Click and Collect? Ideas to keep your school library going during Covid-19

Written by: Valerie Dewhurst | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Managing and running a school library service during the Covid-19 pandemic has obvious challenges. Valerie Dewhurst discusses her approaches, including a Click and Collect book service, Book Boxes, and virtual celebrations

The new academic year came with much trepidation and of course with so many uncertainties – how would my library function, how would I get books back in the hands of our students, how would I continue to deliver library lessons, and how would I celebrate all the wonderful literary events we so often run and support?

Guidance there was in abundance and it was a very wise move to keep up-to-date with all the news sent out to librarians. Both CILIP and the School Library Association did their very best to keep us informed, but it was still a massive concern returning to my school library (see CILIP, 2020).

It had been such a quick exit when we went into lockdown – so quick that there was no time to retrieve the many thousands of books already out on loan. I know I am not alone in saying this, but it was a worrying time for librarians. A bizarre catch-22 situation – our books were out on loan and being read, but it was also a perfect time for our books to accidentally go astray. Of course, we undertook a complete renewal on the library system to avoid any unnecessary overdue emails being sent out to parents/carers – one less thing for our families to worry about.

Remote learning soon kicked in – and the library was no exception, with the continuation of Accelerated Reader and remote provision and training for my pupil librarians.

I was amazed and extremely proud to see such enthusiasm and dedication for all the work set. As a Google Classroom school, our students accessed their work each day and it was a pleasure to work with such dedicated readers.

Upon my return to school this term, discussing ideas and sharing of good practice from fellow librarians became a daily occurrence. Across school libraries there have been a wide range of approaches (some have partially opened, some remain fully closed).

The school library at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School has partially opened, but there have also been numerous opportunities to help keep the library at the forefront of things as the term progresses. Below I discuss some of our approaches and ideas…

The approach at QEGS

I was determined to keep our books going out and our library lessons and services going but in a safe way.

Normal visiting times to the library, including breaks and lunchtimes, have changed. Only year 9 is continuing with their visits for their library lessons, while years 7 and 8 still have their library lessons delivered via Google Classroom.

This has been a fantastic opportunity for me as it has allowed me to create Google slides to deliver year 7 inductions, year 8 refreshers, a virtual tour of the library, an introduction to our Click & Collect/Deliver service, and our Accelerated Reader reading programme.

Click & Collect/Deliver

The Click & Collect/Deliver service has been much discussed in school librarian circles during the pandemic. I decided that there was no harm in giving this a go – there was nothing to lose, yet so much to gain and getting our books back out on loan was paramount.

It is self-explanatory and schools can set up the system in a number of different ways. The general principles require allowing students to reserve books either on the school library system in your school or perhaps via email. The school library then finds and delivers the book to the pupil’s tutor group. Students can return finished books to their tutors and the library will organise collection.

Students and staff were given instructions on how the new service would work – from day one it was a hit and it got just better each day. I can certainly see this way of working remaining after the pandemic.

The system works by...

Everyone surprised me just how quickly he or she adjusted to the way in which they could now borrow our stock.

It is important to note that Click & Collect/Deliver services have become a part of the library management system, accessible under our existing “reserve” facility and so there was nothing new required in terms of digital infrastructure and no extra costs involved.

Delivering book boxes

This term, we have also decided to introduce book boxes for all form groups – offering a variety of material to encourage reading during form time and bringing the library to the students in a safe way.

The book boxes were originally introduced in the school as a way of supporting teachers with specific curriculum topics. I would issue up to five book boxes a term across both primary and senior phases.

Packing up the book boxes was no mean feat, but I was delighted to see just how quickly form tutors got on board with the distribution of these resources. The plan is to refresh the stock each half-term to keep the momentum going.

Our book boxes service has always been popular here, so this was nothing new but it has been rekindled and it was well worth doing so. It is also an amazing way to use up surplus stock, magazines, newspapers – you will be surprised at just what you find to include.

Marking national or other events

I know that many librarians were worried about how they would reach out to their students this year, but I have found many ways in which to keep our library running, including by marking national events.

We celebrated Roald Dahl Day on September 13 when, once again, our form tutors came to the rescue and delivered fun activities to their year 7 students.

Next up was National Poetry Day on October 1. Our booked poet, author and performance poet Paul Jenkins, kindly offered to run the session virtually. Year 4 and 5 pupils from our attached primary phase as well as year 7 students took part in what was a very entertaining afternoon of sharing poetry.

For the third year running we are also taking part in the Royal Society Science Book Prize. Later this term, our first virtual Book Fair with Usborne Books is going ahead across both our primary and senior schools and Non-Fiction November began after the autumn half-term. All virtual events of course but just as exciting.

National Storytelling Week with our primary phase will still go ahead in the spring term and we are very much looking forward to hosting our forthcoming Book Week event with Dean Atta, author of The Black Flamingo.

Opening up for smaller groups

I have also taken research bookings from colleagues in the music and English departments. I have previously written in SecEd about how our library supports teachers with student-led research work (Dewhurst, 2020) and with all proper precautions and following our strict Covid guidelines, I was able to welcome small groups into the library. It was good to have just a little bit of normality back for a short while. It was also a perfect opportunity to show-off our new stock and make good use of the resources.

Lots more to come

I am busy planning for next term and I already have much more knowledge and expertise and feel confident that offering virtual events and resources can still support teaching and learning throughout the school.

  • Valerie Dewhurst is head of library at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn. Read her previous articles for SecEd via

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