Students able to access libraries

Heather Latter

Students across the district now have full access to four public libraries and a large collection of e-books thanks to a district-wide partnership.
The Rainy River District School Board, Northwest Catholic District School Board, Seven Generations Education Institute, and the Rainy River District Library Co-operative (which includes the public libraries in Fort Frances, Emo, Rainy River, and Atikokan) came together and launched a pilot project Monday called the “Student Library and Ebook Initiative.”
“[It] came about through the collaboration of our district libraries and our district schools,” said Andrew Hallikas, chair of the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre board.
“Schools and libraries are natural allies and partners and when they collaborate, very good things happen,” he remarked.
“So we’re all enthused about this program and its potential for the students of the Rainy River District.”
The idea for the partnership began back in February with Stephen Danielson, Information Technology Services manager for the Rainy River District School Board.
He noted that as part of the library reinvestment by trustees, the system staff looked at adding e-books to the schools’ library systems.
“After running some numbers and looking at what a collection would look like with the funds we had, it just wasn’t looking good,” Danielson admitted.
“I guess it just sort of popped into my head, ‘Why can’t we access something that is already there and build upon it?’”
That’s when he began speaking with Alicia Subniak Kilgour, CEO of the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, and the idea began to grow to include the many partners.
“Everyone was right on board from the very beginning,” Danielson said. “The idea is 10 percent and 90 percent is execution.
“Without everybody involved, this never would have happened,” he stressed.
Hallikas said the “Student Library and Ebook Initiative” is a program that aims to open access to libraries and e-books to all students right across the district.
“No matter where they live, every student in the Rainy River District, regardless of home address, will have access to libraries and e-books—many e-books,” he enthused.
About 60,000 e-books presently are available, with more to come on a variety of topics.
“This innovative and unique program has two components—equitable access to district libraries and equitable access to e-books,” Hallikas explained.
“Through the co-operation of district libraries, any student will be able to use the facilities and services of any library in the district.”
Hallikas said the program opens up access to library resources and services to any student in the district—as long as that student has a valid library card at one of the four public libraries.
“And this program is aimed at all students enrolled in our schools from Early Years to Grade 12,” he stressed.
“Any child in any school can get a library card and we encourage all students to get a library card.”
Danielson said it’s simple for a child to get a library card.
“Children can get a form from any school or library,” he noted. “Fill it out. It’s a pretty straight application form.
“If you are out of area and are not able to come to the school or library, they can send it back with their child to the school,” Danielson added.
“The school sends it in centrally, where they take the information and send it along to the library for a card to be generated.
“The library card goes back to the school and hands it to the student,” he explained. “So it’s really good for those who can’t make it in to a library.
“We really are trying to give access to everybody.”
“And what’s nice about it, too, is that with their library card, they will be able to access all of our online services 24/7,” echoed Subniak Kilgour.
“So they can download e-books, audio books, they can use our electronic databases, as well, in addition to coming through the door and taking advantage of our physical collection,” she noted.
She added they will be moving towards all kids having their own library cards.
“They can have them from babies,” Subnaik Kilgour said. “That’s what you really want to encourage.
“It’s fostering that love of literacy right from birth. . . .
“We’re hoping parents will bring their kids in and enjoy the library with them,” she added.
“But for those kids and parents who are unable to come, this is why this partnership with the schools is so wonderful because we will still be able to get the card to the kids.
“They can still use our services online.”
While the aim is for each student to get a library card, Hallikas said any member of the general public also can access these resources as long as that person has a valid library card from one of the libraries in the district.
“Imagine having access to 60,000 e-books at the push of a button, as well as all the other paper books, information, and services provided by the various libraries in our district?” he mused.
He noted the e-books selected to be included in this program will cover a variety of topics, and will be selected by a volunteer committee of librarians.
Danielson said e-books are accessible from any of the library websites and will be on all the school webpages, as well.
“Put your library card number in and from there you can check out e-books,” he explained.
“You don’t ever have to come into the library.
“But of course, we want people to come into the library,” Danielson added.
“It definitely gives a sense of community, but just the fact they now have library cards, they may take more advantage of things that are happening at the library as well now.”
Hallikas stressed the “Student Library and Ebook Initiative” would not have been possible without the partnership of all the organizations.
“[We are] so grateful for the expertise, time, co-operation, and dedication of all who helped bring this project to fruition,” he remarked.
“This program is happening because many people from many areas of responsibility, and with different affiliations, were able to come together to work on a common goal,” Hallikas added.
“These people took risks, made sacrifices on behalf of their organization, and looked to the future good of our students and patrons.
“This program is truly cutting edge,” he enthused. “It is both a revolutionary and evolutionary program that shows what can be possible when talented people work together co-operatively for our students.
“We’re immensely proud of all of the work of these individuals.”
Hallikas suggested word of the innovative program already is leaking out.
“We are getting inquiries from other areas about it,” he noted. “[And] I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction.
“I predict that this program is going to be copied and re-copied, and serve as a template for similar programs in many other geographic locations.”
The launch of the program kicked off the first day of Ontario Library Week.