Godwin Heights – ShiAnna Ayala knows how important it is to have access to books, especially when other activities are limited.
“When I was a young student, there was not much of anything to do, but I was always into a book,” Ayala said. “With the pandemic and not being able to go anywhere, a book is a kind of way for students to go on an adventure, be involved in creative things that are exciting.”
Her passion for reading is what brought Ayala to Godwin Heights Middle School as the school’s new media clerk last fall, just as Godwin Heights students were coming back to school for in-person learning.
“We had students coming in and out of the library, looking for books to read and talking about areas of interest,” she said.
But as a new order of books was arriving to meet those areas of interest, Ayala suddenly found the school library empty. With an increase in COVID-19 numbers throughout Kent County, Godwin Heights moved back to virtual learning in November with plans to return to in-person on Jan. 19. Along with this came the possibility of reduced library hours.
A challenge from Principal Bradley Tarrance to “figure out a way to keep the library open” got Ayala thinking: “If teachers could use Google classrooms to teach, couldn’t I use it for the library?”
So Ayala built her own virtual platform for the library, featuring the new titles and library favorites, along with an online discussion area where students could talk about what they were reading. She sent out emails to staff, who signed up to give short video presentations on book titles available at the library.
To get the books into students’ hands, Ayala also created a contactless book pick-up at the school. She is even willing to deliver books to students at their homes.
Yeah! The Library is Open!
“When I heard the media center was opened during the virtual period, I was overjoyed,” said sixth-grader Jada Jeffery. “I was so happy because I knew that I was going to be able to still get books that I could read. Having the media center open is amazing because when I am done with school I can sit back, relax and read a book.”
The media center’s reopening came just in time for eighth-grader Brenna Tran, who said she was running out of books. She quickly scooped up some librarian suggestions such as “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.
“When I need a new book, either as a way to kill time or for an assignment, I can get one by sending an email,” Brenna said. “It’s also free, so I don’t have to ask my parents to buy a virtual book for me.
“I like how we can get our books delivered to our houses, because sometimes I can’t go anywhere when my parents are at work.”
Before the holidays, Ayala had hand-delivered books to a handful of students. She estimates that more than 20 had visited the online library.
As another creative way for students to stay involved in the library, Ayala also launched a bookmark art contest. She usually keeps a bin of bookmarks at the door of the library for students to take.
“I noticed the bin next to the door was always empty and that the students seemed to really like the bookmarks,” she said. “I decided, what would be more cool than to see your own art on a bookmark?”
Ayala hopes students will be able to enjoy and share the bookmarks with each other when they return to in-person learning.