Library in Lockdown: How the Media Center Will Continue Supporting Students During Virtual Instruction

The library is a cornerstone of every school community, and that remains the case even during virtual instruction, as the media center shares resources for obtaining books online, plans for research lessons and database orientation, as well as ideas for continued community engagement. 

“I just want the community to know that the media center is still here for you,” says Media Specialist Anita Creek-Thomas. 

Even if students cannot check out physical books from Blake’s library, Ms. Thomas says Blake has an extensive collection of ebooks available for students to check out online. In order to check out a digital book, all students have to do is download the Sora app and log in with their MCPS ID and password.

Image Retrieved from the Reader's Entertainment Magazine Website

For students hesitant to read a digital copy of a book, Sora also allows students to check out audiobooks. “You will be able to hold a book again, but I would say to just give [ebooks] a chance,” Ms. Thomas adds. “If you download an ebook and you find, ‘Oh, this is bad on my eyes,’ try an audiobook. Try to listen to a story.”

While administrators and teachers figure out the logistics of getting students copies of course texts for this school year, students may be able to get a headstart on required reading by downloading course texts off of Sora.

Aside from providing students with books, the media center also helps students develop research skills and navigate databases like ProQuest and EBSCO. Ms. Thomas, who has been popping into classrooms and showing kids the ropes of concepts like boolean operators and keyword searches for years, says she still plans to run these research orientations virtually. 

“I still plan to do my freshman orientation,” she says. “There will [also] be some type of orientation available online so that students and staff know which resources we have available and know how they can use anything else they may need [for virtual instruction].”

The media center is also a place where students gather with friends, or rest and relax during the school day. Before school, during lunch, and even after school occasionally, the media center is filled with students talking, asking questions, completing assignments, and of course, reading. Ms. Thomas has come up with a few ways to make sure the media center can continue to facilitate community building. 

“I do want to still do all of our contests and promotions that we would do before,” she says, referencing events like the bookmark art contest and the “Blind Date with a Book.” She also wants to run a virtual book club with discussion meetings over Zoom. “I know it’s hard for students doing this virtual learning to want to take time out to read a book, but hopefully we can get that started as well,” she adds.

During emergency instruction last spring, the media center also ran virtual Lunch at the Library programs, something Ms. Thomas hopes to bring back. Students would join a Zoom during the extended lunch break and be able to enjoy a similar atmosphere to the one created in the actual library — though, unlike in the actual library, they would be able to eat during these sessions. 

“[The] Lunch at the Library [was] just for kids who like to come hang out to say hi, catch up, [and] have a break from the monotony of working online all day,” she explains.

The media center is also planning to launch a virtual circulation desk, where students with questions would be able to click on a link and get live help. 

To access some of the resources mentioned above, visit the media center website here