on library reopening plans…

Happy summer, all!

This is the time of year when I’d typically be off looking for a new restaurant in New York or searching for super cheap airline flights from New York to some exciting sounding country that I’ve never had a chance visit with the hope that I could chuck some clothes into my beat up carryon rolley bag and go on an international adventure for a week or two.

This is 2020 so, yeah, EVERYTHING’S CHANGED this year.

Any travel out of the state of Hawaii means a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon your return so this summer finds me staying put (Hello, #RockFever) doing some virtual summer school librarianship and working with committees of people developing plans for the reopening of school in August.

I am so incredibly grateful to work with a school administration that always gives our library program a seat at the table when there are decisions that need to be made that may impact our physical space, budget, or instructional programming. The thing about being included in decision-making when you are trying to make plans to respond to a pandemic is that, it takes A LOT OF MEETINGS! The reality, though, is that PLANS NEED TO BE MADE. They can be made with my input or they can be made for me. Given the choice, I am enough of a control freak that I’d rather take part in a lot of meetings and be able to help shape my program’s destiny as much as might be possible.

What follows is an in-process-kinda-ugly-doing-the-best-we-can-based-on-what-we-know-so-it-might-look-all-different-in-August snapshot of what our planning looks like for reopening our library in August #CrossesFingersAndToes

Stuff Needs to be Ordered…

My library is on an island 2500 miles away from the West Coast of the United States. We don’t have the luxury of flipping through a Demco catalog, ordering stuff, and having a truck roll up to the Facilities Management loading dock 5-7 business days later. I am incredibly grateful to have committees of really competent folk working on the vast majority of the logistical planning and procurement of supplies needed for reopening.

  • Masks and face shields – Our school will be providing 2 masks and a face shield to every student and faculty member.
  • Pexiglass shielding for our Circulation Desk – Our awesome facilities manager took care of measuring and ordering shielding that will be installed for us.
  • Pexiglass dividers for library tables – We have round tables that are 4-feet wide. We will be trying 4-way dividers that will allow students to be shielded from each other, but still able to see each other.

Some Behavioral, Policy, and Instructional Changes…

  • Entrance and exit – Given our library’s physical layout, one of the more noticeable changes that we are probably going to make is that we have traditionally had a single door for where EVERYONE entered and exited the library. Given the way that entrance is configured, we will be having people enter the library through our traditional front doors, but exit through what has always been a “Fire Exit Only” door in order to minimize shoulder-to-shoulder congestion.
  • Calculating facility capacity – A facilities committee is working to calculate our library’s “Corona capacity” for our space. When we have a number, we will work on signage and we are currently trying to figure out a the best logistical way to keep count of the number of students that enter the library during any single period. I’ve looked into electronic counters. Bi-directional counters are either incredibly expensive or highly inaccurate so we’re still figuring this one out.
  • Limiting co-mingling – It saddens me greatly, but like many of your school libraries, before and after school our library is a central meeting hub for significant numbers of students. One of the great joys of school librarianship for me is to get to know kids as they informally gather to commiserate on how hard the statistics homework was, to recap the great play their softball teammate executed, deliver the bigly romantic promposal, or to be consoled when your girlfriend just broke up with you… That’s not gonna be making a comeback in our library in the fall–at least initially. The current plan as I understand it seems to be that students will be assigned to “home base” spaces around campus to minimize gathering before school, after school, during lunch, and during free periods.
  • Temporarily changing our collection development priorities – We’ve decided to launch Overdrive Sora in the fall. Along with that change, we have decided that eBooks will make up the vast majority of our acquisitions for the next school year.
  • Bu-bye collaboration rooms – I’m thinking that it’ll be pretty unlikely that we will be able to allow students to use our group study rooms. We might be able to allow use as single occupant study rooms, but I’m guessing that getting students to maintain social distance or mask and shield use in our study rooms is just not terribly realistic.
  • Public library cards – We are in the unique position of being, I believe, the only state in the US with a single statewide library system. Our administration is supporting our efforts to better integrate Hawaii State Public Library System resources into our instructional work flows by requiring that all of our families acquire library cards for their students. This policy will give us some needed flexibility should, heaven forbid, we have to unexpectedly close campus and go back to an all virtual instructional model. We will, of course, continue to subscribe to our portfolio of databases but one thing that became clear from the world’s sudden move to emergency virtual instruction is that school libraries should be teaching the value of LIBRARIES–not just OUR SCHOOL’S library. Going forward, we will be teaching our students how to search the public library’s book and ebook collections and, when appropriate, promoting the occasional use of a public library database when it might be appropriate for a student’s specific research need.

To be Determined…

  • Minimizing High Touch Sharing – What do we do about the library desktop computers and our laptop cart? We’re a 1:1 iPad school. Sometimes classes need laptops/desktops to work on. We still haven’t figure this one out.

This is all very “up in the air” and “to be determined” and though I like flying to get when I’m traveling somewhere, neither are states that I typically love being in when it comes my work. I’d love to hear about the state of your reopening plans. Please hit comment below and share what you’re doing!

Be safe, but have wonderful summers, all!

7 thoughts on “on library reopening plans…

  1. Fantastic post and very timely – I am attending a school meeting on facilities and operations early next week. Thank you, Dave! I am curious, how many of you plan to order a lot less print books? My Overdrive numbers are definitely up, but I typically do a huge print order in the summer so students have new books for the start of the school year.

  2. Hi Tricia! Just to be a bit more specific. We’ll probably continue with print purchases for our K-2 collection, but go almost all digital for everything else (for now). Part of our issue is that we have opted out of building a recreational reading ebook collection to this point so we’re playing catch up.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your plans. I’ve been sharing an on-going Google Doc with my administration on ideas for various back-to-school scenarios in the library. Some of these were things I was already considering, but others I hadn’t thought about (bookmarking those plexiglass dividers).

    • Diana,
      I would love to hear more about what’s on your shared Google Doc. What have you been considering that wasn’t addressed in this excellent (thank you, David!) blog? I’m hard at work on our plan and would appreciate any and all input!

  4. I felt a huge sense of relief when I read this blog. Really! All these thoughts were just a massive jumble in my head. I needed some order and method to starting thinking productively.

    Our very sketchy updated acquisitions policy is to concentrate purchasing of print books on “must have” titles only so that the collection doesn’t have Covid-19 gap. Just about everything else will be digital. Has anyone given thought to picture books?

  5. Hi Andrew,

    1) Hahaha!!! Thoughts in my head tend to be a massive jumble even in a non-Covid world.

    2) Thanks for raising the issue of a “Covid-19 gap.” I hadn’t considered that at all!

    3) We have a very small K-2 picture book collection housed in the conference room of our elementary building. It is only 3-yrs old so we it continues to need a lot of care and nurturing. We will likely continue to purchase print for our K-2 crowd. When it comes to my K-2 kids, the need to have a physical artifact in hand tips my acquisition policies over into “just do it” and I’ll figure the logistics out if we have to shut down. At least that’s my thinking for now…

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