November 23, 2020
November 23, 2020
By Herb Wilburn
For many educators, this school year has been a little like wading in a river. You know how to walk, you can see where you want to go, and it’s great to be “in the water” again. But just like wading, your footing can be little shaky, things look different when you’re looking through water (or a screen), and no matter what, you don’t want to fall flat.
Shenandoah County Public Schools made the wise decision to start schools virtually this year. Our county has one of the highest rates of infection in the state. For librarians, this has been tough because so much of our service to students is based on in-person interaction. Seeing students browsing the shelves and finding a good book is something we treasure. What could be more useful to students and families during virtual learning and social distancing than the escape to new worlds offered through a good book?
Our solution is to offer Pop-Up libraries! The schools of the Northern Campus (Strasburg High School, Signal Knob Middle School, and Sandy Hook Elementary School) are partnering with the Town of Strasburg to provide “pop-up” library services to our students and their families.
I approached my fellow librarians, Melissa Lewis at Strasburg High School and Jacqueline Weitman at Signal Knob Middle School, with the idea and they were eager to move ahead, as was my principal, Robin Shrum. When I spoke with Strasburg’s mayor, Brandy Boies, she too was ready to jump on board. Everyone wanted to reach out to our community and extend our services beyond the walls.
Our schools are located across the river from Strasburg. It’s not like driving cross-country, but it’s a bit out of the way. Luckily for us, there’s a Market Pavilion in the middle of town, used for community events such as concerts and farmers’ markets. We were able to get permission to use the Pavilion each Wednesday from 1-3 and 6-8 for our Pop-Up Library. It’s an open-air space, but library staff “masks up’’ and practices social distancing anyway, and we encourage patrons to do the same.
Next, we made searching in our online library catalogs as user-friendly as possible, then recorded videos to teach parents and students how to search and hold books. We posted those videos in our county’s online learning system, using our library courses as a delivery method.
As students place holds on books, our software flags the material and alerts library staff. Paraprofessionals pull the books and check them out to students. Each Wednesday, we’ve staffed the Pavilion, delivering materials to students. Students return books they’ve read the previous week and pick up new ones, and all returned books are quarantined for one week before they go back into the general library collection.
Is it working? We think so. In two weeks, we’ve checked out 200 books to students and hope to grow the program as the year progresses.
Wilburn, a member of the Shenandoah County Education Association, is the librarian at Sandy Hook Elementary School.