School libraries: Top tips for making them fun, safe places to be during COVID-19

Published on: 31 August 2020

School libraries can often be hugely important to students, but how can they stay fun, welcoming places while remaining COVID-safe?

We've got some ideas from librarians and would love to hear your thoughts too...

A student reading in their library

School libraries can often be safe havens for students, or a place where they can fall in love with books.

But with the new guidelines brought in during the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we make sure they remain fun and welcoming places to be while still remaining safe?

We've got some ideas - including tips from former School Librarian of the Year Lucas Maxwell - and would love to hear what you're doing in your library, too, so we can share it here.

Get in touch with us on Twitter @BookTrust or leave your comments in the box below!

A girl looking at a book in a school library

1. Get creative with the new rules

Whether it's quarantining books for 72 hours or keeping social distancing in place in the library, think about how you could have fun with it!

If you're in a primary school, maybe you could decorate the returns box with a picture of a monster, so children can drop their books into its mouth. Or for older children, perhaps you could create fun countdown posters so they know how long it will be until books are available again.

If you're putting social distancing markers on the floor, why not decorate these with quotes about books or pictures of book covers to brighten them up?

2. Make book borrowing an event

Students won't be able to browse the shelves at Lucas's school - so instead, he's come up with a different system. 'Book requests will be placed via email or our online catalogue - we will check these books out to the students manually, so no contact will be required,' he says.

'These books will contain a slip of paper inside of it with the student’s name on it. The books will then be placed inside of a box with the appropriate year group on it. Students will visit these boxes during their English lessons in their year group bubbles.'

Why not try this in your school - making the trip to the book borrowing box a really fun and exciting part of the day?

Students in a library

3. Get everyone talking about books

Students at Lucas's school have regular library lessons - another chance for them to borrow books.

'Books that I have identified as ones I feel the class would enjoy will be placed on a rolling cart,' Lucas says. 'I will conduct a series of book talks on several of them, and students will then have an opportunity to choose some to borrow.' (He points out that any books that are browsed but not borrowed will then be popped in one of their returns boxes and quarantined for 72 hours.)

And get the students involved, too! Lucas says: 'Students partaking in the library lessons in their year group bubbles will have the chance to record book-talk videos that can be played to other tutor groups around the school!'

4. Record a podcast

This sounds like a great way to get your students excited about the library! 'The Student Library Assistants will be recording special episodes of our podcast Booklings Chat to promote new books and provide audio versions of book reviews based on the ones they've read over the summer and beyond,' Lucas says.

'These students will also read the first chapter of books they love, with different books being read from to celebrate different bookish celebrations and events. Staff will also have a chance to record episodes containing excerpts of their favourite books and to promote upcoming events.

'I will also use the podcast to promote library related programmes and virtual visits. These recordings will be uploaded to the school's file share program so they can be played during assemblies and tutor times.'

5. Make book goody bags!

Over on Twitter, librarian Mrs Baird explained that she's running a click and collect system using a QR code. 'Pupils fill out a linked form to get a specific book or curated 'goody bag' based on their interests,' she explained. 'I'm also popping in some booky postcards and bookmarks as little welcome back gifts.' What a lovely idea!

Although we work closely with libraries, these aren’t official guidelines - please always make sure you're abiding by the latest guidance published by the government (you can find a link to this below).

Useful links

How are you adapting your school library this year? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Let us know in the comments box below or by tweeting us @BookTrust and we'll include our favourites here.

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Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

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