Remote Book Circulation Keeps the Spirit of Reading Alive


COVID-19 and libraries don't go particularly well together. Whether you saw your local library close or an increased focus on health and safety, the coronavirus pandemic likely affected the way you do business in the library.

Here at Catlin Gabel, our librarians created an innovative system to ensure that our students were able to get the resources they needed. 

When our school went remote last March, there was no option to have students come in to browse the shelves, meaning that Catlin Gabel librarians had to consider alternate opportunities to help get books in the hands of students. The Beginning and Lower School library team set two areas of focus: find a way for families to make individualized requests and continue collaborating with teachers on school units. Thus, the remote book circulation program was born. 

For the individual requests, they followed the lead of the Upper School and Middle School librarians by creating a PS-5th version of a Google Request Form. If students weren’t sure what library books they would like to read, librarians selected a “potluck pile” based on themes or reading levels entered on the form. The Cabell Center Theater lobby became a pick-up station for library book bags along with all the other materials being sent home by the classroom and specialist teachers, including math manipulatives and art supplies.

Like a regular school year, teachers were able to continue collaborating with our librarians through this system as well. When the 3rd grade literature study was all about mystery novels, the teachers needed support providing resources for at-home engagement. Teachers communicated the goals of the unit, and then back in the library the librarians spread out all of the mystery books, arranged them by reading level, and made individual bags for each student with several choices of books.

To make it more of a treat, our librarians tucked in some surprise goodies in each bag —a small magnifying glass for each child, a “Mystery Reader” bookmark, and a note saying:

  • Here’s wishing you hours of fun wondering about who did (or did not) do what! And who may (or may not) know all (or nothing) about it!
  • Pay attention! Search for clues! Remember details!
  • See what you might discover if you stop for a closer look…use your magnifying glass.
  • Have fun! And watch out for the red herring.
  • But don’t get your exercise by jumping to conclusions.
  • Signed, Guess Who?

Parents have been vocal in their appreciation, given the closure of public libraries and the long waits for items on hold when they are open. The librarians receive many thanks and hear that students relish the off-screen time, families are doing more bedtime reading than ever before, and opening the bags is a joyous event in the home. Librarian Lisa Ellenberg says, “It has been a fun way to continue to build relationships and get to know our new students by learning about their interests and needs.”

Thank you, wonderful Catlin Gabel librarians!