Franklin County Schools librarians are used to the stereotypes associated with their career choice.
They joke about wrapping their hair in a tight aristocratic bun, an itchy cardigan wrapped around their shoulders, a pair of reading glasses perched at the end of their noses and a constant “shhhh” on their lips. But they are serious when it comes to helping both students and teachers succeed.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in the spring, the library media specialists sprung into action — each contributing to their school communities in different ways.
For stepping up to the challenge, the 11 FCS library media specialists — Carolyn Lynch, Ellen Stevens, Emily Siemens, Jessica Holmes, Jordon Worley, Kate Osterloh, Kim McCoy, Leigh Kuhn, Melissa Cordier, Rhonda Bell and Stephanie White — have been named this week’s Traditional Bank Unsung Heroes.
“Many of my teachers were not familiar with how to use Google Sites to create a webpage, or how to create their own Facebook group, and they mastered this and much more,” said Lynch, library media specialist at Elkhorn Elementary School, who provided technology support to staff and students.
Notifying teachers and families about the numerous free online resources that are available was a full time job, she said.
“We already had several online libraries available, so if a student had access to technology and the internet, there were many ways they could continue reading and learning new things,” Lynch added.
Siemens, library media specialist at the Early Learning Village, was also busy sharing resources with teachers and researching materials to add to the library collection.
She also experimented with new technologies to implement with students learning from home and “collaborated with others to plan for how students and staff could get the most from library resources even during a pandemic.”
Across town at Westridge Elementary, Masters also found herself serving as the technology liaison — assisting teachers and students with technology questions, training and support.
“Many families have my personal cell number or used Google Hangouts, (Google) Meet or Zoom to connect with me whenever they needed help,” said Masters, who also handled the Chromebook rollout for preschool through third graders and helped them log into their devices for the first time.
While staying in constant contact with families to make sure they felt supported, she has also taught students virtually and hosted extracurricular programming such as STLP and Girls Who Code, a group that helps equip young women with the necessary computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.
Because extracurricular clubs won’t be able to meet in person to start the school year, Bondurant Middle's Kuhn has already set it up so the Girls Who Code will be able to hold virtual meetings.
She, too, has seen her duties become more expansive. From collecting and sanitizing outgoing eighth graders’ Chromebooks in order to prepare them for incoming sixth graders to helping with summer school, Kuhn has also busy.
“I conducted a book giveaway to each and every BMS student and gave over 650 books to students for summer reading,” she said, adding that teachers volunteered to deliver the books along with a balloon to the students’ homes.
Kuhn also applied for a grant that will fund an additional 65-70 books, which will be mailed to students over the summer.
“Our students have lots of opportunities to read this summer.”
Developing a love of reading is one of the many responsibilities school librarians are asked to help students with, said Hearn Elementary’s Worley.
“The pandemic makes this task much more difficult, though not impossible,” she explained.
“I intend on making the library mobile (in the fall) so I can bring it to them instead.”
Worley will ask students to complete interest surveys and place holds on books, which she will then deliver to them. If students return to the classroom for in-person instruction, she also plans on giving book talks and promoting a wide range of titles to see what peaks their interests.
“This will help students find new books since browsing will be limited,” she added.
Western Hills High School’s Bell, who is also the school technology coordinator, worked with the FCS Tech Team to be the main go-to when students, parents, guardians and staff experienced Chromebook difficulties or issues.
However, when it looked as though several seniors wouldn’t graduate because they had not fulfilled their math credit, she was tapped to step in.
Most students didn’t know that Bell taught high school math for 17 years prior to becoming a librarian in Franklin County because she was in different school districts.
“I think those seniors were pretty impressed by my math knowledge. I was just happy to help students who needed some extra attention,” she told The State Journal.
“Librarians are always willing to help. It’s what we do.”