I like to start a school class visit to the public library where I work by walking up the stairs to the front door and stopping before entering to say, “When you go inside, be sure to look up!” The branch has very high ceilings, and there are two murals painted to mimic a cloudy blue sky, with seagulls flying around the light fixtures. Even the teachers and chaperoning parents get excited when they see the murals! My hope with this is that it sets the stage for the library to become something memorable, and a welcoming place they know they can turn to.
With our system being closed to the public for almost a year, we have shifted to virtual class visits to connect with students and teachers. During these visits, I try to impart that same welcoming feeling, but have had to come up with some new pitches.
When I scheduled my first virtual “field trip,” with a Kindergarten class, I was most nervous about the tech mishaps I had heard about from colleagues. Luckily enough, this teacher was very accommodating and let me know ahead of time she just “goes with the flow” for her classes these days, and that I should do the same. (Thank you, Ms. Kim!) As soon as I saw the kids logging into the virtual classroom and waving, my worries slipped away. I shared information about our curbside pickup service, and read a funny story, but I quickly realized that the most important thing was connecting with the students, and for them to interact with a different adult in their online world. This became, once again, my opportunity to let them know the library is a welcoming place they can turn to, especially in these uncertain times. It also was memorable, or at least it seemed that way to me from the Q&A portion, with students telling me about how their branch is currently closed, or showing me a book they went to pick up at a location open for curbside pickup.
Looking forward, I am excited to reach out to the teacher librarians in my branch’s neighborhood and schedule virtual visits to let kids know about our summer programming. I’m also hoping this will be a time to connect with the teacher librarians, who I used to email much more frequently. Being a part of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee reminds me of just how important those relationships are, and I am excited to welcome them to our summer virtual space.
Jeannette Lekach is a Youth Services Librarian at the San Francisco Public Library. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Collaboration.