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What eBooks Mean for School Libraries: Part 1


Is your school library ready to go digital? School librarian and blogger Cathy Jo Nelson discusses how her high school library— along with parents, students and teachers—have embraced eBooks. Come back soon to read more of Ms. Nelson’s insights and hear about the experiences of other school librarians.

iPad, boyOur library (Dorman High School, Spartanburg School District 6 in Roebuck, SC) endeavored to offer eBooks for recreational reading and curriculum tie-ins for this current school year. We wanted to offer popular fiction as well as support academic classes, so we decided to purchase two different types.

One type (from Gale resources) is searchable in the library catalog Destiny and can be pulled up at school or at home, and yes, even on a smartphone. These sources are predominantly accessed via computer. Several of the sources match a print copy on the shelf (e.g., the set of Poetry for Student indexes we have) but students seem to prefer the digital source. 

For our popular fiction, we bought into an Overdrive portal and purchased young adult titles that we felt our teens would enjoy for recreational reading.  Our school does not offer any specific eReader device, but instead rolled it out as a “bring your own device” program, hoping students would use what they had, be it a Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone, or any other Overdrive-compatible device.

Reaction has been mixed, though I am pleased with the response so far. Our school eventually may become a one-to-one school, and if each student has his/her own device, I expect participation to increase. Our teachers have been ecstatic to have access, and have helped promote the new resources.

After Christmas, we saw a distinct spike in interest and usage. The teachers like the audiobooks more than did the kids. I’ve had several parents thank us for making the required readings for our Advanced English classes available in Overdrive. One told me he was number 36 on a public-library waitlist for the same book for which the student was number two on our digital-book hold list.  The parent was very thankful he would not have to wait long. Daily we have students inquire about accessing the information/content.

There are benefits of being able to offer students eBooks. Just today after a student successfully synced a book to his Kindle Fire, he was asking how to return his book on time. It was his first “library” loan on his personal device.  When we explained that the digital book would just “become unavailable” after his loan period ended, and that the next time he synced it would disappear, he was astonished and delighted to know he didn’t have to “remember” to bring the book back. “Sweeeeeet!!” was his actual response.

Having multiple points of access means students can opt for a print book or a digital book. The library is only open during the school day, 7:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. But our digital resources are available 24-7 every day of the year. Students are building schema on consuming digital resources as they download and read books in a digital format. Another advantage is that students can have access to multiple books on a single device. I had one share with me about reading her book on her phone while standing in long lines during Christmas break. She was immensely pleased with the ability to read even on her phone.


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