School librarians evolve, adapt to overcome COVID challenges | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

The evolution of school libraries, including during the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is being recognized by the Rome school district this week in conjunction with National Library Week.

Impacts that began a year ago, “when libraries had to adapt to the new changes and guidelines due to the pandemic,” have meant “readapting the way things were done, but still delivering services to students and teachers,” noted a district announcement Wednesday.

The efforts and adjustments of its librarians were outlined in the school district’s “March Spotlight” announcement written by Jill Pekarski, Public Relations Specialist for Madison-Oneida (MO) BOCES with which the district contracts. Among them:

• District librarians use Google Classrooms to conduct instruction and share information with students. Strough Middle School librarian Kathryn Deming said “Our biggest focus is, and has always been, making connections with students and supporting them in their learning and their reading. We have increased the amount and variety of eBooks available to students; they can access and use them for independent reading and for school projects.”

• With the help of services and programs through the MO BOCES School Library System, “librarians created LibGuides for their building staff as ‘One Stop Shopping’ for all resources needs” such as online databases, training requests, and materials requests, said Courtney Huf, librarian at Denti Elementary School. In addition, she spearheaded development of a Google Site for the Rome City School District community called “RCSD Library Central,” featuring Book Talks and Read Alouds with librarians, E-Books, Resources and more.

• Rome Free Academy librarian Zachary Snow and colleague Mary Laverty have been collaborating with teachers on various projects. Snow said “we have been presenting library instruction virtually using Google Classroom hyperslides and docs, live Google Meets and asynchronous pre-recorded videos, as well as helping the teacher monitor student progress in the virtual setting. We have also been using reading apps like SORA, and the library Google Classroom page to work with teachers to promote reading.”

• “So much has changed in the physical manner in which I teach, but the core of my job, connecting and sharing a love of reading with my students has not. Whether fully remote or hybrid I have tried very hard to keep library relevant and engaging,” said Bellamy Elementary School librarian Sarah Keesler.

• Staley Elementary School Librarian Jill Schaal said that since the pandemic started, her focus has shifted from getting books into students’ hands to getting eBooks on students’ Chromebooks. She observed “we have increased access to eBooks for both information and leisure for both teachers and students.”

• Librarians have had to learn new skills and be more creative during the pandemic. Cathleen Woodruff, librarian at Ridge Mills and Stokes elementary schools, commented “we are constantly learning new technologies to engage our students. Because we have to have our lessons available asynchronously, there is a lot of recording of lessons on top of planning for the in-person students.”

• For Nicole Iverson, librarian at Gansevoort and John Joy elementary schools, changes in the way she does things as a result of the pandemic have included that “I spent a lot of time at home creating book read aloud videos to share with my students. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve taught myself new skills and have focused my energy on creating engaging online lessons — using lots of new tools I wasn’t even aware of a year ago.”

The announcement said “we thank the Rome City School District librarians for all they do to keep our students engaged, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.” The district on April 12 will reopen schools for full in-person learning for students who want that format, after being on hybrid or all-remote schedules since the current academic school year began last September.

The announcement added the theme for National Library Week, “Welcome to Your Library,” promotes “the idea that libraries extend far beyond the four walls of a building – and that everyone is welcome to use their services.”

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