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Libraries & the Coronavirus: Resources, Reflections, and More

I'm currently writing this in my pajamas, where I'm preparing to quarantine with my family and teach from home for at least the next three weeks. All Illinois schools have been closed, and my husband works for DePaul University, where he's currently swamped as he works to transition all spring classes online. It's been an interesting week to say the least!

Now, I've heard the complaints, and I know no one likes to be inconvenienced, but as a librarian, I know to place my faith in research and facts, so I fully support these drastic measures that are being taken to stop the spread of the virus! This NPR article perfectly explains how self-isolating can help save lives. Look, if we take the necessary actions to slow the trajectory, it might look like an overreaction. But we don't want to look back and wish we had taken more precautions when it's too late.

If you're an educator or parent who needs activities for kids while we're all at home, I’ve compiled this list of resources, and I'll be updating it as more opportunities and resources become available. In the midst of this crisis, there are some really exciting things happening on the eLearning front! Authors are sharing their picture books, creating writing workshops, offering free virtual chats and book clubs, etc. I anticipate more being added daily as schools across the country shut down indefinitely, and I'll keep adding to this document.

In addition to planning for my students online, I also have two kids of my own at home, ages 5 and 7. We'll be doing some learning, of course... but I also envision that we'll be playing games, listening to music, doing puzzles, reading books, baking cookies, building with Legos, and playing outside. (Oh, and probably watching every Star Wars movie more than once.) This extra time together at home is precious, so let's not lose sight of that!

This past week was probably the strangest I’ve lived through, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Everything felt very unpredictable at work as students (and adults!) asked questions, and we all prepared for what we saw as a looming shutdown. Our district is ahead of the curve with eLearning, since we’ve been holding virtual classes on snow days instead of cancelling for the past two years now, but it was still stressful for us — so I’m sure it was even more stressful for places where this has not been implemented yet, and especially in places where access to technology or internet is not widespread or equitable. (Please look into free internet access if you or someone you know cannot afford service, as several companies are currently offering this.)

I’m also currently part of the ongoing discussion about possible closures at my public library, where I'm serving as a newly appointed board trustee. Libraries provide an important resource to the community, especially with schools closing, but what is the risk of continuing to provide a space for people to congregate? For the moment, we remain open, even as I know other area libraries are deciding to close. We are closely monitoring the situation, and I fully anticipate we will have to shut down in another day or two. Our library is a polling place for Tuesday’s primary election, and the goal is for that to continue as scheduled, and then reassess. If we do close, we hope to at least continue providing minimal services like material pick-up. This is not a decision that we make lightly, knowing some community members rely on the public library more than others.

So, over the next few uncertain weeks, let’s view this extra time as a gift and not a burden, let’s try to assume positive intent, and let’s be a little more patient with each other.

Hang in there, friends. Stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane. ❤️