Where We Are Now: Libraries, COVID-19, and the Online Learning Challenge

SLJ's reporting takes stock of the pandemic's impact on school and public libraries and the kid lit community.




As the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life and school as we know it, SLJ has been tracking the transition to distance learning and the challenges it brings to educators, parents, and students.

By mid-April, more than 91 percent of learners enrolled around the world had been impacted by school and college closures, according to UNESCO. That amounted to an astonishing 1.57 billion people. By May 22, those numbers were down to 68.5 percent, still impacting almost 1.2 billion learners worldwide. With schools in many states shuttered through June, summer reading plans and library programs up in the air, and families who continue to bear up under the stresses of job and food insecurity and the imperiled health of loved ones, the hurdles are enormous.

Amid this, librarians, educators, and publishers are working strenuously to adapt, innovate, and support their communities. SLJ’s COVID-19 Survey provided data and stories about what librarians are doing to support students and teachers in the shutdown on a number of fronts including plans for summer learning and programming.

In a sea change regarding copyright regulations, publishers temporarily adapted their rules to support distance educators, allowing librarians, teachers, and authors to read books aloud online to students without legal worry. Audible, the giant digital audio publisher, has also created a free site for families and children to stream its content.

At the same time, facing steep market pressures, some publishers have furloughed staff while also boosting online outreach from their authors and providing charitable aid. Publishers are also offering free and reduced-price ebooks, and edtech companies have temporarily lifted fees on many tools for educators. This bounty is not without risk: The great online migration threatens to imperil student privacy, though there are key steps educators can take to protect them.


Authors step up

Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, quickly pivoted to launch a wide-reaching online program: The award-winning author is posting two videos a week to help inspire young people to write, along with a monthly newsletter for educators and parents. Among other high-profile gestures, LeVar Burton and Dolly Parton launched a series of virtual read-alouds, while Dav Pilkey began a multifaceted initiative featuring stay-at-home activities and videos. Literacy expert Donalyn Miller offered ideas for “Reading Joy in the Time of Coronavirus” and how to keep kids’ reading interest and motivation strong while learning remotely.

Those are just a few of the myriad ways the kid lit and library community is reaching out during this time. Keep up to date by with SLJ’s new Virtual Events Calendar, posting weekly, and also take a look at SLJ’s favorite summer reading booklists, and weekly podcast playlists.

Meanwhile, as some school librarians worry about their own job security, districts are strategizing to keep their students receiving free meals while school is closed.

Through it all, school and youth librarians have been there to help students and colleagues, providing everything from spot-on tips for leading an online book club for middle schoolers and suggestions for creating an engaging storytime video, promoting ebooks, and delivering equitable remote learning, and providing social-emotional support from a distance.



Stay current on COVID-19’s impact on libraries and education here: slj.com/COVID19


How have you and your library been innovating to support colleagues, students, and your community? Reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook.


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