February 24, 2021-COVID-19 disruptions have had an impact on students' performance since the start of the pandemic in 2020. News outlets and professional organizations around the world began reporting on how schools were transitioning during this time of emergency remote learning with success or a lack of based on the resources available to them at the time. Social media platforms were flooded with stories from within homes as the stay-at-home orders crept deeper into the daily lives of citizens across the world.
But is there more to the story? And what critical steps did school and district leaders take to get their students back on track?
School librarians, long identified as thought leaders in school communities, provided invaluable services and resources to children in times of crisis. When educators faced unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19, school librarians and their libraries played a more important role than ever.
EveryLibrary Institute, a non-partisan non-profit with a mission to support libraries and librarians in the United States, has created the "School Librarians in the Second Wave", a supplement to its 2020's "School Librarians and the COVID Slide" report. Authors Allison Mackley and Heather Lister provide a timely follow-up that includes real-world stories from 56 school librarian respondents from 15 states school librarians during the past year of the pandemic.
Supported Literacies (Reading, Information, Technology, Media, Digital)
- In response to the proliferation of conspiracy theories and their threat to our democracy, Rick Scott, an urban high school librarian, use various resources that promote digital and news literacy. In particular, he facilitated free subscriptions to the New York Times for all staff and students.
- An urban K-12 librarian, Judy Deichman, initiated a traveling bookmobile to deliver books to pre-K through 12th-grade students. Students who visited the Lit Limo were able to keep the books as their own for their home libraries. Students also receive technical support, homework help, and book suggestions at every stop. The Lit Limo traveled with the Food Distribution buses in the morning and had five stops every afternoon each day of the week.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Student Agency
- From the Black Lives Matter Movement to the Storming of the Capitol, Arlene Lavarde, a high school librarian in New York City, created virtual book displays to help students learn about the events that are taking place in the world.
- To build a sense of community during a socially-distance time, Nicole Byrne, an elementary librarian from a suburban school in Baltimore organized a Virtual Pajama Party providing students and families with a fun read-aloud activity to promote unity and encourage togetherness, followed by an informational segment that supported reading for enjoyment at home.
Learning Environments In-Person and Online
- Kristina Holzweiss, a high school librarian from a suburban school in New York pushed her support beyond the walls of her school by crowdsourcing two eBooks. The Epic eBook of Web Tools & Apps and The Digital Librarian's Survival Toolkit helped educators and school librarians around the world.
- In addition to supporting teachers and students to get acquainted with a new learning management system, Kelly Schartner, a suburban elementary librarian from Frederick County Public Schools in Maryland, hosted Q & A sessions for parents. She also created virtual orientation resources for new students as well as hosted a virtual coding night for students and parents.
Since 2010, one in five school librarian positions has been eliminated from schools around the county. The "Hardest Hit Education Fund" within the American Rescue Plan from the Biden Administration would provide $5 billion in funds for state governors to meet the learning needs of students who were significantly impacted. With nearly three decades of research consistently highlighting the positive impact school librarians have on student academic achievement, regardless of socioeconomic status, states should leverage this funding to guarantee that no child in America's schooling system has to go without a full-time, certified school librarian. Federal COVID-relief funding for schools needs to be applied at the state and local levels in a way that ensures that effective school librarians can meet student needs and that certified school librarians are at work realizing the goals for education in every district and school.
How to help
School librarians are great partners in education and work every day fight the COVID Slide. EveryLibrary supports school librarians and the future of school libraries at no cost with its Save School Librarians campaign. The campaign is made possible in partnership with Follett Learning which allows EveryLibrary to do targeted and effective outreach and activism wherever and whenever it is needed.
With Follett's support, they build on their successes and try to address the school librarian crisis in schools and districts around the country. SaveSchoolLibrarians.org has one-click 'take action' capabilities that make it easy for concerned parents and stakeholders to make their voices heard for school libraries and librarians. The core of the project are advocacy-partnerships between EveryLibrary and state or local school library associations. EveryLibrary's focus with each organizational partner is different, but each one is similarly focused on bringing more school librarians back to schools and expanding funding equitably across schools and districts.
Donations can be made on the EveryLibrary website at action.everylibrary.org/donate where donors can give a one-time pledge or a monthly amount. For every $1 spent on a political campaign for a library, $1600 is returned to the library sector.
Copies of the EveryLibrary Institute's new "School Librarians in the Second Wave", a supplement and follow-up to "School Librarians and the COVID Slide" (2020) white paper is available on: https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/school_libraries_covid_slide
About EveryLibrary Institute
The EveryLibrary Institute is a non-profit library-focused public policy and tax policy think tank dedicated to ensuring that libraries have the funding they need to serve their communities or campuses. We believe that libraries are anchors of education, economic development, and growth. Through our programs, we connect people to each other and to their communities through their libraries. Through our research projects, we help community and school leaders put libraries to work solving some of the biggest problems in society. Find out more at everylibraryinstitute.org