarians across the country. Please send any topics you would like to see covered or let me know if you are interested in contributing a lesson plan for an upcoming post. Contact me at mrspentland@gmail.com. Upcoming possible topics include: elections, asking questions, using local history for inquiry, evaluating photos, coding, using weeded books in instruction... and more!

The fall semester of 2020 will be different from anything we have ever known as educators. For many of us, plans are starting to be announced with the knowledge that those plans could change quickly depending on many factors related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Schools could be in situations where the learning is happening entirely online, a hybrid of in-person and online, or 100% in-person. The many scenarios lead us, as school librarians, to rethink the ways we have always provided services to our school communities, as our spaces are used quite differently than traditional classrooms.

One steady and constant lesson that school librarians can count on for the first quarter of the school year is orientation to library services offered to students. As an elementary librarian this past year, I reviewed how to take care of books, how to look for books on the shelf, how to check out a book, and when books need to be returned. As a high school librarian, I have previously focused on the resources available to students—print books, eBooks and audiobook platforms, and databases. Orientation has also included information about book clubs, how and when to access the library, how to seek help with homework, what materials the library has on loan (scissors, glue, crayons, etc.), and much more.

This year, depending on your school's fall plan, the hands-on approach many of us use when providing orientation may have to change drastically. The physical space may not be available. The procedures students have been used to for browsing and checking out books may need to be altered. Access to makerspace materials may need to be restricted for the time being. Book clubs or other activities that usually take place in person may need to find another way to meet.

No matter what decision you and your school make to ensure the safety of your staff and students, you will still want to welcome your students at the beginning of the year to let them know how to use all the valuable resources you and the library provide and also to help build a sense of community. Below are just a few ideas on how to approach this.

In my lesson plan, "Virtual Library Orientation: Reading Resources," I lay out a plan for ways to give students access to the print and digital books in the collection if classes in the school library are not possible. As such, the lesson covers creating videos to share with students (and parents) that help them do just that. In "High School Library Orientation for Remote Learning," Dr. Jessica Dennison explains a procedure for how to create interactive orientation processes for high school students when you can't meet in person.

Here are some additional ideas shared by fellow school librarians on how they plan to tackle orientation this fall:

  • Shoshannah Turgel, teacher librarian at Centaurus High School, in Lafayette, CO, posted a question to the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group seeking examples and tips on creating a virtual orientation. Based on the responses she's received so far, Turgel said she is "definitely hoping to use Loom and/or WeVideo to showcase all things that can be accessed virtually (eBooks through SORA; placing holds on physical books; databases; and, Read Woke Reading Challenge featuring Stamped…)."
  • Zandra Lopez, school librarian at Vandegrift High School in Ausin, TX, created her school library tour using only her phone and a tool called Matterport, a program used by realtors (https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=FdLmF9LTj6o&back=1&sr=-3.08&ss=1&fbclid=IwAR3WvoOhLGCtgCeIZ07F7KPdEi-a-41R54f-Kjv8EuxU5Fetlgsd1scis8M)
  • Thinglink is another option to consider for virtual tours. Meredith Fickes from Mickle Middle School in Lincoln, NE, created one a few years ago, and it is featured on the library website (https://home.lps.org/micklelibrary/virtual-library-tour/). I've also seen suggestions to use programs like Screencastify for recording or PowerPoint to turn photos into a video tour.
  • Amanda Del Conte, school librarian at Carver Elementary in Georgetown, TX, and Amanda Jones, school librarian at Live Oak Middle School in Watson, LA, both shared that they would be creating Google Tours of their school libraries. Del Conte explained that it is like making your own Google expedition; products to help create them include Google Tour Creator or Google Poly.
  • Elizabeth Von Nagy, school librarian at Papillion LaVista High School in Papillion, NE, said she was thinking specifically of how to reach her freshmen this year. "I might use the virtual tour created with the ESU 3 (Educational Service Unit) folks combined with Google Classroom or Sites since we're a Google school." Their school district will be new to Google this year, and she hopes to set up a Google Classroom/Site for the library. "I want to create a digital book display and embed a book request form/book bags survey in the same resource." In previous years, Von Nagy has created a form where students can indicate their interests, and she curates books she thinks they might like that are delivered or picked up in "book bags."
  • Angelina Murphy, a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, CA, shared a stations approach to orientation for her English classes that could easily be adapted to the school library. You can find the entire threaded description on her Twitter page (https://twitter.com/magicalmsmurphy/status/1286407005083639808). She even made the template for the slides available for free—just be sure to go to make a copy of the file before making any changes (https://bit.ly/digitalfirstday). She also wrote about using learning stations on the first day of school for Edutopia (https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-learning-stations-kick-year).

My thoughts are with you as you receive your school opening plans or revised versions of those plans. I wish you all the best and hope nothing but health and safety for you, your students, and your staff. Hopefully, the ideas above can help even a little as you try to reimagine the best ways to embrace your school community during this very unusual beginning to the school year.

About the Author

Courtney Pentland, MEd, is the Curriculum Connection Editor for School Library Connection. She is the school librarian for North Star High School in Lincoln, NE, adjunct faculty for the University of Nebraska-Omaha Library Sciences program, and a board member for the Nebraska School Librarians Association. She earned her master's in secondary education and master's endorsement in K-12 library science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

MLA Citation

Pentland, Courtney. "'Welcome to the Library!' Orientation in a Virtual, Hybrid, or Social-Distanced Environment." School Library Connection, August 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/Article/2253267.

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Entry ID: 2253267