Reopening School Libraries - Part 2

Considerations and Gathered Information


First and foremost, we here at SLS want to help you in ANY way we can! As you can see from some of the items below, we recognize that your world is changing (again!), and so is ours. Please let us know what you need so we can continue to serve you. From time-to-time, we will send out short surveys - the more people we get to complete them and give us feedback, the better we can do in the coming year.

The information in this (and the previous SMORE - Reopening School Libraries - Part 1) is a collaborative effort between the 4 Capital area SLS Directors - Capital Region, HFM, Questar II and WSWHE. These are intended to be informative suggestions for school librarians to help in decision-making and work going forward in the 2020-21 school year. It is not intended to be official guidance or considered to be recommendations. Each district/building and school librarian has a unique situation. Our hope is to help in any way we can. Apologies in advance for this being a long issue! There's just a lot to cover - and we know we haven't covered everything!

Schools submitted re-opening plans by July 31. On August 7 Governor Cuomo announced the schools will be "reopening." By now, I assume you all have information on the role you will be playing in your district. We will be putting together local and regional "librarian chats" for you to have the opportunity to share ideas in the future - stay tuned!

To facilitate sharing ideas, we will continue to use a Google doc that was started with Part 1, that will allow us to brainstorm, offer suggestions, and ask questions. It is divided by topic, with one question per row. Please add your ideas or recommendations, and feel free to ask your own questions in an empty row at the bottom.

Roles of a School Librarian in Uncertain Times - Social & Emotional Learning

Social & Emotional learning is a big part of our world right now. For consideration as you move into this school year:

1. How can you check in with students daily, weekly, etc.?

2. Remember it is about relationships. Ask them how they are today. Use a funny animal meme to help them express their feelings.

3. How can you create and sustain relationships with students if learning is online?

4. How did you address SEL when instruction was face-to-face? When instruction went online in the Spring? How are you looking ahead to this fall?

5. How can you leverage the ESIFC to meet the SEL needs of students? (Reminder - you can find the materials from our Spring 2020 regional meetings with Barbara Stripling and Jen Cannell in this Google folder).

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has a good chart for Core SEL Competencies that includes additional information for each one.

Roles of a School Librarian in Uncertain Times - Changing Roles

To say the roles of school librarians are changing during this current pandemic is an understatement! Everyone I've spoken to has had their "traditional" role changed in some way or another for the coming school year. We understand how difficult this is for you and want to help you however we can! We will continue with PDs throughout the year (virtual and in-person if and when that becomes an option). Meantime, we encourage you to try to see opportunities where you can, small as some of those might be. How do you maintain your "librarian hat" when you have been pulled to teach classes? How do you get books into students' hands when you don't have access to your library during the day? So many questions! I think a lot of those will be able to be answered better once school has started, and you see what your "new" reality is like, and to that end, we will be offering regional group "chats" to discuss more.

Meantime, a couple of articles may be of interest. The first is "Embedded 2020" from Knowledge Quest that discusses how to consider being embedded virtually. The other article is "Six Shifts in Librarianship" - below in a pdf (article plus addendum) - which was published two years ago in School Library Connection and written by Bridget Crossman and Sarah Olson from Lake George School District. In it they discuss how roles change and evolve over time; sometimes more quickly due to circumstances. I think it's important to remember that, and you may find some good information for our current situation.

Also below is the pdf of AASL's " School Librarian Role in Pandemic Learning Conditions "

Questions to Consider

1. How are you setting goals and priorities to meet the demands of this "new" world?

2. If your role is changing temporarily, i.e. teaching part or all classes outside of the library, how do you keep your role as a librarian relevant?

3. How can you take your most "cherished" in-person lessons and re-create them to a meaningful, online lesson?

Collaborating in a Virtual World

Stay connected with teachers

  • Use video meeting tools to meet since texts and emails are easy to misinterpret
  • Be positive, be productive
  • Plan multiple lessons not just one or two = time to create and gather resources

Be sure all teachers can access online platforms and resources being used

  • All should have editing rights to shared documents, folders and access to class settings
  • All should see student work and take turns giving feedback

Use “we” in language

  • Make sure students know all collaborative teachers are available for support
  • Use “we” in directions and emails so students and parents know all that are teaching and helping

Establish routines for getting work done

  • Decide who will be doing what (leading “live” instruction, offering notes for outside class support, providing videos if needed, develop a schedule of keeping track of daily/weekly assignments and attendance, posting daily to do list, virtual office hours, etc.)
  • Divide and conquer - split up the workload

Decide how to assess student growth

  • Check district grading policies
  • Put grading criteria and clear expectations in directions for assignments so both students and families can understand

Articles to read on Virtual Collaboration:

What Can Co-Teachers Do As A Virtual Team

10 Best Practices for Virtual Co-Teaching

How to Co-Teach From Your Couch

Co-Teaching in an Age of Remote Learning

Questions to Consider:

1.What are the goals of this collaboration?

2.What are the roles and responsibilities of each teacher?

3. How will we take pride in our work? (everyone needs appreciation and feedback)

4. How can we have ongoing reflection? (what works, what doesn’t)

Access to Online Resources

Here are things to think about as your return to school:
  • As early as possible, get access info (and lessons as needed) to students, teachers and parents! Some of your students may be in all days; others may be completely virtual; most are a combination/hybrid of the two and will need to know how to get access as soon as you can at the start of the year.
  • Consider your web presence and follow district protocols for posting all electronic resources that you offer.
  • If you do not currently have a web presence in your district/building for online resources that you subscribe to, it is recommended that you talk to your tech people and/or administrators about how to get that on there. Most schools now have offer a path or links to teachers’ sites.
  • Reminder - do not post your usernames and passwords publicly! These can be posted “behind” a password-protected school account that students can access, or can be shared out with emails – just don’t put it on the website seen by the public
  • Where you are able, have all of your databases and eBooks links in one place with easy access to the links. If you have “single sign-on” capabilities, utilize those.
  • Curation can be very helpful, either for specific teachers, curricular areas, grade levels, etc.
  • When teaching students directly, or collaborating with teachers, make them aware of the databases and eBooks you subscribe to and that they may already be familiar with, rather than “new" resources that need to be taught. Your district is paying for many of the resources you offer; get your money's worth.

Articles of Interest:

The School Librarian: Your Ultimate Digital Resource

Promoting School Library Resources and Services with Today’s Digital Tools

Questions to Consider

1. What is the most easily accessible platform you can use?

2. What is the best way to inform students, teachers and parents what they have access to online?

3. How do you teach (online or in-person) what resources are best for different kinds of research?

4. How do you plan for the "timing" of teaching about online resources? How do you prioritize which ones to teach first, and others that can be taught later?

Providing Reader's Advisory

We know that often a librarian is the person who sparks a love of reading in our students by providing effective and on-time reader’s advisory. Just as relationships are the root of successful readers’ advisory face-to-face, relationships are central in virtual advisory as well. Librarians should focus on building relationships through conversations, surveys, or other creative means. Here are a few other suggestions:


  • Students can have guest accounts

  • Students can select a book and scroll to the bottom of the article to find read-alikes

  • Create curated lists and share direct links with students

Use OverDrive/Sora

  • Curate digital collections in Marketplace

  • Virtual book exploration - can read small samples

Questions to Consider

1. How can we empower students to find their own “next favorite book”?

2. How can we inspire late-blooming readers?

3. Can we facilitate student-to-student suggestions?

4. Can our students add reviews in our library catalog?