The first day back to school this year was a real struggle for Meg Allison. The room is still and silent as the lights flicker on. With tears in her eyes, Meg Allison entered the U-32 library for the first time in a long time.
More than four months later, Meg…
“I’ve slowly gotten used to it,” she said, “but that doesn’t make it any easier.”
The library has had to adapt to the pandemic. Over the last year, Meg Allison has been working along with other librarians to improve the library by creating a safe environment that meets CDC guidelines and still allows students access to books.
One challenge for the library is the lack of space for students to peruse the variety of books available due to social distancing and occupancy restrictions. The school has needed to rely on students to seek out the library versus the traditional open-door policy and walk-in.
“[W]e’ve definitely been checking out books and have been busy,” Meg said, “but it’s not nearly as much”.
Ella Douse is a sophomore and a library regular who appreciates what the library has been doing. She said it is just unfortunate not to be able to have space.
I love the library,” she said. ”Without the people and it being shut down it was just weird.”
Meg and the library team are working toward getting students back inside the library space, recognizing the importance of being physically present and exploring books.
“Students can come in when they have free bands,” Meg said.” We have support from our admin team to create sort of like appointment slots for students.” Meg said the team has also been working with English teachers to spread awareness about the library. For example, the 10th-grade Humanities classes have made posters and Instagram posts recommending books you can get at the library.
“We have been working with English teachers…Working around and going into classrooms.”
Over the remote weeks last year, the library was able to get books out to people even with the challenges of the pandemic. “[W]e circulated 1100 books in three days,” Meg said. “We basically opened the doors to the library and said ‘take them.”
One other student, sophomore Natalie Wild, got books during the lockdown by reserving them to be picked up at the front entry.
“It was nice to have those books that I otherwise would not have,” Natalie said. “It was a really good idea to adapt like that.”
The new library advisory board has been instrumental in getting the library message out and has helped to come up with new, fresh ideas. They have been meeting periodically throughout this school year. For example, they have been working on pushing out surveys to the students to ask what they want the library to look like.
It’s comprised of students right now,” Meg said. “Because I want student’s voices to be a part of the conversation about the changes the library needs to make so that everybody feels really welcome.”
“[N]ot everybody feels welcome in the library, for whatever reason,” she said. “Maybe they’ve lost a library book and they don’t feel comfortable checking out another one, or they feel shame about that, or their friends aren’t in the library or they feel like it’s a space for different kinds of kids right. So I want to make sure the library feels really welcoming to all our students, the ones who use it and the ones who don’t.”
The library has been working on getting some of their extra offerings back, but Meg said there are some challenges.
“If we did like an open mic, for example, we had people singing and poets, there were all during callbacks,” she said. “And because I don’t have a class, there’s no library class. So callbacks were huge.”
Despite the challenges that this pandemic has brought, “I want the readers to know that the library is not canceled,” Meg said. “Books are still here waiting for them, and that we are open for business.”