Librarians in the Pandemic

MNPS Librarians Took Books to Students When Students Couldn't Get to the Books
Posted on 03/11/2022
librarian helping student in middle school library

When MNPS students couldn’t go to their school libraries in the first year of the pandemic, the district’s librarians went to them to keep book access and reading alive.

That’s the message Coordinator of Library Services Lindsey Kimery shared with a national audience in “Reinventing Reading in a Pandemic,” an article she recently wrote for Knowledge Quest, a publication of the American Association of School Librarians. 

“If we were willing to be creative, to think far outside the box, to not limit ourselves by sticking to tradition, then we had the power to invent solutions to the barriers to book access brought on by the pandemic,” Kimery wrote. “In short, it was time to break the rules.”

That meant curbside book service, partnerships with other MNPS departments as well as Nashville Public Library and other organizations, and even deliveries of books to students’ homes.

librarians giving out books curbside

“We were trying to think of any possible solution, especially to keep our services equitable,” Kimery recalled in an interview. “We were constantly chasing after equity.”

While w

The Limitless Libraries partnership with Nashville Public Library, which makes 2 million of the city library’s books and other materials easily available to MNPS students, was a big help.e live in an increasingly digital age, Kimery said librarians have found students still love traditional, paper-ink-and-binding books. As the 2020-21 school year started with buildings still closed to students due to the spread of COVID-19, the challenge was connecting students with the books they wanted to read.

“School librarians distributed Limitless Libraries requests through weekly curbside pickups, and families had the option to return items to the school or to the nearest public library branch,” Kimery wrote. 

Librarians also went to the district’s virtual learning help centers, which were set up outside several high schools around Nashville, to share books, partnering with Book’em, a local nonprofit that collects and distributes new and gently used books to children up to the age of 18.

librarian helping student who is reading in library

Ride for Reading, which delivers books via bicycle, and Vanderbilt Athletics also contributed to the reading cause by distributing books or sharing stories virtually. And the public library adapted Nashville Reads, the annual citywide reading of one book, with a virtual visit by author Yuyi Morales to talk about her book Dreamers.

Kimery said some school librarians also went to students’ homes with books, often surprising and delighting them with the deliveries. Librarian Alison Brooks of Apollo Middle School, for example, and library clerk Cat Brooks ran the “Polar Book Express Delivery” around winter break in late 2020, taking books to students in a festively decorated minivan.

Kimery and company also made some policy changes to ease the burden on students and their families, knowing that returning books in the usual timely fashion wouldn’t be easy for everyone during such stressful times. They waived all fees for lost books from March 1, 2020, to the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Kimery said she’s grateful for the creativity and dedication of her colleagues and the support of administrators at the district and school levels.

“Thanks to the district leaders and principals who allowed us to be creative during an unusual time,” she said, “and saw that it was important for us to provide continuity of services to students and support them in their reading and learning.”

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