Access to Books and Learning During Hybrid and Remote Learning: Highlighting our Teacher-Librarians

As School Library Month draws to a close, it’s an opportune time to highlight the behind-the-scenes work that our teacher-librarians have been doing to ensure that students have access to books and literacy experiences, despite distanced learning. Learn more about School Library Month here.

Curbside checkout (or an “outside library”) is a term that our Issaquah teacher-librarians have coined for the process of getting physical books in the hands of students during remote learning – something all students deserve access to. Did you know that many of our librarians have been in the buildings throughout remote learning, selecting books for students who choose to participate in “curbside checkout” time?  

In addition to physical books, this year our librarians have kicked off Sora in Issaquah, which is a database of high interest, engaging eBooks and audiobooks that students can check out from our school and district Sora collections. Sora titles also include accessibility supports for students (highlights, vocabulary), customization choices (font style/size, background color), and will save student highlights in their profile. Books were selected both deliberately and collaboratively in efforts to curate a digital collection that would meet the needs of our Issaquah students – and they are loving it!   

Read on for more specific examples of how our Issaquah librarians have supported students during this unique school year. 

Curbside Checkout: Creekside Elementary and Grand Ridge Elementary 

At Creekside, Julie Siefkes and Carmen Hart ensure that each student receives books selected especially for them. Students are able to request specific titles, topics, and genres of books through a digital form. Librarians curate the books (four per student) and deliver them to the student’s desk in the classroom after school (for hybrid students) or prepares them for curbside checkout (for remote students). Students receive their new selection of books every few weeks!  

Teachers have noted that students are stunned and excited to receive the books on their desks! One teacher said that it even doubled the student “read to self” time. Parents have also specifically mentioned how impressed they are with the quality of the library collection, as well as the library services.   

Similarly, at Grand Ridge Elementary, librarian Theresa Gekeler holds an outside checkout session each Wednesday afternoon. Two families at a time can sign up for each time slot to check out books in order to maintain social distancing. She has had rave reviews from students and families who love the ability to browse through the outside carts or request a specific title! 

Creativity in the Library: Maple Hills Elementary and Briarwood Elementary

During READ Week at Maple Hills, teacher-librarian Christina Stempson organized many different themed days and created her very own “Library on Wheels”! Students were excited to dress up like characters from their books, and read wherever they could find a comfortable (or sunny) spot. These themed days continue to build a school community of reading and showcase student creativity. 

Students participated in “Storybook Days” where they dressed up as their favorite characters. Teacher Dana Warner and her students showcase their love of Harry Potter below! These themed days continue to build a school community of reading and encourage student creativity. 

Other creative ways to engage with literacy were highlighted during remote learning. Students at Briarwood Elementary engaged in STEAM projects with teacher-librarian Angela Erlitz, following literacy lessons. While attending library sessions remotely, students utilized the technology that they had to share creative projects. For example, fifth graders used Scratch to animate their name (then uploaded to Seesaw) during Hour of Code Week!  

Meanwhile, in fourth grade, students practiced planning and engineering their own creative projects. Here, a fourth grader created their own Macy’s Day Balloon! 

“Surprise Bags” at Apollo Elementary

Some students prefer to have a “surprise bag” of books that their teacher-librarian has selected for them. Jen Quimbey at Apollo has received lots of positive feedback from parents, who are seeing their thrilled students coming home to open their surprise bag with book selections curated just for them.  

A parent writes: “He LOVES all the books!!! Came home and started reading the books right away. He already finished 4 of them. Thank you so much Mrs. Quimbey!” 

“[Student] wanted to read all the rest of Melvin Beederman Superhero books. He even pointed it out to me that there are books 2, 3 and 4 available. In fact, he loved reading all the books you picked for him last week. He’s going to return all the books tomorrow (Monday), and please put together another surprise bag for him.” 

Story Walks at Discovery Elementary

During remote learning, Discovery’s PTSA collaborated with librarian Sherri Gage to provide access to resources and materials to further support equity and inclusion for the school community. The generous grants allowed Discovery to build their collection of diverse books – the selections focused on Black authors celebrating Black joy; civics, activism and the voting process; and Asian and Asian American Pacific Islanders ‘Own-Voices’ books. What a wonderful way to diversify the library collection to ensure that all students are represented!   

To further promote reading during remote learning, librarian Sherri Gage organized a ‘Take a Family Story Walk’ where book pages, along with audio recordings of those pages being read aloud, were posted around the school grounds. The idea was well-received: numerous families took part in walking the outdoor story path, enjoyed fiction and non-fiction books, found hidden objects along the way, and connected to the school community. 

Return to In-Person Library at Briarwood Elementary

For those students who have returned to in-person hybrid learning, visiting the library again has been a true treat. Sarah Threlkeld at Briarwood has been doing in-person checkout for hybrid students since March and the response has been amazing. She shares: “Last week, a first grader jumped up and down with joy while practically hyperventilating because we tracked down a copy of the first Owl Diaries book for her, and another first grader chortled gleefully all the way down the hall back to class as he stared at the cover of his library book. Several teachers have told me their students were so excited about visiting the library for the first time this year that when they got back to class all they wanted to do was read!” 

Thank you to our all of our librarians for inspiring a love of literacy during remote, hybrid, in-person and concurrent learning! Our schools would not be the same without you.  

  1. Christie Kaaland May 3, 2021 at 10:35 am

    What fantastic library experiences for all your students! Hooray!



    1. Aly Rumberger May 3, 2021 at 10:38 am

      Thank you for reading this piece!



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