Tag Archives: World Teachers Day

A Vital Job at a Difficult Time: Libraries Supporting Teachers During COVID-19

The closure of schools as part of the response to COVID-19 has had major consequences that have not only been felt in the short-term, but that may continue to be felt well into the future.

Teachers have been obliged to change their way of working dramatically at short notice, going from in-person teaching to online. This has forced a rapid learning process which, however successful, has still left the frustration of not being able to interact with and support students in person.

In turn, while many are still able to continue to work from home, teachers have again been among the first to return to their jobs.

Of course, librarians in all library types involved in promoting education and learning, will share these feelings. Stories of shifting activities online, adapting and innovating using digital technologies, and overcoming challenges are common to both professions.

But the shared experiences are not just limited, in abstract terms, to the type of work being done. Collaborative working is also happening in reality, on the ground, with librarians working hard to support and complement the work of teachers, even in difficult times.

To mark World Teachers Day 2020, this blog highlights just some of the examples we have seen of support being given:


From Physical to Digital Materials: clearly one key form of support provided by librarians to teachers was access to materials both to support lessons, and to encourage wider reading (itself a key driver of literacy skills).

Even with libraries physically closed, this role has continued, for example at the Marisa Escola Social Santa Monica in Brazil, where the library engaged closely with teachers in their lesson planning to identify and provide access to appropriate materials. With so many materials available on the internet, help in finding the right ones has been strongly appreciated.

Similarly, the Portuguese School Libraries Network created consultation hours where teachers could approach school librarians in order to identify available materials for lessons. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, United States, school librarians joined teacher Zoom meetings in order to understand needs, as well as proactively reaching out to set out how they could help.

Other libraries have stepped up, with the National Library of Spain for example expanding and promoting its offer of curated materials to support education.


Continued Support for Literacy: another key way in which libraries support teachers is by helping develop the wider literacy skills that ensure that students can engage more effectively with other subjects on the curriculum. School and public libraries in Malaysia, for example, have used social media and other tools to advance the country’s wider programme for reading promotion, eNILAM.

School libraries have worked to make the most both of physical and digital collections, even under pandemic conditions. For example, Roosevelt Elementary School in Lakewood, OH, United States set up a ‘book-grab’ service based on a virtual school library, looking to give children as strong a sense of continuity as possible, alongside activities such as ‘battles of the books’.

Children have also, of course, benefitted from work in public libraries to maximise access to collections, develop online storytimes, and in particular, to deliver digital library cards thanks to agreements between schools and libraries.


Wider Skills Provision: libraries have also been working hard to realise their potential in providing after-school or other extra-curricular learning opportunities that complement what children learn in school. For example, in Portugal, libraries have coordinated with schools in order to run programmes that start soon after school hours, in order to keep children engaged and learning.

Arlington libraries, VA, USA have encouraged children to create ’quaranzines’ in order to express their creativity and share their experiences, while the National Library of Jamaica has developed programming focused on helping students towards their exams.

While activities such as summer reading challenges (in the northern hemisphere) have often not been possible in person, this has not stopped libraries running programmes online, with the National Library of France running events every week in coordination with the Ministries of Culture and Education. Meanwhile, in the US, libraries are finding new ways to run maker-spaces, teach STEM skills or promote information literacy and critical thinking.


These examples of course only scratch the surface. As such, they give just a tiny view of all that libraries can do – and are doing – to help teachers during extraordinary times. Across these, the value of close cooperation between teachers and librarians appears clear, both in order to ensure that teachers understand what libraries can offer, and librarians understand what teachers need.

As the world looks to imagine a future post-COVID, we can hope that a key part of this will be enhanced cooperation with libraries. As we have seen, when cooperation succeeds, students stand to benefit, reducing the risk of long-term negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helping Teachers Help All Learners: Libraries and Minority Languages

Through providing materials, developing information literacy skills, offering a space for study, and acting as a gateway to lifelong learning opportunities, libraries are a key part of the education infrastructure.

The service libraries provide is universal, but there are cases where they can be particularly important, for example for speakers of minority languages.

For World Teachers Day, this blog looks – on the basis of IFLA’s submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues – at how libraries help teachers deliver this right for people who risk missing out otherwise.

Providing the Raw Materials for Learning

The right of children to access information to support them in their development is made explicit in Article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child:

‘States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health’.

This may not always be easy when children have a first language other than the one that dominates where they live. Educational publishers will tend to focus on the main market for works, and curricula can also be concentrated on one language and culture, at the expense of others.

Yet without access to information in their own language, learners can suffer disadvantage, with poorer results leading to fewer opportunities in life. There is a need for additional effort to create, translate, or otherwise get access to materials.

Libraries are well placed to do this. At the local level, public libraries look to ensure that their collections match the make-up of their community, with many having sections in non-majority languages. National libraries can help support this through organising exchanges with counterparts in other countries, or even developing central libraries for different language groups.

Thanks to this work, learners are able to develop their literacy and find information in their own language, helping teachers achieve their goals.

Complementing the Work of Schools

The work of libraries is not necessarily limited to providing materials – they are more than just a storehouse or supplier of books.

The strength of libraries in providing space, and additional – often informal or non-formal – opportunities to learn can also be turned to supporting the progress of non-majority language learners. In this, they complement the work of teachers.

Sometimes, this is a case of simply reproducing traditional library activities such as story-times in minority languages, as happens in Slovakia with Hungarian-speakers.

In other cases, libraries develop structured programmes for reading development, as Helsinki libraries are doing for Russian-speakers.

Elsewhere, they host workshops and lessons for the benefit of all ages, or kit out mobile libraries to help children, for example in refugee camps, to continue their education.

These projects do not need to be organised by libraries alone, but it is clear that their mission – and the space they can often offer – makes libraries a logical platform for such initiatives.


While of course teachers themselves are at the heart of successful education, their work is made far easier when they have the support of effective libraries, especially when it comes to working with minority language speakers.

There are many great examples out there of this support at work, making a reality of the right of access to information for learning and personal development for all.


Read IFLA’s Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur