Library program expands schools digital collection

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Whitefish schools, along with 54 other schools statewide, are part of a new digital library collection that shares ebooks and audiobooks in an attempt to tackle a school library digital divide.

Using the global digital reading platform OverDrive, Whitefish middle school and high school students can browse the collection and enjoy a wide variety of nonfiction and fiction titles on their computer, smartphone or tablet.

“OverDrive and Montana Schools wanted to pilot a way for rural students to have access to quality ebooks,” Herb Miller, Director of Education, OverDrive Education, said. “Sharing resources among different schools or districts means that these schools can offer greater access to digital content. It’s a cost-effective way to grow a K-12 digital content collection, at about $1 or less per student.”

The collections are divided into grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, with younger students limited to the materials in their age range.

While most schools in the state are just now adopting OverDrive, Whitefish school libraries have been using the program for the last four years. Though reading on a smartphone or tablet was not hugely popular when the schools began using Overdrive, middle school librarian Dana Carmichael said embracing digital formats was preparing for the future.

“Four years ago, not as many students had devices in their pockets, but we knew that the wave was coming, so we wanted to make sure we had a nice robust library,” she said.

Joining the consortium also meant lower costs for the middle and high school. Prior to the new shared collection, the schools were paying $4,500 a year to use OverDrive. Now, with a new pricing structure based on enrollment numbers, WHS pays $250 per year and WMS pays $500.

“So by forming a large group of 56 school libraries, we’re all going to be buying books for the same library and it brought the price way down,” Carmichael said.

“I think it really benefits school libraries in the state because I think their budgets are hurting and it’s a really good way to share, so a lot of credit to Dana to get this thing rolling,” WHS librarian Dan Kohnstamm said. For more information on OverDrive and Montana schools contact Herb Miller, Director of OverDrive Education Sales at hmiller@overdrive.com.

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