November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

OH School Librarian Gets E-Kiosk to Access Public Library’s Digital Collection

Anna Pohlman

OLMS seventh grader Anna Pohlman visits the digital kiosk.

If Ohio middle school librarian Mary Burkey gives a booktalk, and she only has three copies of the title that her students snatch up, then her students at the Olentangy Liberty Middle School (OLMS) in Ohio’s Olentangy Local Schools district can stroll over to the OverDrive media station in the library and borrow the book—as well as anything from the digital collection of the Delaware County District Library (DCDL).

The large, touchscreen digital kiosk that bridges OLMS students and the public library, which has been sitting in the OLMS media center since this past November, is possible due to a “terrific friendship” Burkey has with the deputy director of the local public library, Don Yarman, that dates back to 1990.

OLMS seventh grader Anna Pohlman, who has visited the kiosk four times since it was installed in the fall, says, “Now that I have the opportunity to listen to audiobooks, it has encouraged me to [borrow] books more, because I can just have someone else read to me if I don’t feel like [it].”

“For less than $2,000, we’ve installed a mini-branch of the public library in the building,” exclaims Burkey.

Mary Burkey

Mary Burkey

The road to the digital kiosk was a winding path that began in 2009, when Yarman and Burkey collaborated to make applications for public library cards available at the school media center. After the students brought the applications back to the school library, signed by parents, Burkey dropped them off at the public library.

In the 2011, she used a digital collections grant from the school district to purchase Nooks already loaded with digital books, and she followed up with a digital books awareness campaign.

“We did hands-on digital training with the Nooks through the language arts teachers, and the public library did their own version of that, but with parents,” tells Burkey.

Both campaigns resulted in a high circulation of Nooks for a couple of years. Then, in 2013, the district went to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and Burkey began to see kids reading on their own devices.

“Our students busily employed their public library cards to download ebooks,” Burkey shares.

Seeing her students downloading ebooks spurred her investigation of “digital download vendors targeting the school library market.”

“But, I couldn’t find a solution that fit my budget or network infrastructure,” she says, and the school library’s ebooks collection was limited.

In the summer of 2013, Burkey went to OverDrive’s Digipalooza, an international user group conference for library and school partners, where she saw the digital kiosk for the first time. Soon after, she approached Yarman about the idea of opening the library’s digital collections to her middle school.

“I was excited about Mary’s idea,” says Yarman, “because it gave me a solution to concerns I had about promoting our ebook collection. The interactive kiosk is much more effective than printed fliers…. And I’m particularly pleased that we’re focusing on the young teen audience in the middle school, planting the knowledge that the public library has the materials they want, and that they can access it conveniently.”

In the spring of 2014, Burkey applied for a grant for the kiosk hardware at the Olentangy Educational Foundation, a nonprofit that supports and enhances academic programs in the school district. In her application, she stressed the collaborative partnership with the public library, the efficient use of community’s tax dollars, and the vast increase in access to digital materials, she explains.

From that point, there weren’t too many obstacles, except small ones, including having to install the OverDrive app onto phones and tablets. There was also a small licensing fee ($200) installing the media station—which the public library picked up, tells Burkey. Also, when the kiosk was installed, Burkey made sure to inform parents that it gave access to the full collection of the public library.

Sixth grade social studies teacher Matthew Longley,

OLMS sixth grade social studies teacher Matthew Longley uses the e-kiosk to research materials for the classroom.

The kiosk is primarily an awareness tool, says Burkey, who emphasizes its convenience. While students can download the public library’s ebooks to their devices without using kiosk, according to Pohlman, the process takes longer, and it’s more fun to use the kiosk. There, students can browse, find a book, and browse the first chapters. Upon selecting material, students are sent a link via email or phone, where they can download the material with a click.

Teachers have gotten in on the kiosk action, too. Some language arts teachers are using classics for teaching the Common Core State Standards, and the books are challenging, says Burkey.

“[You] can get the dictionary to pop up on the digital version, or get the audiobook,” she adds.

“I have used it quite a bit personally as well as [to research] materials for the classroom,” says Matthew Longley, a sixth grade social studies teacher at OLMS. “Being a former language arts and special education teacher, I can see how much more conducive this can be to find the best books or other media to fit each student.”

What’s clear is that the partnership with the public library broadens students’ access to material the school library doesn’t carry, including collections for kids with special needs (“Every ebook becomes a large print book,” says Burkey), those who have deep interest in nonfiction titles, and students reading above grade level.

Carolyn Sun About Carolyn Sun

Carolyn Sun was a news editor at School Library Journal. Find her on Twitter @CarolynSSun.

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