Virtual Parenting

Virtual Parenting in the Time of COVID-19 

So, I began my Monday not in my school library but at home in front of my computer. Gathering sources, fielding questions, managing our social media presence. It’s going to ‘interesting’ to say the very least. Over the weekend our County Executive ordered Long Island (NY) schools closed beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. Soon NYC schools would shutter, too. New York is currently a hot spot for the novel coronavirus dubbed COVID-19.  

Parents of school age children have been posting all week – memes, anecdotes, suggestions, and more. Unlike other parents, my children are grown and all four have completed their university degrees. I do not have to balance home schooled education and my job. I’m grateful for this and thought, ‘Okay, this should be easy…or smooth…or not too bad. I can handle this.’ Well, I realized very quickly that whether your children are all sheltering with you or without, it’s going to be a challenge. Did my surety tempt the Fates?

Virtual parenting. I’m a virtual parent. I have four children in three different states; one of these states is another hot spot (CA) and at the time on the verge of shutting down. So, on Monday, March 16 I watched my son get married on a Facebook. Speaking with him over the weekend, it was clear the wedding as originally planned for April was no longer an option. There was time for me to fly out to LA and make it to the wedding. I struggled with this decision. I wanted to be there, but what if I brought the virus with me?  So instead, I logged into the Facebook watch group and grabbed some tissues. 

Fortunately, the joy of welcoming a new member to our family outweighed my melancholy of watching remotely. I thought, “I got through today, I can handle anything.” Here’s a recommendation: Don’t tempt the Fates. Tuesday morning my immunocompromised daughter calls to tell me she has been tested for COVID19; she had symptoms, tested negative for flu and is in the high-risk category. Again, I had to parent remotely weighing whether I should bring her home and potentially infect others living in my house. Should I drive into Brooklyn and bring her food even though she had food and I Amazoned other supplies. Each day we spoke, multiple times a day just to be sure she was doing okay. By Saturday we got the confirmation she tested positive. 

One week down… 

Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Seymour!

Hot Water

tea crochet demet

In hot water in the library takes on new meaning when working with teens. I know my teens are comfortable in our library, but I didn’t realize how comfortable until a Friday afternoon encounter.

Student: Can I have hot water?

Me: What?

Student: Can I have hot water? You’re always making tea, so can I have water?

Me: Oh. Oh. Okay. I was just making myself a cup of tea, so the water is already hot. (Figures, he’s right.)

Student: (Pours hot water into his thermos.) Can I have a tea bag?

Me: Okay. What kind? I have Tetley, Chai…

Student: I’ll have the African tea.

Me: Rooibos. Okay, here’s a bag. (Me opening my file cabinet of goodies and tea.)

Student: Oh, those are good cookies! (Belvita bites.)

Me: I don’t like the snack packs. Do you want them?

Student: Yes, please!

Me: Here, take them. Get to class the bell is going to ring.

Student: Bye, Mrs. Seymour.

Me: Bye.

And there you have it. A full-service library. Come in for a book, laptop, maker activity or hot water and a tea bag. I always tease the kids when we’re on lockdown drills, “not to worry folks, we can survive weeks with the food stored in my office.” I have a microwave and a refrigerator (I like milk in my tea). On hand there’s always Hershey kisses, chocolate bars (cause you can never have enough chocolate), assorted cookies, snack bars, and microwave popcorn to mention a few items. Right now, I also have a dozen boxes of cookies courtesy of the Girl Scouts. Some days you just have to dole out some cookies in the afternoon to tired, hungry teens. Other days, usually before testing or end of semester, you just have to place a Hershey’s kiss before each student letting them know we’re thinking of them. I’m pleased the kids feel comfortable coming to me when they need a pick me up. We’re in this together.

Change Agent

In December,  I was notified by Library Journal that I’d been selected as a Mover & Shaker for 2017. To say I was excited is putting things mildly. Unfortunately, I had read the email notification while working on my book at my local public library. So excited I had to scoot into the stacks to avoid a scene. When that didn’t work, I packed up my laptop and headed for home. Calling my husband from the parking lot (I couldn’t wait to tell someone), I didn’t get the response I expected or hoped for. After interrupting me to shout at the TV – it was football Sunday – my husband was congratulatory but nonchalant. It’s hard to explain LJ Movers & Shakers to non-library folk. I’d have to wait for my peers.

In January, I attended the LJ photoshoot at the Ritz-Carleton in Atlanta during the ALA img_7149MidWinter conference. It was a rainy Saturday, the Women’s March was on and the city was preparing for the Super Bowl. So much happening that weekend. As I entered the suite, I met some amazing librarians waiting their turn with the photographer. We introduced ourselves and chatted. I was awed by the projects and programming going on across the country.

After the shoot  all that was left was to await the formal announcement in March and to find out what category I was in. You see, they tell you you’re on the list but don’t tell you your category. Would I be placed with ‘Educators’ or ‘Community Builder’? I really couldn’t guess. Our inclusive MakerCare program is a community service based model teaching teens about social action and civic engagement. Using our school library makerspace, we create items to benefit agencies and organizations in need of assistance. I like to call this compassionate making. We strive to make the community and world a better place. To be the change we wish to see.

Change Agent. That’s my category for LJ’s Movers & Shakers 2017. I think it’s fitting. To quote one of my favorite service learning gurus, Cathryn Berger Kaye, “teachers must become agents of change for students to become change agents. When this is done in overt ways, students discover what change looks like and can then choose to adopt favorable behaviors to change internally and externally.” (2010, p. 242)

Yes, that’s what we all should be when we grow up – a change agent. Every generation nurtures the next. I challenge you to be the change agent your student will become!


Got Stress?


