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How COVID has changed our work

A typical Access Books Bay Area school library project doesn’t work well in pandemic times. Because of safety concerns over the past year we have not been able to bring together the dozens of volunteers we normally would for an in-person event, especially not on a school campus.

At the same time, the Covid Pandemic and the associated school closures have upended many kid’s lives and made it even harder to get access to books. Although we were unable to follow our usual model, we knew that our work needed to continue, because when schools reopened this fall the quality of the books in the school library would be even more important after a year of reading disruption. With a bit of adjustment, we were able to complete two major library refurbishments during this period of time.

As we prepared for our first school library project of the pandemic era in December of 2020, our first adjustment was to do our book processing off-site and outdoors. We wanted to keep our small group of moms and sons from the Young Men’s Service League of Silicon Valley safe. It was a chilly winter day when we all gathered in the backyard of one of our board members to stamp and barcode the 1,246 new books we purchased for Rosemary Elementary, a school in Campbell serving over 90% socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Despite the cold, we were able to get the books ready for use and delivered to the school the following week. We also purchased a cozy reading couch for the library, where it is now being enjoyed by students newly back on site, along with all of their fabulous new books.

In May 2021, we completed another library refurbishment, this time at Edenvale Elementary in South San Jose, a school whose student population is 82% socioeconomically disadvantaged, and 62% English Language learners. As with all of our projects, the books we selected for the library represented the diversity of the school, both linguistically and culturally, allowing students to see themselves and their families in the new books in their library. The books were processed off site once again, this time with twenty volunteers at outdoor picnic tables on a balmy day in May. Our project brought 985 brand-new high interest books into the library, as well as a new colorful rug and teacher chair for story time in the library.

One of the things that has touched us the most through all of this has been the enthusiasm and desire to help among the volunteers who have worked with us through these trying times. People were looking for ways to give back, and it was very gratifying to be able to bring them in to help with our important work putting great books into the hands of kids in need with our school library projects as well as our other pandemic work.

While kids had limited access to their school libraries during 2020 and early 2021, they did have access to the little libraries we’ve installed at schools. We continue to restock and maintain these. It’s been so exciting to visit our 30 little library installations and see how heavily they are being used. Last month, we visited Lyndale Elementary in San Jose to restock their little library. Lyndale is a school where library staff has been eliminated, so having the little library has been very important additional resource for books. The students were out playing at recess, and when they saw us putting new books in the little library, they gathered around, and it was as if we were giving away cupcakes, the kids were so excited. We couldn’t even finish filling the box before kids were pulling out books to read.

We cannot express enough how grateful we are to the volunteers and the donors who have allowed us to continue doing this valuable work during the pandemic. We look forward to more projects now that schools are reopened! To find out about upcoming volunteer opportunities, check out our volunteer page. To donate, click here. Please consider providing ongoing support in the form of a monthly donation. Consistent, ongoing funding will allow us to bring even more books into the hands of the kids who need them most!


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