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Students Access Libraries with Curbside Service

Librarians know this: Children like books. 

Even in this day of online everything, books with pages and ink still hold an allure for students — maybe it’s the stories, or the heft of all those pages, or the sensation of turning pages as a tale unfolds. 

Checkout the Curbside Library Service flyer for directions on how to access books. 

And Kalamazoo Public Schools librarians and library staff knew that children would need access to books as they faced at least several months of online learning in the fall. 

But, they had a challenge: how to get the books into the hands of students. During the spring, students reported to library staff that they often didn’t have ready access to local libraries or many books to read at home. 

Librarians pointed students toward ebooks and other online reading resources but knew that a lack of internet access would limit some children’s ability to get books and that students needed a break from all of the time they were spending in front of screens. 

“Kids definitely miss the library,” said Laura WarrenGross, librarian at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. “I have been teaching classes from the library at Maple Street and I have kids comment whenever they see where I am. I have taken my webcam and turned it around so they can get a glimpse of our space. Students have said they miss the library and can’t wait to be back. 

“Plus, who wants to cuddle up with a Chromebook? Kalamazoo Public Schools has excellent library collections that should be available to students, regardless of educational format.” 

Warren-Gross’ vision for the service became a reality in November with the launch of the KPS Curbside Library Book Service. 

Students can peruse their school library collections online, and make book selections that their librarians and library aides package and deliver to families as they wait in their cars at the school 

The district library system already allowed for students to use an online library catalog to reserve books, but the staff had to figure out the logistics of getting the books off the shelves, into the students’ hands, and then safely back on the shelves once they were returned. 

“We know that kids are really smart and adaptable and that if we showed them how to put books on hold they would do so,” Warren-Gross said. “We had to prepare for organizing holds and know that we would have a lot of books to pull and package for students right away.” 

In addition to making staffing decisions that allowed the system to work, the district had to implement safety and sanitation protocols to ensure staff were safe and materials were quarantined and sanitized between loans. 

“We have all of these great books in our library collections. We just wanted to get them in kids’ hands,” said Patricia Richardson, the KPS acquisitions and cataloguing librarian, who said Warren-Gross really deserves all of the credit for figuring out the logistics of the system. 

The curbside service was an immediate hit, said Angela Justice, KPS coordinator of English Language Arts, Social Studies and Library Services. The first day, the library staff already had 64 orders for books. 

“This is just a great way for students to connect with their schools in a way that doesn’t add stress for them,” Justice said. “It allows kids to get a break from home and virtual learning — even if it’s just a short drive or quick walk to the school. It gives kids a breath of fresh air and a chance to talk to mom and dad.” 

Richardson said students who want books should use the system to get new books — even if they’re worried about fines and overdues from the past year. Those fines have been put on hold during virtual learning. 

Students can find information about new books and how to use the online book reservation system on the KPS website. There is a library tab at the top of each school’s page. 

“There is not one single resource that is going to make this whole pandemic situation better for every kid,” Richardson said. “We’re just providing one more resource that might reach a group of kids who might benefit from getting books.”