Library Lemons into Lemonade: Reflections on Lessons Learned, Practices Kept from Surviving a Pandemic

When my assistant asked me in December of 2019 if schools ever shut down due to a public health crisis, my response was Never! Oh, how wrong was my prediction! Never have we missed weeks, let alone months of school. Never have we been forced to change how we deliver content. Never have I had the opportunity to learn so much about books and reading and libraries in such a condensed time period. At the beginning of this year my high school principal predicted that our word for the year would be “flexible.” Oh how correct he has been. 

Here is what I’ve learned from months of quarantine, in-person, hybrid, and virtual. I learned that I am in the right profession. I really do love kids and books and find joy in helping them find each other. Even when we were quarantined or virtual, I found ways to connect with them. When we were hybrid and in-person, my heart rejoiced at seeing them again.   

I discovered that freedom of choice truly is a core value that I hold dear! I balked at having to seat my students in alphabetical order so that contact tracing would be easier. I did not like insisting on masks and not being able to see their faces. I do not know how some of you survived with the even tighter restrictions of not being able to have students in the library or in the shelves, freely making reading choices for themselves. I believe in the freedom that libraries in America exist in and insist upon.   

I learned that some of these changes are indeed beneficial. Only allowing eight to nine students up at a time to wander the shelves cuts down on noise, so that those reading are not as easily distracted. It also stops much of the aimless wandering, just following my friends around trying to look cool and avoid actually looking for a book practice. I may very well continue insisting that students sanitize their hands before they enter our shelves. I like spacing them out with the feet as they wait to check-out.   

I miss having a space that feels different from the traditional classroom. I miss the little physical touches that make the library feel inviting: comfy chairs, bookmarks for students to sort through and select, dedicated Destiny and AR computers so that students can sit down and quickly access information; however, I am pleased with the ways that we have still been able to offer an engaging space.

I will keep all of the social media postings that I have been doing, because it meets my students where they are. I will keep the music and video playing in my front classroom area, because both students and teachers have commented on how nice it makes the library feel. I am undecided about the modified self-check-out because I admit, I am a bit of a control freak and it makes it very difficult to give students due date cards, and without them, my students truly do not remember when their book are due, and I cannot look it up quickly without a computer.

Take a virtual tour of the Shenandoah Library

So where do we, as librarians, go from here? What changes have we made that we might keep? Why? What are we chomping at the bit to add back to our everyday practice? What can we not wait to get rid of? What are we undecided about?  

This is an unprecedented time in school library history. We were forced to rethink libraries and lock them down tight for safety’s sake. As we begin to reopen, we can once again think and decide for ourselves, how do we envision our library spaces and library practices? Now is the perfect time to begin to make that happen!  Share your thoughts on this Padlet and join the conversation!