I am used to looking for hard-to-find children’s books, especially self-published ones. I’ve been collecting self-published children’s picture books on assisted reproductive technology since 2003. This is mostly an isolated topic and it was a hobby that began as the result of a reference question. I was asked if there were any children’s books on the subject, and confident in my search skills, I said, “I’ll find out for you.” It turned out not to be an easy topic and I was intrigued enough to dig further. After exhausting all traditional library databases like the Library of Congress catalog and WorldCat, I came up with just a few. The problem was that there were no proper LC subject headings, which meant I would have to resort to keyword searches and pedestrian forms of search like googling.
I got good at Google searches for obscure, self-published children’s picture books over the years and I now use Google regularly to find obscure, self-published children’s books about other topics. So when the coronavirus pandemic began, I set out to see what was available, if anything, for children about the coronavirus. This turned out to be a relatively easy search. In early April, there was a post on the SLN listserv from librarian Adrian Thompson about a free-to-download eBook on the coronavirus called Coronavirus: A Book for children, from Nosy Crow Press in the UK. I decided to share it with my listservs here in the US. (It has since been made available by Candlewick Press here in the States). Soon after, another librarian, Jen Maurer from the State Library of Oregon, shared two other books, My Hero is You by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, (a forum of UN and non-UN humanitarian partners) and Alicia y el coronavirus from the Flamboyant publisher in Spain. Because these were shared on the COSSLC listserv, I decided to share them on my NYC school librarians’ listserv, NYCSLIST, as well as LM_NET, and ALSC. To look for more, I crafted a Google alert for them like this:
(coronavirus OR COVID) (“children’s book” OR “picture book” OR story).
Not long after, I would receive almost daily results for articles in my inbox about children’s books written by mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, Ph.D.s, mental health experts, other experts in the field, writers, and illustrators. I continued to share them on NYCSLIST and other listservs until my supervisor, Melissa Jacobs, Director of the NYC School Library System, suggested I create a page on our libguides for them. I did, as I had at that point found a critical mass of children’s books on the topic. That was on Friday, April 24th, and on Monday, April 27th, I shared the list with my listservs. In the 12 days since I created the guide, we have had over 15,000 hits to the page and, for now, it is the most popular page on our libguide. It currently comes up third in the first 10 results of a Google search, and we were also contacted by the New York State Education Department to ask our permission to include our guide on their site.
To date, I have discovered exactly 100 children’s books on the coronavirus that are available free-to-download on the Web. That’s a lot! Although most of them are in English, I have found many from Spanish-speaking countries, and then countries as far away as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, Spain, Mexico, and The Philippines. They are also available in languages from Afrikaans to Farsi, Turkish, Spanish, French, Italian, and German to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Xhosa, and Zulu, among many others.
You can find a curated list of all of these books available on the New York City School Library System’s page here: https://nycdoe.libguides.com/COVID-19ebooks/free
Today’s guest blogger is Patricia Sarles. Patricia is passionate about libraries and doing research. She maintains the Books for Donor Offspring blog, the YA Books for Donor Offspring blog, and the Books for Kids in Gay Families blog. She has been an academic librarian, a medical librarian, a public librarian, and a school librarian for the past 30 years and is now a coordinator of library services for the New York City School Library System. She holds master’s degrees in both anthropology and library science. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.