As COVID-19 shut school doors and pushed educators online last month, Spring Creek Middle School librarian Jan Jenson asked herself a question: How do I continue to connect children to books?
“Our kids were with us on a Thursday and we expected to see them that next Monday, and we didn’t,” Jenson said. “There was no time to say goodbye or to set up any protocol for this.”
While the Cache County School District acted quickly to add books to Sora — an application for students to access ebooks and audiobooks — Jenson began taking email requests for tangible books and delivering them to Spring Creek students. Now Jenson makes around eight deliveries to students a day, sometimes delivering 10 to 12 books at a time.
“I don’t have a cap,” Jenson said, often taking requests from a student’s siblings or parents. “I’m really delivering books to the entire family.”
Jenson located an old Hollywood Video drop-off box for book returns — which she said at the time of the interview held around 50 returned books. She said she sanitizes each book then places it in quarantine for three days before returning to circulation. When delivering books, Jenson doesn’t usually greet the students or even ring the doorbell; if she’s lucky, she gets to wave at the student through a window or have a brief socially distanced conversation after leaving a sack of books by the door.
“I’m being very careful for my own health and my family’s health,” Jenson said, “and for (the students’) health, primarily.”
Jenson said the popularity of her book delivery system was an unexpected, pleasant surprise. The students are responding to the situation as well as they can with a positive attitude, Jenson said.
“They’re very grateful,” Jenson said. “They leave a lot of thank-you notes on their porches, which is super sweet.”
Jenson said the titles being selected by students are representative of the times and of their age. According to Jenson, students have been particularly interested in dystopian topics and romance titles.
“Romance is completely cleared out,” Jenson said. “It’s the girls — they’re in love with love.”
Jenson insisted she’s not doing anything extraordinary; she’s only doing what every educator in Cache Valley is doing — thinking outside the box to stay connected and engaged with students.
“I think it’s essential for a kid to be able to read a book,” Jenson said.