Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES News Article

School libraries meet demands of the pandemic

Jim Belair sitting in office

Coordinator of School Library Services Jim Belair recently participated in a presentation to the New York State Regents Advisory Council about the role of school librarians in remote and hybrid instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation was sponsored by the School Library Systems Association and the NYS Library. Belair presented alongside Kathy Jaccarino from Brockport High School and Angela Boccuzzi-Reichert from Hilton Merton Williams Middle School.

The pandemic has forced school librarians to develop original programs, shift service delivery models, and create new ways to maintain connections with students, parents and teacher colleagues. These initiatives were made possible by resources, financial support and professional development from the local School Library System (SLS).

Belair facilitated a conversation about Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), which is defined as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

New SEL initiatives emerged during the pandemic, focused on maintaining connections with students during remote learning, creating virtual events to address emotional well-being for students, and zeroing in on culturally-responsive education by conducting diversity audits of library collections.

“The approach we take within school libraries is very involved with Social-Emotional Learning,” said Belair. “This is at the heart of what school library staff members take seriously, and we try to do it with not only our students, but with our teachers.”

According to Belair, school librarians have been supporting SEL by having one-on-one meetings with teachers and students; helping the community find and identify literature; supporting and enhancing the curriculum academically and developmentally; and teaching information literacy and digital citizenship.

School librarians have also been working on culturally-responsive education by providing professional development for librarians on this topic, and joining the #OwnVoices hashtag movement. This movement was started to recommend books about diverse characters that have been written by authors from marginalized or under-represented groups.

Each BOCES and Big Five city (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City) has an SLS that provides leadership, technical services, resources and professional development to all member school libraries across the state. This unique program serves as leaders not only in the state, but across the country.

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