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Pandemic Response. Are You Ready?

Dear Dr. Laura

We don’t have the coronavirus in our area, at least not that I know of. But, I see a lot of social media posts about schools getting ready in case they need to make alternate plans. I’m at an elementary school. What can I do?

Concerned Librarian

Hi! I’ll share some thoughts with you. This is not medical or legal advice, just my thoughts. This is a time for school librarians to shine! Preparing for the potential impact of the coronavirus is heavy on a lot of people’s minds right now. For starters, let’s remain calm ourselves and point people to good sources of information like


This can be a prime “teachable moment” for all of us to show our students and staff examples of information literacy in action. Identify fake news examples. You can explore Jennifer Lagarde’s list of conference presentations and see some of her presentations on this topic. And of course, she does have a wonderful book on the topic of fake news. It’s amazing when you really start digging into this topic.

I have seen where some librarians are diligently cleaning returned library books with disinfectant wipes and others are storing the books on a cart for 48 hours before they return them to the bookshelves in hopes that any viruses would be inactive by that point. While other librarians are continuing with business as normal. If this is a concern for you, I recommend asking your principal for guidance. What are they being told by central office to do at the campus level? Ask your school nurse for advice about germs/viruses on hard surfaces. Then you can follow the same steps for your library.


Another thing to look at is how your campus can support learning if your district decides to explore opportunities for remote teaching and distance learning for a while. Most of this will be tied to students having access to technology and the internet.

You as the librarian should be able to offer your teachers a lot of support in this area.

  • There is a public Facebook group called Amazing Education Resources that has started a master list of companies offering free services to schools that close due to the coronavirus. This list can be found here. You will find groups like BrainPOP and Discovery Education. Your students can access these sites for free as long as they have access to a device and internet.

  • Here is a Padlet with some curated resources from Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris.

  • If your teachers want to host live web-conferencing, they can use things like Zoom. The free Zoom platform offers 40 minute connections for video that can be watched live or downloaded and viewed later. Other options include Google Hangouts and Skype in the Classroom. If your campus is big into social media, they could even host Facebook Live sessions! That could be kind of fun to have different teachers and administrators lead whole community lessons during this time.

Teachers can engage students by using:

  • Flipgrid to have a book discussion, summarize a science chapter, takeaways from an article posted in Google Classroom, etc.

  • They can use Quizziz and review material the students have already been studying in class. (Use the homework mode.)

  • They can use Quizziz to check for vocabulary comprehension on chapters students read in the textbooks they take home. (Use the homework mode.)

  • Have a Book Bento challenge for the students.

  • Introduce your students to the best podcasts for kids of all ages.

Of course, there are always good old unplugged activities, too!

  • Send the students home with an armful of library books like you do over the winter break. Yes, I realize you will probably want to wipe the covers down when they return. I read about one library that has a station where the students wipe their books' covers, front and back, every time they bring a book back. The librarian stands the books up to dry before placing them on the return cart. This was something she did prior to the coronavirus.

  • Let the time at home be spent creating a science fair project, preparing for a living history museum, or creating a shoebox diorama from any content area.

  • Brittany Washburn has created some super cute, free unplugged technology packets for younger students to work on from home.


  • Be sure to place an announcement on your library website.

  • If you have access to the campus’ homepage, volunteer to update it also.

  • Volunteer to get word of the school/district closure out through your school/district’s social media accounts. Be sure to have the approved wording from your public information office or similar representative.

  • Be sure to inform your principal, library coordinator, head custodian, or whomever it might be, that you will need a ton of disinfecting wipes when the school reopens. Also, check with your parent liaison or PTA to see if you can get some adult help to clean up before you reopen to the students.

I know there is a lot going on right now. Be part of the calm on your campus. Be someone your administrator can count on to be level-headed. I like to say we, as librarians, are big influencers on our campus and that includes influencing our campus climate. Hence the name Librarian Influencers!

So, keep moving forward and keep consciously making a positive difference on campus each and every day. Even when the struggle is real, like right now with the coronavirus. And as always, please share other ideas wherever you see this article shared on social media.

Dr. Laura

Podcast time! Be the Spark that Ignites a Reader: Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud is originally from California but now works at a K-5 international school in Tokyo, Japan where she works with students from Japan, Korea, and other countries. She shares some great tips for working with bilingual students.

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