What Teachers/Students/Parents Should Know during Learn from Home… A Librarian’s Perspective

First and foremost, we see you all and you look GOOOOOOOD.    Congrats on surviving and even thriving during this first week back.  I know we all have little and big siblings ordering us about; children wanting to do the eating thing; assignments and work that had to be done yesterday; and occasionally there are horrible, PTSD-inducing sirens coming from our mobile phones warning us to STAY inside.  If you are reading this, you survived and should be congratulated.

Second,  do you miss the Library yet?  You may not even realize it but the School Library is a very important Third Space for us all, but especially students.  A Third Space is one that is neither work nor home.  “…[It] is “an intersection zone between the school curriculum and the student’s knowledge and ways of knowing”, which creates a dynamic learning space. The concept of “third space” served as a theoretical framework for the study on the use of information sources, and the requirements for the provision of information and related support …” (http://bit.ly/3rdSpaceArch).  Adults have the real world as their playground.  They go to restaurants, places of worship, shopping malls/stores.  But due to their age, most kids don’t have the funds or mobility for this kind of experience.  For students, the Third Space in school is the one place where they can go anytime it is reasonable without anything being required of them.  They can socialize with friends, read, do crafts, work, play games, chat with adults.  It is a safe space to BE and a place to use what they have learned.  In Learn from Home, it is impossible to replicate, particularly in a pandemic crisis like this where everyone is home together and students are being sandwiched between parents, siblings, and teachers.  So I ask “How are you providing your child/student with a Third Space, a place to safely socialize and commiserate with peers?”  And if you think you have one, ask yourself, “Is this place somewhere they want to be or is it really just another an obligation?” Is your school library available in a readily accessible virtual space? Do teachers and parents and students know about these spaces?

Third, teachers!  Where have you been?  Your Library wants to support you!  Yes, we are happy to help the English Department find free e-books for students.  But our REAL purpose in life and library is to help YOU all as teachers.  As my staff have heard on repeat, the library is not about books.  It is about information, which sometimes comes in books.  If you need to find something, your Librarian is THE first place to go.  S/he is being paid not to shelve books but to do information seeking and resource gathering for you.  It isn’t a happy accident that companies like @FollettLearning (the library catalogue giant) include resource collection features in their library software.  It is an intentional expression of our purpose.  Do you want to create a Third Space (see above?)  How about asking your Librarian to arrange a school MinecraftEdu sandbox?  Do you need to find a free and legal place for your whole class to read “Frankenstein”?  We got you covered. Check out https://www.frankenbook.org/.  Throw your library some work and take something off your plate.

Fourth, y’all it is TIME to Sit up or Shut up as educators.  I know you want to use that PDF someone sent you of the latest Caldecott/Kate Greenaway picture book.  You want to send it and more like it to parents and have them read to their kiddos each night.  You want to share that free YouTube video that is a questionable copy of BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” with your kiddos since you can’t arrange a proper read out loud.  But we can’t.  Yes, this is a crisis and yes, you are doing a great job by just breathing in and out all day and keeping those littles breathing in and out all day.  But society has not fallen so apart that we can condone walking all over other professions and demanding they subordinate themselves to ours.  Did you know that one well-loved children’s author got a royalty check for over 4,000 book sales and received only $22.18 in payment? (http://bit.ly/SHaleRoyalties) We demand our students be accountable for the information they share.  We use “TurnItIn” to check for plagiarism.  We teach and demand bibliographies and citations.  We punish academic dishonesty.  We cannot then, in all good conscience, aid and abet (much less participate in) copyright infringement.  Do not ask your Librarian to make copies of books in whole, even now.  Please do not argue with your Librarians when they demand caution because of copyright.  While most are not doctors of law, I actually am and so for what is advisable when it comes to US materials, I can be considered an expert (“Free Legal Services, you get what you pay for”.) I promise you that your reputation with your librarian and your children can survive without that document or that video but it cannot survive the professional anguish that comes from a multi-million dollar lawsuit (http://bit.ly/HISDCopy) or even just a teen pointing out that you do not practice what you preach.  Authors, journalists, illustrators, artists – their backs are not for us to stand on and scramble over even in a crisis.  They need to eat.  They need to care for their own families.  They need to be protected in times like these when the finer points of culture and society seem to be fraying.  There are rules about this because they are otherwise vulnerable to exploitation.

Lastly, fiction is escape.  And I don’t know about you (except yes, right now, I do), you need escape.  Many authors and publishers have kindly offered their wares for limited free usage.  Per the paragraph above, enjoy these with your family respectfully by following the guidelines creators have set out.  When in doubt, ask your librarian to look up the rules for you.  In general that means to sharing only what your school does or will own, share on closed platforms (private or password protected), remove/destroy when this school year is done, and providing attribution, tell people where you generously got the free material from.  Some publishers ask you to tell them if you are sharing work with their permission.  If you are looking for some of these great resources checkout #EduTwitter, the School Library Journal (https://www.slj.com/), or School Library Association (https://www.sla.org.uk/).  Following #RemoteLearning online will direct you to many great and now free resources.  I personally want to recommend your local library’s website.  You can often apply for a card online and check out e-books and audiobooks (and sometimes magazine and movies) in just a few minutes.  For us in UAE, Sharjah Library is generously donating a free one year membership to residents and citizens of the UAE at https://spl.gov.ae/en//home/4

With all this in mind, I wish you all the healthiest and best of days. You can find out what disasters have befallen me and mine by following me at @LibraryKATinAD on Twitter or via my website (https://www.katinthelibrary.com), where on rare occasion I post book reviews and other nonsense.

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KAT is a librarian at the British School of Abu Dhabi where her British colleagues tolerate her Americanisms pretty well. She is a graduate of Rutgers University's Master of Information program, has a Juris Doctorate from Marquette University, is an attorney (formerly with the U.S. Government), and was formerly an Administrative Law Judge with the State of Arizona. At last check, she had a husband, three kids, a dog, and a serious book buying addiction. She lives in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with a subset of them. @LibraryKATinAD

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