November 20, 2017

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Schools Maximize Ebook Access by Sharing Across Districts

K-12s are pooling resources to build larger digital collections.

CLEVELAND – An increasing number of districts and schools are embracing the concept of sharing to maximize their students’ and educators’ access to ebooks and audiobooks.

The reason is simple. By combining budgets, schools boost their purchasing power and provide greatly expanded reading and learning opportunities.

“Schools within a district and multiple schools and districts across a region, state, or province are sharing their budgets to offer students access to a much larger collection of ebooks and audiobooks than they could have built on their own,” said OverDrive Education Director Herb Miller, Ed. M.

OverDrive has emerged as the leader in this shift toward sharing. Its Shared Collection service enables two or more districts or schools to access digital content via a single easy-to-use website. All purchased titles are available to participating schools through this central access point.

Miller broke down the dynamic. If School A were to initiate a digital collection of their own, they may only be able to afford 50 titles. However, by joining a collection shared by 20 schools or districts, School A would have access to 1,000 titles. This Shared Collection grows as more schools or districts join.

“Participation in a Shared Collection costs just $1 or less per student and members have the option to add ebooks and audiobooks specifically for their school or district’s use,” Miller said. “Titles are filtered by grade level to ensure the right ebooks and audiobooks are reaching the right students, and content specialists help select the best titles based on group, school, or district needs.”

We spoke with three K-12 institutions to better understand why and how schools are utilizing Shared Collections.

The Hawaii Department of Education

The Hawaii DOE is a statewide district serving 256 public and 34 charter schools across eight islands. It had struggled to find a cost-effective ebook and audiobook solution that met the goal of sharing resources across the state.

“In most digital reading platforms we looked at, each school needed to purchase a copy of each title to share it across the state,” said Education Specialist Joanna Dunn.

The Hawaii DOE’s Shared Collection now serves elementary, middle, and high schools with more than 11,500 ebooks and audiobooks, including Read-Alongs, that can be accessed by students in all schools on all major devices. More than 134,000 titles were borrowed in just three years.

“We wanted to provide a user-friendly solution that best met the needs of our students and staff that also met the identified needs for ebook and audiobook resources. Pooling our resources together helped provide a larger collection of ebooks and audiobooks that can be shared and utilized,” Dunn said. “Implementing a Shared Collection with OverDrive reduced the cost for a robust ebook solution for our schools.”

Southwest Education Development Center (UT)

50,000 students in 100+ K-12 schools spread across six rural districts and very few certified librarians; part-timers with very little training and support managing most libraries; and almost nonexistent library budgets at many schools—these were just some of the challenges facing the Southwest Educational Development Center (SEDC) in providing recreational reading resources to students in its expansive service area in southwest Utah.

“Many of our schools are in very rural areas with no access to public libraries or a school library that could meet the needs of students,” Media Mentor Chris Haught said. “We needed to find something that would allow us to pool resources together on a regional level.”

In addition to the thousands of checkouts it registers every month, SEDC’s Shared Collection is notable for its leveraging of unique platform features:

Offline access – With many of the students SEDC serves living in extremely remote areas, internet access can be spotty. This isn’t a barrier to using the Shared Collection, as all titles can be downloaded for offline reading.

Student engagement with collection development – Using the “Recommend to Library” feature, students can request titles to be added to the Shared Collection.

Curating collections – SEDC utilizes the curated collections tool to highlight content areas such as Native Americans, World War II, and award winners.

Student-created content – SEDC has taken full advantage of the ability to upload student-created content to the Shared Collection, now featuring 100+ primarily research-focused titles penned locally.

“There’s no way that we would’ve been able to offer this type of content to any one of our districts on their own. There’s no district that would’ve been able to build a collection like this,” Haught said.

Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (PA)

Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13) is an educational services agency supporting 22 public school districts, as well as non-publics, preschools, adult learners, and more in southern Pennsylvania.

To help ensure its member districts benefit from the best possible pricing and convenience, IU13 coordinates a number of consortia opportunities, Instructional Media and Technology Consultant Ken Zimmerman set about applying this same concept to ebooks and audiobooks.

“Our number one goal was to be able to align with current district initiatives and needs,” he said, “and the Shared Collection fit the bill.”

Zimmerman said the success of IU13’s Shared Collection has been undeniable.

“The moment we implemented the Shared Collection, it was one of the most popular instructional media services we’ve had for a really long time,” he said. “It’s received a lot of positive attention, even at the superintendent level.”

In addition to recreational reading, IU13 member schools have begun integrating the service into the classroom in the form of digital class sets, ebook versions of the titles that serve as a cornerstone of the ELA curriculum. Titles can be instantly accessed on any device, with no software or downloads required. Zimmerman said students and teachers have enjoyed the flexibility digital class sets offer and have taken advantage of the dictionary and notetaking tools.

“They love how easy it is to use,” Zimmerman said. “…definitely those using them would like to continue and grow to other classes.”

OverDrive’s Herb Miller reported the popularity of Shared Collections is showing no signs of slowing down. The states of Montana and Wisconsin have launched statewide collections, and more are regularly popping up across the country in states including Ohio, Minnesota, and California.

“We continue to receive great feedback on their positive impact on reading rates and engagement, and are excited to be partnering on more and more Shared Collections to help grow schools’ access to ebooks and audiobooks,” he said.


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