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Library Insights - School libraries during UK lockdown

Lady looking out of a window towards the sea

On Monday 23 March 2020 I went to work mindful of the new rules about social distancing amid the changing advice from the government as the pandemic COVID-19 spread across the UK.

The School had closed to visitors the previous week and the majority of pupils had returned home over the weekend. Staff began to make arrangements to work remotely from home where possible.

During the previous two to three weeks I had monitored the global reaction to the spread of the virus through news and media online. It was evident that we were entering a time of stringent measures which would change our working lives for an unknown period of time.

I was aware that systems had to be put in place to ensure staff and pupils could access online subscriptions remotely as I work at a boarding school. Our pupils travel from across the UK and overseas. They would continue to need support with IB Extended Essays, Extended Project Qualifications, coursework and school work wherever they were during the UK lockdown.

I contacted publishers and suppliers to put in place appropriate arrangements to securely access online subscriptions. We use the School Intranet for staff and pupils to securely access information such as links and passwords to online resources. Fortunately, I had some limited editorial access to update our research pages and full administrative access to the Library Management System. Also, I had contacted suppliers about any free trials to additional resources as I became aware that departmental staff would need more online resources when teaching remotely.

I felt reasonably well prepared given the circumstances and had made pupils aware of additional passwords and different ways to access online resources through our secure systems.

I was asked to provide curated content to guide staff, parents and pupils towards free online resources during the lockdown. At the time this appeared to be an insurmountable task and responded emotionally due to the stressful situation. Normal reactions and logical clear head space were needed but I was very concerned about working in an environment where social distancing needed to be practised and I needed to work from home and ensure that family members were safe amidst panic buying for essential supplies.

I took some time to check the SLA website for information and as I regularly Tweet and follow Elizabeth Hutchinson FCILP BEM on Twitter, I decided to send a DM to ask for some advice.

I was advised to place a question on “Ask A Librarian” on the ‘Great School Libraries’ website and this proved to be an excellent way to gain some very helpful advice. I acted on the advice about checking some free online apps and struck gold by signing up to ‘Wakelet.’ I was so relieved to have found a free and easy to use web tool that would help me to curate web content. I was able to use my skills to identify appropriate websites and categorise free online resources according to subject areas.

I am very grateful to colleagues who also sent me links to cover some of their subject areas and I was able to search through the SLA School Closure resources to include in the curated web content. I was able to use websites that I knew from previous experience were good and trusted sources as well.

I am aware that it is important to evaluate free resources and to only recommend those that my colleagues, the SLA or I would access. They need to be trusted sources, relevant to secondary school staff, pupils and parents to give them a quick guide to websites that contain the information they need during lockdown. To do this remotely is quite challenging but I did receive positive feedback through Twitter and emails from colleagues across the School. Therefore I knew the information was needed and was proving to be useful

If anyone needs to quickly curate web content then I would say that Wakelet is a good, free and easy to use tool as the results are very pleasing as there are copyright free images to add to the presentation. The website links pull through images and blurb. If you need to add text it is easy to edit and move the order of the websites around on the page. I hope to expand on the subjects developed to date.

My Wakelet can be found at:

Emma Minter, Librarian.

Bryanston School, Dorset.

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