Before you dismiss this post because you think I’ve lost my mind, please humor me. I am not saying that all physical libraries should be gutted and replaced. What I am saying is that we need to offer all of our students access to wonderful books and in order to do that we need to think about access to not just physically bound books, but to digital versions as well. Our students live in a world where portable devices are the norm. Having the ability to download books on these devices can only help more students read more books. There is also the ability to have dictionary/thesaurus references as they read which is great. (I personally LOVE this feature) And don’t forget the ability to enlarge print for those who need it.
There have been many research articles that have showed that the more students read the better they will become. We also know that often times having books in digital formats motivate students to read more. Therefore having a digital library enhances your ability to reach more students where they live, in their world.
We worked with Overdrive this past year to create our digital library portal and have just launched it this past month. Since we just started our ebook collection is not yet fully developed but we started off with a mixture of curricula related books, as well as popular books that our students are reading. The money we used to get the portal setup, as well as to purchase the ebooks, came from categorical aid so it wasn’t an additional expense for our district. Overdrive was great to work with and their staff took us through the process of setting up the website, training staff, and purchasing ebooks. This year we have decided only to have ebooks at our digital library but Overdrive also has audio books you can add. Checking out books is extremely easy, all I needed to do with my Xoom was download the overdrive app, go to the portal and download the book. We also started off with a only a secondary digital library, allowing access to our middle and high school students. Our hopes are to evaluate the process and expand as we see our needs expanding.
If you are thinking about offering a digital library for your students here are some things to think about:
- Availability of devices in your district. What percentage of your students have their own devices? Does your school have access to devices for students? (We are currently working with some Nooks in our district, as well as iPads) Within this remember that students can also download the books onto their computers at home.
- Use of digital formats. Do your students enjoy reading books in the digital format? Would they utilize a digital library?
- Other local digital libraries. Are there any other libraries in your area where students can download digital formats? (Last year our Four CountyLibrary System started having a ‘download zone’ which has been well received. Our only problem was that not all of our students have access to this library system since they live in a neighboring county.)
- Other schools/organizations to create digital library together. The great thing about digital libraries is that since it isn’t in a physical location it could be accessible to a wider area. Are there any other schools who would be interested in developing a digital library with you?
- Logistical questions:
- How will you set your library up? Will you go with a company or develop your own website/portal? (from a management standpoint it makes sense to go with a company to help develop and manage your site)
- Who will be responsible for managing your site? (For us this is a person adding student library card numbers into the system, as well as answering questions that come up from students or staff about the library.)
- How will students sign-out ebooks? (ID# to use, password use, length of loan time, number of books, etc)
- Will you allow access to downloading at your school buildings? If so, will you have open access to your wireless network? Or will you allow students to connect their device to your computers and access through them? (We are starting with only having students download titles at home, but will be opening our wireless access, as well as developing a ‘download station’ in each of our buildings for students to use as needed.)
- Who will determine what titles to purchase? Will they be mostly curricula related, popular free read books or both?
- How will you promote your library?
- How will you evaluate your library to determine success and cost effectiveness?