Staying Connected: Your Stories
Connections in Education During COVID-19

Throughout New York State, administrators, teachers, and school personnel continue to demonstrate their extraordinary dedication, support, and commitment to their students and New York's children. The State Education Department (NYSED) wishes to highlight the exceptional efforts of our educators to stay connected with students during the coronavirus pandemic.

This edition of Staying Connected highlights:

  • Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District’s book sharing project
  • Madison-Oneida BOCES fostering student access to digital library collections

NYSED is grateful to the dedicated educators and school personnel who are working so diligently to ensure that students are safe and well. We encourage you to Submit Your Story detailing how you continue to stay connected throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Little Free Library: Exchanging Books and Building Community
Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District 
With the help of administrators, teachers, parents, and students, the Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District in Floral Park has implemented a safe, community-based program that provides access to free books. The program, called Little Free Library, is a free book exchange that belongs to everyone in the community. Its mission is to build community, inspire readers, and expand book access for all.
“People who do not have books can get them and enjoy sharing and giving. It is also a place where people can get new books and donate books they no longer want. And anyone can start one in their own town for everybody to share!”
-- Floral Park-Bellerose School District Student
Little Free Library
The idea to create a Little Free Library for the school community came during the COVID stay-at-home time last spring. During such an isolating and sad time, the school community welcomed the idea of building something that everyone could use and enjoy for years to come. At a time when people could not see their friends and family, it gave them hope to put time and love into a project that could one day be shared with others.  

The district is composed of two elementary schools, the Floral Park-Bellerose School and the John Lewis Childs School. The community got involved and built the Little Free Library for both schools. Kids love visiting the little library and taking and giving books. The students are learning amazing lessons and the importance of giving and sharing. Students are eager to contribute their favorite books. The library is always stocked with new titles. Anyone can use it. People are encouraged to take what they’d like and leave books for others to enjoy. 

The district has small and simple goals for the Little Free Library: 

  • Provide free books to community members
  • Allow everyone to donate  
  • Increase access to books  
  • Increase reading throughout the community

There is also one big goal: Encourage other schools to sponsor free libraries to help their communities gain greater book access and increase reading and literacy.
Extending Remote Access to Library Books and Services
Madison-Oneida BOCES
The Madison-Oneida BOCES School Library System’s e-book service has grown exponentially this year as students and teachers in the region are utilizing more digital media due to virtual and asynchronous learning.

The School Library System (SLS) has offered a digital media collection for many years. "When COVID closed down schools in March 2020, demand for e-books, audiobooks, and other streaming and digital media skyrocketed," SLS Director Sue LeBlanc said. That trend has continued over the past year, and the growth has been far greater than other new databases SLS has rolled out in the past.

“In some cases, this is the only way to access books, and we want to do what we can to keep books in kids’ hands and continue developing independent, engaged readers,” LeBlanc said.

Through the digital media service, districts can create an arrangement with their local public library to allow students to access the entire Mid-York Library System collection using only their school library account.

Librarians in the nine MOBOCES component districts have said the digital collection helps enhance their print collection and their co-curricular selections. Mary Laverty, a MOBOCES itinerant librarian serving the Rome and Canastota school districts, said she has curated digital collections around specific, and sometimes sensitive, topics, such as LGBTQ+, allowing students to confidentially check out titles that they may not want to carry out of a physical library. E-books can also be automatically returned, bookmark a student’s place in the literature, and help provide a broader range of materials than a single school could provide on its own.

“Even if we were not in COVID, having a robust digital library collection can fill a lot of niches for users,” Laverty said. “So many students have multiple homes or forget their books and with their school Chromebooks, they have a digital connection and are never without a book. It helps fill a gap with independent and leisure reading.”
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