Summer School Library Checkout, 2020 Edition

Follow this librarian's plan to get books into kids hands for the summer while ensuring safety for staff and families.

A surprising number of school librarians still have no access to their building or school library. For those who do, however, it’s a valuable opportunity to offer summer checkout and get books into the hands of readers. It’s not too late! Here’s how I organized my checkout while ensuring safety for staff and families.

Logistics

The biggest obstacle to offering summer checkout was my administration’s worries about safety protocols and virus transmission. Luckily, I had building access from the start and came in two times a week to clean, process books, and checkout books to myself for my virtual lunch bunch book club. Some librarians at other schools have been offering book pickup throughout school closures when families come by for lunch pickups. Since our school wasn’t a lunch pickup site, administrators didn’t want families coming to our building for other reasons. Still, I was persistent in asking politely if we could offer summer checkout and finally got an affirmative when plans came together to let families collect locker contents.

I sent a link to a simple Google Form to all students, parents, and teachers via our student information system, Aspen, as well as on social media, offering students to list up to 10 books each. Within hours I had several responses. My library assistant, Katie Kocur, and I put on masks and gloves and went in for a three hour shift to check out the books. The entire collection had been quarantined in the school since the shutdown on March 13. I located the titles, checked them out, labeled them, and then placed them on a table. Katie grabbed the books from the table, sanitized them thoroughly (using Clorox sprayed onto cloth wipes), and bagged them and organized them by homeroom on library carts. I rolled the cart to the pickup area, place the bagged books with students’ other belongings (below), and left the cart for library returns. All returns are quarantined in the library for 72 hours before they can be checked in and cleaned. 

Other librarians offering checkout are also seeing high demand. Wendy Garland, elementary school librarian at the Avery School in Dedham, MA, created a Google Form for checkout and was “blown away by the response. Clearly this is something that is needed,” she says.

Read: School-Public Library Partnerships Gain Strength During Pandemic

Keep things open-ended

I’ve found that some kids want to request specific books, but other kids enjoy getting help picking out books. Creating an open-ended Google Form like this makes all responses welcome. Elizabeth Vaccaro, a teacher librarian in Needham, MA, is selecting books for her students based on “my judgment, my knowledge of the student, and number of books requested.” At my library, some kids listed specific books, but others asked for “any three new realistic fiction books” or “five graphic novels you think I’ll like.” It’s so fun to do reader’s advisory and put together book packs for kids.

Be prepared for high demand

I’ve done summer checkout for the last five years, and this year participation is much higher—more than 60 students, compared to an average of 30 in the past. Since public libraries still haven’t opened for curbside pickup in our area, this is an exciting option for many families. Suzanne Larson, library media specialist at Seekonk High School, has been offering curbside pickup since three weeks into the COVID crisis and plans to continue through the summer if public libraries are not able to offer curbside pickup.

It’s about equity

For students who can’t get to the public library over the summer or don’t have access to devices to download books from Sora or Hoopla, summer checkout makes all the difference. Also not all families will be able to attend book pickup hours if they’re during the weekday. To address that, take a tip from

Mary Millette, library media specialist at Hudson (MA) High School, who included space on her Google Form where students can indicate if they have barriers to collecting books during the hours offered.

If remote learning continues into the fall, we will all have to consider creative ways to ensure access for all families, which may include extended pickup hours or dropping books off at student homes. Maya Bery, library media specialist at a K-8 school in Carlisle, MA, offered book pickup throughout the pandemic to over 100 students from 67 families and coordinated drop-off for two families with limited transportation. “I would never have imagined a scenario in which this was something I would do in normal times, but these are not normal times, and the smiles I got made it absolutely worth the trip,” she says.

Read: Help Us Tell the COVID-19 Story: Do you have a story to share?

If not this year, then plan for next year

Summer checkout is a staple of many school librarians’ year. Normally, I do mine in the last three days of school after all the other books have been returned. For the first couple years I required a permission slip, but now I just call parents to make sure they know that their child is checking out books and that it’s okay. I also encourage teachers to check out books, and to participate in #30booksummer (see my hashtag on Instagram).

All in all, this means that hundreds of school library books are in the hands of readers when school isn’t in session. Ali Schilpp, Northern Middle Media Library Specialist in Accident, MD, and 2018 SLJ School Librarian of the Year, has done summer checkout for 16 years. “For me, the worst-case scenario is not providing books to kids that belong to them,” she says. “What good is it to have the books sit on the shelves all summer?”

How are you organizing summer checkout? Share your ideas in the comments. 

Laura Gardner is a teacher librarian at Dartmouth (MA) Middle School and a 2016 SLJ School Librarian of the Year finalist. Laura is on Instagram at @LibarianMsG.

 

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