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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Dedicated Librarian Uses Drones to Deliver Books Amidst COVID-19

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The coronavirus pandemic has ground the lives of Americans to a halt. Stay-at-home orders meant that kids were unable to go outside, and left with little to no activities to keep them occupied. The closure of schools and local libraries also threatened to pause their academic and intellectual development.

In response to this problem, a middle school librarian in Virginia named Kelly Pasek found a creative solution to reach kids in Montgomery County and make sure that they still had books in hand to keep themselves busy.

When remote learning had to be implemented due to coronavirus prevention measures, Passek found it hard to create and maintain connections with students. “How was I going to keep that connection with my students without actually being in the same physical space with them?”, she said.

Passek, who works for Blacksburg Middle School, has been using Wing, a drone delivery service under Google’s Alphabet holding company, to get fresh pastries and home essentials delivered to her home. The company began delivering household goods and food from Walgreens and local establishments in October after receiving Federal approval, according to a report by The Washington Post.

When the pandemic struck, she realized she could use the service to do more: the drones can be used to deliver books to children who are unable to get them on their own.

She approached the school’s superintendent, Mark Miear, who immediately expressed his support for the project. Montgomery County Public Schools will be the first public school system in the world to use this on-demand system to deliver books to students.

“We pride ourselves on finding innovative ways to serve our students. We are excited to continue our streak of innovation through this pilot program that brings library books to our students via drone delivery,” Miear said in a statement.

“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,” shared Passek.

The scheme aims to encourage students to keep on reading during their extended time away from school. Students can borrow books by selecting from the library’s collection of over 150,000 titles, and then filling out a form online to make a request. Once the requests are received, Passek packs the books in special delivery boxes, and brings them to Wing for delivery. Wing’s drones weigh 10 pounds and can carry up to three pounds. The packages are lowered to the recipient’s yard via a rope.

The service was launched on a limited trial basis. The first book was delivered on June 11th. Days after the launch, more than 35 books were delivered to students, according to CNN.

“As a school librarian, it is extremely important to me to have connections with my students,” said Passek. “So that I can make sure that they have got access to the resources that they need and the resources that will allow them to be successful — not just academically, but also in life.”

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