Next week begins one of the more stressful weeks of our school year – Midterm and Regents Exam Week.

 I thought about what the library could do to alleviate some of the stress. It’s hard enough being a teen and getting through high school. How can I, a school librarian, help students de-stress? We have so many great supplies already in our school makerspace, so I looked around to see what we could use.

First, we put out a puzzle because sometimes you need to take a break from studying to clear your brain before you begin again.


“Studies show that just looking at a puzzle and pondering possible solutions actually helps the mind stay calm. The brain enters a state of meditation. Benefits include greater peace and perspective to aid in stress management. Meditation is also known to boost self-confidence. Of course, solving a puzzle helps boost confidence all on its own.”  Source

Next, coloring sheets and colored pencils again to provide mindful relaxation.


According to neuropsychologist, Dr. Stan Rodski, “coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation. Like mediation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment.” Source

Speaking of relaxation, we left out our iPads and headphones. No, not to access  study guides on the online CastleLearning site, but to access our relaxation apps. We have two, Take A Break! Guided Meditations for Stress Relief and also Simply Being – Guided Meditation for Relaxation and Presence both by Meditation Oasis.


I have these apps on my phone because let’s face it, sometimes you just need to chill. If you’re interested, there are other apps available as well.

And finally, we printed out positive affirmations. Each strip of paper has a feel good phrase and is given to every student in the library. There are 75 different sayings, so there shouldn’t be a repeat affirmation for any individual.

The week will end with a visit from a  therapy dogs.

Sometimes it takes multiple strategies to reach every student. I am hopeful that all who visit the library this week will find peace and relaxation in addition to the energy, strength and self-confidence to get through testing week.


Good Grief! A Librarian’s Reaction to Grief and Bereavement

I started off the school year with the death of former student. Unfortunately, I’m ending the school year with the death of a staff member. The death, another car accident, occurred over the weekend and I dreaded going to work on Monday. Senseless tragedies depriving us of vibrant lives lived.

It is said that when grieving we need to do something physical as it gives us power over the situation in which we feel powerless.

When a former high school student, Anil, died students came to the library to make memorial buttons to be worn at Homecoming and throughout the numerous memorial events that occurred during the year. It was a very cathartic experience. I still see buttons on staff lanyards and on student backpacks. It’s oddly comforting.

Recently while still feeling sad and contemplating ideas for a new end of year bulletin board, I thought this would be my opportunity to express myself. But why stop there? Why not invite others to participate. So a simple activity to provide a colorful distraction in honor of a colorful woman thus became an interactive art display.


These experiences got me thinking about grief and bereavement and the librarian’s role. When my children were young and their first dog died the very first thing I did was to run to the public library for bibliotherapy. We needed a copy of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (Viorst), Dog Heaven (Rylant),  and stack of other related titles.  Libraries comfort us, they heal us. Psyches iatreion is roughly translated as “Healing Place for the Soul”; this phrase was found inscribed on an ancient Greek library. I  read aloud to three distraught little boys, we made our ‘Good Thing’ lists and decorated them. We grieved through doing, through making something.

Working in a school setting we are fortunate to have social workers, psychologists and counselors. However, librarians should never overlook their usefulness in this area.

In typical librarian fashion I love to curate. I also love to make and create. And unfortunately I’m not immune to grief.  I’ve gathered sources and ideas so that I could direct students and others to help themselves. Please feel free to use this list: and look for my upcoming article in Teacher-Librarian regarding this topic (Seymour, G. (2016, May/June). The Compassionate Makerspace: Grief and Healing in a High School Library Makerspace. Teacher Librarian.)

¿Dónde está la biblioteca? Where is the Library?

My school library has been under construction for several weeks now. Old windows, replaced by new ones – the 900s on book-carts, manga and anime stored on bookshelf counters and a makerspace packed up. This past week I, too, needed to relocate. First to our community board room and then to a computer lab ‘206’ where I kept up with email, MARC records, and other assorted duties. After two days in exile I had an interesting conversation with a teacher. She said, “…when I was talking to you in the library earlier.” Hmm…I haven’t been in the library, what are you talking about? “Oh, come on Gina you know the library is wherever you are!”Wow, did she just say that?  Other staff members in the room smiled and nodded in a agreement. This got me thinking…where is the library?

While displaced, I collaborated with several teachers on upcoming projects, scheduled time in our computer lab, cataloged books, and updated our social media pages. I even processed and circulated books; titles for our upcoming staff book club meeting. I dropped off the books to participants or they found me. Having given out my mobile phone number to staff in an email, I was accessible by email, phone or text and of course, in person. The texting worked out really well. All in all, I was able to function as a librarian and accomplish numerous professional duties. So, where is the library? Is the library a person or is it the ‘stuff’? Don’t get me wrong, I like, no I need, the stuff – books, magazines, newspapers, supplies and our awesome den of creativity, our makerspace. Students have my email address and use it as needed. Our eBooks, digital audiobooks and databases are always accessible, so no worries there.

I was fortunate that this relocation occurred during testing week and the only students in the building were the ones who had a test to take. If this situation had happened at a different time (I shudder at the thought) things would have been different. I think staff needs and student needs differ. Yes, some staff members sought out the relocated ‘library’ to use our laptops, read our newspapers and just gather and collaborate. It felt the same, but also felt different. We all like our ‘space’. We have our favorite spot – the table by the window, favorite computer workstation or just reading the NY Times in the over-sized armchairs. And what about our students? Our students also need the space the library provides – a safe place, a helpful and nurturing place, a place for tinkering and self-discovery, as well as, study. Could I have provided that ‘on the fly’? Probably. Maybe?

So…Where is YOUR Library?