Reimagining How Libraries Can Serve Youth During COVID-19

iSchool News - September 17, 2020

Dr. Mega Subramaniam's project involves helping libraries adapt to support youth and their families with the transition to online learning.

child at a table with an iPad in front of them and block pieces on a table

Internationally recognized youth library services researcher, Dr. Mega Subramaniam, is calling upon librarians across the country to help reimagine how libraries can serve youth in their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and moving forward.

Dr. Subramaniam, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies and Linda Braun, a learning consultant at LEO and UMD adjunct faculty member, are spearheading a provocative series of articles such as, “Wake up, Libraries: Curbside Pickup is NOT the Answer,” delivered to librarians through the widely read School Library Journal.

One area of support they are particularly thinking about is the transition for youth and their families to online learning during the pandemic. On one end of the spectrum, there are youth who have sound virtual learning environments, unlimited digital means, and strong family support. On the other end, there are youth and their families who are challenged by distance learning through a lack of technology access, social and emotional support, and are more focused on having the basic needs of life filled.

Dr. Subramaniam and Braun, in addition to their article series, are providing a forum for crowdsourced ideas from librarians. They aim to develop a pathway for public libraries and library staff that will address these disparities, support the information, technology, and education needs of youth – as well as assembling an arsenal of tools for libraries to continue to innovate programming and involve their communities in decision making.

To get involved, learn more about the project.

Anticipated Outcomes:

  • A pathway for public libraries that will map out the exacerbated needs that youth and families are facing during crises, the “why” and “how” public libraries can help fulfill these needs during crises, weaving tools that were used by public library staff that participated in the project, and case studies as examples.
  • Myriad ways that libraries can serve their communities without the traditional building and materials, but yet enriching and fulfilling what their community needs (i.e. information, learning, mental health, everyday needs, etc).
  • Changing the mindset of the public that public librarians are public servants who work to fulfill the needs of the communities during crises (essentially, changing the mindset that libraries are more than books, computers, and space).

Dr. Mega Subramaniam is available to comment on the project. Please contact her at