July 21, 2020-School librarians, long identified as thought leaders in school communities, provide invaluable services and resources to children in times of crisis. With educators facing unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19, school librarians and their libraries play a more important role than ever.
"School librarians provide critical services for children in distance education as well as in-person." said John Chrastka, Executive Director of EveryLibrary Institute, a national 501c3 non-profit with a mission to support libraries and librarians. "Now that COVID-19 shutdowns have impacted learning for children around the nation, school librarians are needed more than ever, and they deserve our support."
The Problem of the COVID Slide
Educators have long referred to a phenomenon called "summer slide," wherein children lose educational ground during their summer break. Returning to school in the fall, children spend the first weeks catching up to their previous levels of learning. This remediation time can put children behind, especially children in younger grades and children in low-income families.
Educators now face a new challenge with the “COVID Slide”. With school buildings closed since mid-spring and uneven uptake of quality distance education programs, access to quality education declined in the last months of the 2019-2020 school year. While some school districts were able to pivot to remote learning via learning management systems, others struggled with a lack of technology or Internet access.
Some speculate that students returning in the fall of 2020 will show learning gains that are only 70% of average in reading, and 50% of average in mathematics. The most disadvantaged students may be a full year behind. When students return to school, extra support must be implemented to provide students with a chance for academic recovery.
Librarians Encourage Learning, Support Students
There are many things that school librarians do to teach with expertise and empower learners in an in-person and virtual environment. As an integral and valued member of the learning community, the certified school librarian positively impacts learning by fostering an environment for personalized learning, equitable access to resources, and instructional opportunities that engage learners in a well-rounded educational program. Within the physical library and across the virtual environment, the school librarian empowers all members of the learning community to become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, curators, and ethical users of information. They support learners as they make meaning through traditional and multimedia text and create new knowledge to actively engage within a global society. The school librarian’s reach extends beyond the walls of the library to engage with stakeholders, as well as local, state, and national organizations and partners. School librarians are champions for social justice, as they model and develop a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Librarians were laid off at a devastating rate in the first half of 2020. The EveryLibrary Institute has a mission to support the future of libraries and the role of librarians in society and in schools. To support librarians, EveryLibrary Institute has provided cost-of-living grants of up to $250 to qualified individuals who have an urgent financial need.
The Help a Library Worker Out Fund (or HALO Fund)
is a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to support library workers, librarians, and staff from school, public, and academic libraries who are facing unexpected financial difficulties because of the Coronavirus and resulting economic slowdown. To date, the EveryLibrary Institute has raised and granted over $72,000 to library workers in need. These grants to individuals and families are to be "unrestricted" and do not have a requirement to be paid back.
"The EveryLibrary Institute provides support for librarians and libraries, and it's more than just financial. Our research helps persuade voters to act in favor of their librarians when funding is on the ballot," said Patrick Sweeney, the EveryLibrary Institute’s Associate Director. "We recently published a white paper with information about challenges facing communities and how the recent upheavals could lead to broader change. With the information we provide, we give librarians the tools they need to help themselves."
Copies of EveryLibrary's new “School Librarians and the COVID Slide” white paper is available on its:
The EveryLibrary Institute is a national 501c3 non-profit with a mission to support libraries and librarians in the United States and abroad. We partner with allied organizations including foundations, philanthropic organizations, associations, non-profits, and academic institutions to enhance the perception of libraries and librarianship through direct engagement with the public.