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'Checking Out' Library Books from Home


Researching library-based materials used to mean sequestering oneself in a library carrel with a mountain of books and a notebook and pen. Now, using eBook libraries such as the one in the Aldine (Texas) Independent School District, teachers and students can "check out" online copies of library books from their home or school computers. Included: A description of how eBook libraries work.

Imagine arriving home from a long day of teaching only to realize that the books you need for planning tomorrow's lesson are still sitting on your desk at school. Imagine your child's telling you that the book he or she needs to complete a report -- due tomorrow -- is lying in the school bus garage.

Now imagine logging on to your home computer and electronically "checking out" those forgotten books from the school library.

Wishful thinking? Not for students and staff in the Aldine (Texas) Independent School District. Last year, the school system installed an electronic (e) book library, which allows users to access books from computers, either on or off campus.


The eBook library was set up last year by the school system's library media services department, working with NetLibrary and Follett Library Resources. "It was something I thought worth investigating," says Christine Van Hamersveld, the school system's program director for library media services. "I thought it could fill a specific need."

The school system did not have to buy any additional hardware and does not have to pay annual fees to provide the service. All 60 schools in the district -- even those without physical libraries -- can access the eBook collection, as can people in the community, says Van Hamersveld. All users need is a computer to access the system. Once a user has set up an account, he or she can search for an eBook by title, author, or subject.

Only one person at a time can "check out" a book, and the time limit for each check-out is 24 hours. Users can print certain portions of an eBook, but the software prevents anyone from printing an entire book. "Most people are not going to read a book on a computer," Van Hamersveld says. "This is a way for students to get information when they don't need the whole book."

The Aldine school district collection currently includes 375 titles. More can be added, and outdated books can be removed from the collection. Van Hamersveld and other district administrators want to make sure people are using the collection and determine which additional titles would be most useful before expanding the collection.

In addition to books for students, the collection includes professional books teachers can use for planning lessons. "We tried to tie-in with the curriculum as much as possible," Van Hamersveld explains. eBooks for elementary students comprise the smallest part of the collection because not as many are available.


So far, English teachers, librarians, and secondary students represent the most-frequent users, according to Van Hamersveld. Students use the system most often when they are off campus.

"It comes in handy when kids are working from home," says Linda McKinley, librarian for the Aldine Ninth Grade Center.

"I know students are using it from home more than from school," Sharon Leafe, librarian for Eisenhower High School tells Education World. "I think it's a great tool. This makes books that might not otherwise be available accessible to students."

eBooks provide students with vetted research that they can cite in reports, as compared to information they find on the Internet that might not be attributable to a verifiable source. "This helps them research and authenticate information," Leafe adds. "I like the authoritative aspect of that. The fact that the eBook collection is available to the community also is a plus."

"It's just one more way for us to provide information," Van Hamersveld says. "It makes research easier and information more accessible."



Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
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