Ten years ago if a teacher gave high school students an assignment to read a particular classic they had two basic options.
They could scramble to find a copy at the campus library or public library — and go on a waiting list if one wasn’t available.
Or they could buy a copy or seek out someone who may own a copy they could borrow.
Manteca Unified adding digital offerings to the repertoire of tools available to educate its 25,000 students has changed that.
Today the online library Overdrive complements the brick and mortar campus options.
It has made it easier to provide multiple copies, to keep track of copies, and to reduce losses that plague hard copies such as being lost, water damage, torn papers, markings, and even bindings falling apart.
The e-books using district issued devices employing OneNote software allows students to take notes as they read. And if there is a dire need for more editions, the district librarian can stock the digital shelves with them within days of the request being made instead of taking weeks and even months.
Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer points out the district still has to pay for each copy. The big advantages run the gamut from easier student access and use to not having to replace copies for wear and tear.
Instead of getting a library pass — or dropping by before or after school —students can access the online collection from their device.
That’s not to say they don’t access the hard copy collections. They do.
While library use is up thanks to the online version, the district has been working to get students to make better use of the education resources at their campus library.
To that end the District Library Committee has provided maker activities at Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch high schools.
Maker activities refers to students on their own — and in collaboration — coming up with solutions for problems. It essentially employs technology as an extension of do-it-yourself (DIY) initiatives Maker spaces in many libraries generally include electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of computer numerical control (CNC) tools as well as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts.
The maker movement sharpens creative thinking and problem solving skills, emphasizes the effectiveness of collaboration, and allows students to learn from their mistakes among other thing.
And while maker spaces haven’t made it down to the seventh and eighth grade levels, the online library has.
Senior Director of Elementary Education Cheryl Meeker has noted there has been a significant increase in use of the online library’s resources among seventh and eighth graders.
The addition of digital doesn’t mean the district plans on ditching libraries.
Educators see brick and mortar libraries as vital as ever and want to transform them into multi-dimension resource centers to continue in their traditional role of augmenting and building upon what is taught in the classrooms.
That said, Messer has noted the district’s online collection is much nimbler than the traditional collection. Student interest in book titles have shot up prompting more active engagements for titles they would like to see the district librarian consider obtaining for the Overdrive “shelves”. It is much more effective than the traditional acquisition process that could end up with books that get little circulation or may go years between being checked out.
An online library also makes reference material such as encyclopedias more readily available and allows them to be updated much more frequently.
The district is considering funding to bring back librarians at the five Manteca Unified comprehensive high schools for the next school year.
All 20 elementary campuses have a four-hour library technician on site.