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Hermosa Curbside Library Keeps Students Reading During Distance Learning

With a brief introduction to distance learning during the spring, and now several months into the current school year, both students and teachers seem to have adjusted to new ways of teaching and learning during the temporary educational environment.

Nevertheless, there are some school operations that don’t lend themselves as well to the virtual environment – until now.

COVID-19 may keep students from visiting their respective school libraries, but new Hermosa Elementary School librarian Brandy Taylor has initiated a program that takes the library to students.

The Hermosa library can now be accessed online, and books can be checked out and picked up at the school office. The only things missing are the bookshelves, library cards and a visit with the librarian. 

“It’s the same type of search function that we’ve had here in the library all along, but now families can also search from home,” said Taylor, who previously was the librarian at Victoria Groves Elementary School. “The new library system purchased in April of 2019 brought us into the digital age. We went from having a Winnebago to a shiny new Tesla.”

Modeled after the Rancho Cucamonga city library’s curbside service, the Hermosa library is a full-service system where students can search online for books they’d like to check out. Taylor sends the selection to the school office, where parents can pick up the books, each of which is tracked through the online system. Each book also includes an old-style library book check-out card.

“You have to reinvent what worked before to something that works now, both to stay relevant and to give students something normal,” Taylor said. “Kids with a library book in their hands is normal.”

Students can check out just one book at a time, but Taylor hopes the volume will increase as the program’s popularity grows. Students typically keep the books for a week but can renew for a second week before returning them to a collection bin at the school office. Books are then are wiped clean with disinfectant before they are recirculated.

“There are a lot of people who are still not comfortable picking up a book from the library, and because there are no students at school and this is my first year here, I still haven’t even seen any kids,” said Taylor, who took over for recently retired longtime Hermosa librarian Deanna Holdsworth. “I send the books to the office for families to pick up, and then I see the books when they’re returned. I miss the interaction with the kids.”

The program was recently expanded to include students in all grades at Hermosa. Taylor hopes to help her counterparts at other ALSD schools introduce similar systems for their libraries.

She says the online library is more than just a book repository. Students can review their library accounts, rate books and create wish lists, among other features.

“Parents have gotten very involved with this,” she said. “It gives kids more freedom to do more things through the library than before. There are a lot of fun features that we never had the opportunity to use. For example, students can write book reviews, but the rule is that they can’t be spoilers and reveal the story ending.”

Taylor also posts a bulletin board with the “meme of the week,” announcements and other fun activities. Leaning on her background as a former database manager for a video game company in San Diego, she is continually looking to maximize the program’s potential.

“Anything to keep them engaged with the library,” she said.