SD2 rolls out new e-library program

2013-02-22T20:00:00Z 2013-02-23T10:57:05Z SD2 rolls out new e-library programBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Lyn McKinney has seen the future and it is stuffed with digital library books. 

This month saw the debut of School District 2's new e-library system, a collection of 300 digital books made available to students on smartphones, tablets and e-readers. 

The goal is to reach students on the technology they're using and to help foster a love of reading.

"This is such an instant-gratification age-group," said McKinney, Senior High School's head librarian. "They need to have things right at their fingertips." 

It's important to use the tools that students are comfortable while still teaching them the importance and the joy of reading. 

"We want them to be lifelong learners," she said. 

Officially known as the D2 eLibrary, its services will also come into play as the district begins to unroll Common Core curriculum, a component of which is increased research. 

Common Core is a set of nationwide curriculum standards, adopted by a consortium of 47 states, including Montana. In most grades, the English and math curriculum will become more difficult and most subjects will require research projects of the students. 

As more library services become digital, students will have an easier time gaining access to library research materials and learning to do academic research. An e-library never closes and can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Right now all the books available are fiction, which was intentional, McKinney said. Students will be more apt to seek out and use the digital library if they can check out books they want to read. 

There's also a contest for students who log into the library, where they can sign up to win one of three e-reader tablets.

The district contracted with Overdrive to run the system, the same company used by the Parmly Billings Public Library. As a result, students have access to all of the city library's digital holdings as well as the district's.

The district's e-library is available to all students. All they're required to have is an SD2-issued library card and to have paid off any late fines.

Elementary school students logging in are restricted to viewing only age-appropriate books, like the "Magic Tree House" series. Middle school and high school students have the run of the collection.

"We're very excited about it," said Karen Palmer, SD2's director of technology. "This was something we've really wanted to do."

Its implementation has been paid for through the district's library and IT budget as it's a districtwide program. The technology levy -- passed by voters two years ago -- is strictly for the high schools.

Still, librarians from all grade levels in the district came together to push for the digital library, seeing its importance in reaching students who maybe wouldn't be inclined to use the traditional library. 

"The librarians here have always been leaders in implementing new technology," Palmer said. 

School librarians are also practiced at saving money. Individual schools had initially toyed with the idea of putting their libraries online. But the librarians quickly realized it would be cheaper to band together and do it as a district.

"Librarians are really good about working together to save resources," McKinney said. 

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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