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School Librarian Uses Drones To Deliver Books To Students During COVID-19 Pandemic

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The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone—from healthcare workers, grocery store employees, consumers, movie theaters, venues, and schools. Businesses closed due to the pandemic, and many children had to stay home from school much longer than their normal summer holiday break.

Understandably, many people have become bored, especially students. So, in June 2020, Virginia-based middle school librarian Kelly Passek came up with the perfect solution to ensure students in the Montgomery County Public School district don’t have to miss out on reading their favorite books. She’s delivering them by drone. Up, up and away!

Inspiration Behind The Idea

This spring, the school corporation joined others across the country in transitioning to remote learning practices. It was a difficult transition for both students and teachers, who value the in-person connection they share in the classroom. 

“As a school librarian, it is extremely important to me to have connections with my students,” Passek said. She wasn’t sure how it would be possible for her students to keep up with their required reading. Many of the students simply enjoy visiting the school library and checking out a new book.

So, Passek thought she could deliver books by using a drone, “so that I can make sure that they have access to the resources that they need and the resources that will allow them to be successful – not just academically, but also in life.”

Passek’s family often uses Wing, a drone service from Google’s parent company, Alphabet. She uses the service to get essential items delivered to her front door. After observing how easy it would be to transport books to her students, she pitched her idea to the corporation’s superintendent, Mark Miear, who was immediately thrilled about the project.

“Montgomery County Public Schools will be the first public school system in the world to use Wing to deliver library books to our students,” Passek commented. “We are thrilled for this opportunity to have a really unique way to deliver resources to our students, and do it practically on demand.”

Delivering The Books

Passek started delivering the books in early June. Just days after she launched the delivery system, Wing helped her drop off more than 35 books to students in Christiansburg, Virginia. The librarian coordinates with Wing on the requests. Students can request to check out library books (from a catalog of over 150,000 titles) through an online form.

From there, she processes the requests, packs the books up in the special delivery boxes, and drops them off at Wing, which then handles the drone deliveries to transport the books right to students’ front doors. Since Passek started the project, Wing has delivered books to more than six hundred students in the school corporation.

Wing was excited to participate in the program. The delivery system has never completed deliveries like this. In a tweet, the company expressed, “We thought it was a great use of technology.” Spokesperson Alexa Dennett added, “We’re excited for the opportunity to help Montgomery County Public Schools use drone technology to continue meeting students’ needs during this extended out-of-school time.”

Keep On Reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to think of creative ways to continue educating students. Teachers and school administrative staff members have to think outside the box to keep students engaged and focused on their educational requirements.

“Free choice reading, the reading that students choose for themselves, is so important to the success of our students, both academically and in life in general,” Passek remarked. “If we can get library resources into their hands, we can help them stay on a path to success.”

She added, “Our libraries are essential and unique parts of our community and it is extremely important for our students to continue to have access to the resources that are here in our libraries in order to guarantee their success.”

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