One lesson librarians have learned over the last two years is that students missed their libraries and their books.
At Tuesday’s Library Media Specialists Summit at FETC, librarians whose media centers had been closed earlier in the pandemic talked about how excited students were when schools reopened and they could check out hardcover books again.
The summit’s host, Shannon McClintock-Miller, innovation director of instructional technology and library media Van Meter School District, led the attendees in listing how their roles have changed and how they have “led outside the library” during the pandemic. She said students in her district had become more adept at navigating the brick-and-mortar library and its digital resources. “I feel like I’ve raised all these little librarians at our school,” McClintock-Miller said.
Librarians from across the country said they played a key role in planning their districts’ transitions to online learning in spring 2020 and have continued to be involved in setting instructional technology strategies. They also talked about how students found libraries to be not only a familiar space but a safe haven amid recent disruptions.
At the same time, the librarians themselves have not only become go-to ed-tech coaches in their schools but they have also been a shoulder to cry on for other faculty members over the last two years.
They also shared how they are feeling newfound respect as their building’s experts in instructional technology and other digital resources. “We’ve had the light shined on us even more, and everyone can see what we do as media specialists,” one librarian said. “Some teachers always knew what we had to offer; now everyone knows what we do and what we can do for them.”
Many libraries have also faced constraints such as restricting when students can visit and where they can sit in case contract tracing is required. Many librarians also felt they have been forced to “over-sanitize” their facilities.
Some librarians have also had to keep inventory—not just of books, but of laptops, tablets and other devices. Some also noted that despite schools’ heavy investment in digital books, they did not get as much use as they might have expected during online learning.
The constant connectivity over the last two years has blurred the work-life balance for librarians and other educators.
One positive impact many hoped would be a long-term change is that parents and community organizations have gotten more involved in supporting the schools.