The international school librarian might not be at the forefront of your mind when you think about international schools dealing with a global pandemic. This time has revealed numerous ways in which librarians play a critical role in supporting the entire school community, beyond offering a quiet space for your reading pleasure. Read on to find out about the unique ways in which librarians are supporting schools and families in the time of COVID-19.
International school libraries during Covid-19.
While schools closed around the globe, many international school libraries amped up their roles as information providers. Instead of existing in a physical space they shifted to being a key point for sharing information and supporting the transition over to distance learning. Many schools worked on researching and providing learning resources to students. This is no easy task. School libraries have to consider issues such as access to technology, legal implications of sourcing books online (for example e-books & audiobooks) and physical issues of acquiring & returning books, to name just a few.
There are a lot of resources available online that offer guidance for school libraries on dealing with this anxious time, such as issues of health and safety and finding ways to continue to share information in less traditional ways.
How do libraries impact student learning?
School librarians bring communities together.
Under Covid-19 they have provided community under challenging conditions. Even when the physical space has been closed they have taken it online enabling families at a distance to still feel connected to the school community. Librarians are also cheerleaders of finding joy through literacy and became a big source of offering socio-emotional support. Library associations in the UK and the US have been offering webinars to librarians in ways to support the community during Covid-19.
You can all imagine the chaos when suddenly schools closed and the way information was consumed changes in the blink of an eye. Librarians, trained in managing information systems, are the ones that stepped up to all the technical questions arising, especially providing a structured and organized catalogue of resources. Many schools turned to their libraries to find online resources. School Library Association in the UK set up a Covid community project, a scheme supporting library staff to continue offering their resources even when they are furloughed. They state on their website: “whatever your area of passion – a lesson plan for looking at the Holocaust, a how to video for using Sway, a book list of books that contain maps, best books to read aloud to year 5 – if it works in your school library someone else will appreciate it!”
School librarians bridge gaps in access to information
School librarians offer technical support and expertise to teachers so that they can better support students. During Covid-19 as the role of technology plays a bigger part so does the liaison between librarian and teachers. According to the American Association of School Librarians empower teachers’ skills in digital context: “85% answer questions about technology tools. 66% participate with teachers in professional learning and 33% train teachers how to locate and evaluate digital content.”
One thing that has definitely arisen during this time is the awareness of equality and access to information. Librarians are the first to know that not all is made equal, and work tirelessly to bridge the gap. Librarians were first to notice challenges in access to information. Being a key part of responding to the shift in remote teaching they are likely to take on a key position in the move to a blended learning approach in the future.
Services provided by international school libraries during Covid-19
Many librarians adopted a rigorous approach to online learning, sourcing resources for distance learning and ensuring families have access to online library accounts plus the technology to do so. This included finding companies online that would offer services to families, many of times looking for free options to ensure access for all. They also scoured the web so they could provide resource lists of online reading and other creative activities.
One of the schools we partner with, Berlin Brandenburg International School, are taking various methods within their library during Covid-19. Their library remained open to support children of key workers and they also adopted changes such as formulating drop off book services.
A number of publishers have given temporary access to ebook collections. E-books have proved very popular during this time, but not without their limitations. Many schools libraries are working on their online catalogue of books making e-books available to all members, this meant some licensing issues to overcome and others challenges, such as the cost of budgeting and the language options available in e-books. Having a catalogue of available books online is only one part of school libraries at this time, ensuring support for families by offering creative ideas is another part of the role. Some schools set up weekly reading challenges, creative writing and sharing their stories with each other, finding videos and read-alouds online.
As international schools are opening around the world, will libraries continue as usual? The answer is probably no. To start with, like other aspects of reopening international schools which we wrote about previously, the space needs to be prepared in line with preventative methods, like social distancing and sanitizing. Here is what some international school libraries are doing…
School library book returns & quarantine
In terms of dealing with books that were checked out and unable to be returned we heard of different solutions from international schools around the world. One school librarian commented on a Facebook post on the matter that they are not allowing books to go out at all at this time. Another librarian mentioned: “We are going to ask people to return the books and sanitize them. I have decided not to allow books to go out during summer. Summer reading lists are all based on free online libraries. Much simpler”. Others mentioned students and teachers return books by depositing them in crates outside the library.
Many libraries are dealing with book returns by quarantining the books, after it is speculated that the virus can remain on books for 72hrs, but less for paper covers. A librarian stated: “We are back to regular school now, but being cautious and have been quarantining books for 3 days. Official advice is 24 hours and then wipe with sanitizer but we were concerned about moisture and paper causing books to get mouldy”
Many schools are taking precautions to reduce the spread of the virus by encouraging students to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands. Some of the spaces have signs for this and some offer guidance face to face. Of course, social distancing is also in use the spaces are to be reworked to ensure plenty of space between students.
What is your experience of international school libraries during Covid-19? We would love to hear your stories. Feel free to share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org