Checking out books in cyberspace: School libraries go digital

School libraries are going digital.

School libraries are going digital.

When I think of a library, I think of that musty smell, friendly librarians and the heavy stack of books that I shove into my bag before staggering home. But, like everything else, libraries are being reinvented. A stack of books? How twentieth-century! Instead, why not pick up that half-pound eReader that can hold way more books than you could ever carry.

School libraries in particular are very excited about creating a digital reading world that kids can access anytime, anywhere (as long as they have an internet connection and the right device). But while the potential is obvious to just about everyone, libraries jumped on the tech bandwagon and found that it was a bit more complicated than they expected. Still, they’re finding ways to make it work.

Device lending
One school district in Texas bought a few eReaders, loaded them with books and started sharing them with students. The problem was that eReaders weren’t meant to be used like books. They had to be authorized to a specific individual and could get accidentally linked to students’ home computers. The school couldn’t figure out how to manage the devices so they could be used by more than one student, and the program flopped.

But more recently, a school in Massachusetts found a way to use Kindles and iPads effectively. They tether the devices to a master school account. Students can download and access their specific content, and when it goes back to the library, it gets wiped clean so the device can be used by the next student.

One of the huge benefits is that the school has instant access to digital content through Amazon and other sites, so they can get it to kids fast.

“We encourage [students] not to worry about what we already own, but to browse the bigger universe of titles that may interest them,” said Thomas Corbett, executive director of Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, MA. “We can immediately satisfy demand, and get students connected into reading more quickly, because they never have to wait for a title to become available.”

OverDrive
​Another alternative is for school libraries to focus on sharing content rather than devices. OverDrive is a digital library platform that allows you to access eBooks on computers, smartphones, eReaders and other devices.

The company’s School Download Library allows students to check out books and content from their devices and access it virtually or offline. Librarians can focus on selecting great reading and educational materials for kids instead of reshelving books.

Although they’re still figuring it out, school libraries are making big steps forward. And digital books have made it easier for them to get kids reading.

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Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.