Reopening School Libraries

Considerations and Gathered Information


This is a collection of information for school librarians to consider and may want to share with their administrators and/or other groups in their districts and buildings as plans are developed for physically re-opening schools. Please note that the information below is not official guidance. It is meant to be a resource of information for librarians to use when planning for the reopening of school.

NYSED has released guidance here, and schools must submit a plan by July 31. Support for the essential role of school libraries and school librarians is stated on page 110, and while details of re-opening specific to school libraries are not provided, we each have an opportunity to develop and share a plan that works for our students and schools.

To facilitate sharing ideas a Google doc has been started 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.

Handling Materials Safely

In all probability, your district already has guidelines for handling physical materials that come into school. Ask your administrator how they are handling other materials such as physical packets with homework assignments. These procedures can guide your procedures as well. Recent research has shown that many library materials can be circulated safely with some modifications, and suggested best practice is that circulation continue.

REALM Project: News This project is considered the authority on this topic, and is updated frequently. Currently, the suggested "quarantine time" is 4 days.

Questions to consider:

How to handle books when they are returned?

Where should they be held?

Will your stacks be open?

How will you identify materials used "in-house"?

Physical Space: Logistics and Protocols

While many libraries may be repurposed to house classes, it is possible to make modifications to reduce risk. Consult your administrator for district-specific guidance. Refer to the Google doc above for suggestions and more resources.

CDC: Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes

Questions to consider:

How can we encourage social distancing?

How can we reduce proximity by controlling the flow of traffic?

How can we change our seating arrangements?

What protocols must be adopted to address high-touch areas?

Access to Physical Books

District guidelines will likely determine your ability to circulate books. If books are able to be circulated, consider loaning more books per student. This will decrease the number of contact interactions, and will mean more books are readily available should we return to all remote learning. It will be important to discuss with administrators that the likelihood of loss is higher, but if literacy is a goal, we must find a way.

Most districts saw an increase in circulation of ebooks during the school shutdown in the spring. Consider how to continue promoting and encouraging the use of ebooks, including ensuring that all students know how to access them. This will help to keep students reading where district policies may limit circulation and/or if there is a return to all virtual learning.

Questions to Consider:

How can you ensure students get the books they want?

Can you partner with another program or service to deliver books to students?

If guidelines limit or restrict the ability to circulate physical items, how can you encourage students to continue reading?

School Librarian Role in Pandemic Conditions

AASL Pandemic Resources for School Librarians Click below for PDF of AASL Chart

Coming Soon!

  1. Roles of a School Librarian in Uncertain Times
  2. Collaborating in a Virtual World
  3. Access to Online Resources
  4. Providing Reader's Advisory