Playing 2020 Bingo: Adjusting to the “New Normal” and continuing to “Pivot.”

Teacher-librarians have been learning to pivot and imagine their own professional “new normal” for decades now. However, 2020 has provided us with completely new scenarios to contemplate simultaneously. We have found our physical collections temporarily shuttered, our library spaces being re-used to create socially distanced traditional classrooms, and our own stand-alone courses moved to asynchronous moments throughout the week. This global pandemic experience has asked teacher-librarians to prove their relevancy to the school ecosystem every single day. My early learning librarian colleague and I have decided to see this moment as an opportunity to re-think our programs, our collection, our curriculum, and our school-based relationships.

Here are a few ways that my colleague and I pivoted that have been successful. Instead of mourning the loss of our synchronous classes, we spent that time learning how to use video tools to create virtual story times, book-talks, and ways to use our online library catalog and libguides. We put together a proposal to use our regular library budget to expand our digital offerings in terms of e-books and audiobooks. (Our proposal was accepted.) We ran our all staff book club for 90 minutes (about 1 and a half hours) for six weeks this summer instead of one hour on one day. Developing videos, expanding our collection and leading discussions, meant that we were working throughout the summer (we are both on 10-month faculty contracts) but we felt that staying front and center was especially important in this moment.

In addition to learning new tools and buying new materials, we also found that increasing our communication with students and families was both a thing we could do from home and incredibly successful to broaden our community of active readers. Our school’s summer reading challenge starts in June and ends right after Labor Day. We increased our email communication from 1-2x per summer, to 1-2x a week for 13 weeks (about 3 months). In these communications, we included new book suggestions, our own experiences of reading, and a challenge leaderboard based on reviews in Biblionasium. By the end of the summer we had a 70% increase in finishers from last year. We had a 90% increase in active participants (students who read a least 2 of the 20 required books) and two of our students read and reviewed 71 books a piece. We also re-formatted our review expectations and required students to submit reviews in an “I like, I wish, I wonder” format, this alternate format allowed for a different level of engagement with the texts and yielded reviews that were truly sparkling treasures of insight. If you are interested, here is a short video on the format:

I know that this is an especially challenging time to be a teacher-librarian and a specialist in a remote learning/hybrid context. I believe we can do this– I look forward to hearing more of your experiences of re-thinking your programs, collections, curriculum, and school-based relationships.

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