SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - The Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) has launched the Supportive Assistance for Education (S.A.F.E.) Families initiative in order to support students, parents, caregivers, and educators navigate the educational shift brought about due to the COVID-19 outbreak and safety guidelines in New Jersey. Many school districts have reopened with all-virtual or hybrid learning in lieu of in-person instruction, including Green Brook, North Plainfield, Warren, and Watchung.
“Inspired by Governor Murphy’s Restart and Recovery: The Road Back report, the public library quickly recognized it was critical to ensure our educational partners knew how we could help them in this uncertain school year terrain during the current public health situation,” said Christopher Korenowsky, director of public services.
“SCLSNJ is proud to support our local community by sharing a multitude of resources during this new school year,” said Christine Jansen, manager of youth services programming and collaborations, public services. “We have created a web portal for S.A.F.E. Families to connect students, parents and caregivers, and educators to virtual learning resources, services, and programming all in one place.”
Library customers can connect with SCLSNJ staff on the web portal through a variety of pre-recorded videos including: instructions on how to navigate the Library’s digital content and explore Library resources like Libby for e-books and e-audiobooks; reading recommendations and STEAM activities; and more.
“Our expert librarians have created custom training videos to help educators, parents, and students navigate our many resources,” said Cassandra Collucci, system training manager. “Our tutorial platform offers access anytime, anywhere and is a helpful supplement to our virtual reference services.”
Students of all ages can discover research resources for help with papers and test preparation as well as explore enrichment programs including book discussions and storytimes. The virtual services offerings also connect diverse populations with the support they need including students with disabilities and English language learners (ELL).
“As we see customers shifting to virtual resources, it is important for us to evaluate our resources and programs to ensure we are reaching all of our community in an equitable and inclusive way,” said Deadra Boardman, youth services librarian.
In addition to the learning resources available for students, the Library provides parents and caregivers connections with community support groups; access to how-to videos, training and webinars for educational products and parenting resources; early literacy support; and language learning software.
“This initiative was inspired by the desire to continue to grow our partnerships with the schools and support families as virtual learning advanced into the new school year,” said Jansen. “Our curated resource pages help families and educators explore relevant SCLSNJ resources, discover newly created content, and connect with community resources.”
“For many years, SCLSNJ has made it a priority to cultivate virtual services and content for students and educators and, because of that, we were really able to hit the ground running in the spring,” said Meredith Hoyer, youth services supervisor. “The S.A.F.E. Families initiative is about pulling virtual content and services together into a portal that supports students and educators in navigating our vast offerings. Our longstanding commitment to virtual services and technology training for staff have also enabled us to very quickly pinpoint and adapt traditional library services, such as programming and continuing education for teachers who are now existing in a virtual learning environment.”
For Library customers who do not have access to the internet at home, SCLSNJ offers Internet On The Go, free mobile hotspots available for check-out.
“Critical to our work in this area remains issues surrounding the digital divide. While the digital divide has been an emergent issue within the state and communities for decades, the public health situation has increased the impact of this fractionate,” said Korenowsky. “More than ever before, online schooling requires a high-speed Internet connection, which is not possible for many New Jersey students and families. To name just a sampling of S.A.F.E. Families features, the web portal includes educator professional development webinars, programs, tutorials, Google Classroom help for parents, and online tutoring for students.”
About Somerset County Library System of New Jersey
Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) partners with you to connect, to explore, to share and to discover. Together we enrich lives, expand knowledge and strengthen communities. SCLSNJ branches can be found in Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Hillsborough, Manville, North Plainfield, Peapack & Gladstone, Rocky Hill at Mary Jacobs Memorial Library, Somerville, Warren Township, and Watchung. Additionally, there are two SCLSNJ reading stations in Branchburg and Washington Valley. Visit SCLSNJ.org.