Appoquinimink elementary school libraries open curbside service

Appoquinimink School District librarians Carolyn McGinnis, Jodie Klein, Susan Austin and Tammy DeCapua are among those in elementary schools setting up curbside book pick up. The service began Monday and has drawn 20 requests so far. (Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz)

MIDDLETOWN — School librarians know their readers: the preferred genres, the topic matters. That — and the hope to get books in the hands of young students during remote learning — was the goal behind opening up curbside library services across five district elementary schools in Appoquinimink.

“Although it’s been helpful to have the resources of electronic books, we know that research shows that kids like having the books in their hands and these collections from their school libraries, they’re familiar with,” said Tammy DeCapua, librarian for Old State Elementary School. “They know what books they like, what series they like, so we can give them more of what they want and what they’re used to having from their schools.”

The service began Monday, and so far 20 responses have come through, said Susan Austin, librarian for Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill, Cedar Lane, Old State, Silver Lake and Townsend elementary schools are operating the service. Each is open on a different day, with a smattering of times. (In Capital, at Central Middle, a similar service is occurring.)

Through the online catalog, students and their families can fill out a request form at any library and then, once it’s confirmed, go and pick it up on the day and time at the proper location. Books must be dropped off at the same location during curbside hours.

When books are returned, they are quarantined for 72 hours before being sanitized and replaced on shelves.

“When we knew that it didn’t really look like things were going to be back to the way they typically are in a normal school year, we got together and started talking about our role in that and how could we best support teachers and families and students as librarians,” Ms. Austin said. “Getting books into the hands of kids was obviously what we thought was most important for us.”

The librarians modeled their method of the Appoquinimink Public Library, which is allowing for books to be checked out and picked up curbside. Other state libraries are following similar models.

Appoquinimink Public Library also provided resources on quarantining books and how to safely distribute books.

“I don’t think the public library could keep up with the whole community if everybody was going back to school and reading as much as we want them to read,” Ms. Austin said. “I think we really needed to open up our resources to be able to provide what everybody needs in the community.”

That rapport that students have with their school librarians is an important component, too, said Townsend Elementary librarian Carolyn McGinnis.

“I’ve had families reaching out to me all through the summer, and now with the curbside, asking me to recommend books because their kids are reading them out of house and home,” she said.

Jodie Klein, librarian for Silver Lake Elementary, said that with kids on the screen for extended periods of time now due to remote learning, this will encourage them to get lost in a book.

“Although most of our families probably do have books at home, there’s a lot of our families that don’t,” she added. “When I see a kid’s name, I instantly can identify: ‘Football, they like football.’ It’s just those little things that hopefully we can provide something to them that’s allowing them to take a break from school and engage in reading and get lost in a book.”

Eventually, the service will be available at the secondary schools, and the librarians plan for curbside pick up to continue even as classes move to a hybrid format, where students attend school in-person for part of the week.

Reading keeps brains actively engaged, said Ms. Klein.

“Now, more than ever, I think it’s really important that kids continue to read just to stay sharp with what good writing looks like, what a story is, the character development, getting lost in the stories, just keeping the brain active,” she said, noting that students can start to lose skills if they’re not reinforced. “Some of our kids, not being in school since March, really need that to make sure they’re not losing what they spent so much time learning.”

And a good story — with all of its suspense and adventure — can help get children through what they’re dealing with in a time of uncertainty, she said.

“Reading can be a really nice escape for some of the stress that’s going on right now,” Ms. McGinnis added.

Pick up locations and times are listed below:

Bunker Hill Elementary: Mondays, 3 to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cedar Lane Elementary: Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Old State Elementary: Tuesdays, 3 to 7 p.m. and Fridays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Silver Lake Elementary (Cantwell Bridge Middle School Location): Thursdays, 2:30 to 6 p.m.

Townsend Elementary: Tuesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and Thursdays, 5 to 7 p.m.