(Written by Katie Saunders, I went to ALA in search of new information about utilizing ebooks and ereaders at the K-12 level and found a few new choice pieces of information. First I attended a session called “Critical Issues for District Supervisors” and one of the three presenters was Bonnie Kelley from the Pinellas County Schools who spoke about the implementation of Kindles in their district (Check out the article here). While this was NOT a system where their libraries check out individual Kindles with ebooks to library patrons there was valuable information shared none-the-less.
After selecting the Kindle over other Ereaders due to all its reader features like changing font size, a dictionary, text to speech and the availability of the Kindle Reader for most platforms they started with classroom sets at their elementary schools. Then they also did pilots of sets of 12 for the Language Art classrooms at the middle school level. Their biggest endeavor however, was aone-to-one implementation at the high school level.
PCS bought 2,300+ Kindles, either 2s or 3s. Due to the quantity they received a discount, paying only $68 apiece. Amazon also worked with them to load content, which included some of their textbooks. Amazon scanned these for them! I am awaiting an answer to an email I sent Bonnie asking how they got permission from the publisher to do this. According to Bonnie the devices presented to the students had the school’s Code of Conduct, multiple textbooks, CK12 supplemental texts, two local newspapers and numerous classics . The students also have access on the Kindle to a portal for their grades and attendance as well as some graphic organizer tools. Bonnie reported that the students were thrilled. They had to sign user agreements and pay $25 towards an insurance policy which would only cost an additional $25 if the device were lost or damaged. They found an inexpensive cover for $3 each.
At the lower grade levels they are loading Battle of the Book titles and other titles, which will replace their trade book sets. The teachers checking the sets out for the first time have to take a 2 hour training. The devices are circulated through the libraries using their Textbook Manager system. They’ve only had one stolen so far. Amazon turned it into a “brick” and it promptly came back. Bonnie indicated that the Amazon K-12 division was very good to work with in facilitating this roll out.
So, while this was not the library solution I was hoping for this is good information to know about one use of Kindles in a K-12 situation. If your school is leaning this direction as a librarian I would be proactive and share this information and be part of the planning process rather than just being stuck with the maintenance of the devices.
OTHER Ebook information I picked up at ALA was that 3M is indeed moving forward with their 3M Cloud program for loaning ebooks in a library setting but it is designed only for public libraries at the present. One of their reps said they would be moving into developing a version for the academic level next and after that perhaps K-12. Their reader is one item I’m very interested in because it is designed only for checked out books. When a patron checks out books to their library account and then requests a reader at the desk, those books are loaded on the reader. When the reader comes back it is wiped clean and is ready for the next patron. It serves the function of providing a reader for those who don’t own their own device.
I also stopped by the Freading booth to see if that would work for K-12 and while it could probably be made to work for high schools there is no way to separate out YA materials from other ‘juvenile literature’ to make it usable at an elementary level. Freading is a program where the library pays a usage fee for each book checked out by their patrons, 4 tokens for a new release, 2 for older books, 2 for the renewal of a new release and 1 for the renewal of an older book with a token costing approximately $.50. Patrons have access to thousands of books but the library only pays for what gets checked out. Intriguing and I hope some of our public libraries in Alaska will give it a try.
Now…here’s one to look into. BRAIN HIVE is a program similar to Freading but designed for K-12! Yeah!! There is NO cost to sign up. Books cost $1 per ‘rental’ (don’t you love it…we’ve had patrons for years come in wanting to ‘rent’ a book and we patiently tell them… “no, you’re not renting, you’re borrowing the book from the library” and now they just might be renting!!) Again the students have access to thousands (about 3,000 now but growing) to choose from but the library only pays for what they actually use. These are also unlimited simultaneous access books, so NO waiting!! That will be music to young peoples’ ears.
AND….here is a new twist, you can set up an arrangement to buy titles that are getting a lot of use so you don’t have to keep paying rental fees on those the students really like and use. Many of the publishers will sell a copy for something like twice the hardback price. That’s pretty good for unlimited simultaneous access. Think ‘classroom set’ for the price of two books!! The drawback in my mind is that they will only set up accounts by school. No district discounts but for many of you that won’t be an issue. I’m just attempting to negotiate district pricing whenever possible. So…. go to www.brainhive.com and set yourself up an account…you get 10 free Brain Hive ‘bucks’ to get you started. Then share your experiences with the rest of us!!
And for more reading on e-books and libraries I recommend No Shelf Required: e-books in libraries and most recently No Shelf Required 2: use and management of electronic books, both edited by Sue Polanka. Sue has also facilitated some useful webinars so watch for those as well. While the books cover all kinds of libraries and the academic folks seem to have the most experience in e-books the second book does have a great section on K-12 libraries. Information is also available on her blog.