What do I have to say about ebooks in my school library?


A colleague of mine wants to sit down with me to talk about ebooks in my library because her school is planning to roll out something similar.  It got me thinking.  What do I have to say about it?

At the beginning of this year, I added 12 Barnes and Noble Nooks to my school library.  As of this writing, two of them are broken.  I have emailed Barnes and Noble twice, and haven’t received a reply.  I purchased all of the Harry Potter books for two of them, and they still aren’t on the devices. Something on Barnes and Noble’s side was wrong, and they said that they are working on it.  That was months ago.

I also asked if I can switch from being Barnes and Noble managed to just locally managed, so that I can switch out devices easier if they break, and I haven’t received a reply to that, either.

Last year, I bought 12 Kindle Fires.  They were beautiful, but I had to return them.  The logistics wouldn’t work.  The Kindle Fires don’t work with Proxy Servers, and that is necessary with my school district’s web filters.  It is also next to impossible to purchase things on Amazon with a PO, and my district hasn’t moved to the credit card system yet, so we cannot purchase things from Amazon.

As an Educational Technology person, I like dedicated e-readers for reading.  I think that there are cognitive load issues associated with having all of these different choices when you have a device in your hands.  How can kids concentrate on what they are reading when the email ping goes off or a text message comes in or an alert pops up that a friend just messaged them or… you get it, right?    E-readers definitely have a place for those who want an uncluttered reading space.

The only economical library-friendly ebook retailer (that I have seen) is FollettShelf.  The problem with them is that they are not compatible with dedicated e-readers.  Their books are browser-based.  I can’t use Kindle Fires and I can’t afford iPads, and I think that dedicated e-readers are better for reading.

Do you see a problem emerging?

Now, the Nooks that aren’t broken get checked out all of the time.  I have them grouped into genres: Realistic Fiction for Guys, Realistic Fiction for Girls, Fantasy, Sci Fi/Dystopian, Mystery/Horror, and Paranormal Romance.  There are 20ish titles on each device.  That is an awful waste of great books.  There is no way that kids can read more than one or two books in the time I give them to keep the device.  So, all of those great books are checked out and no one else has access to them.

There is pretty much one game in town for library management of ebooks and audiobooks- Overdrive.  Their pricing structure is way out of my league as a school librarian with 1000 patrons.

Where does that leave me?  I thought about a DRM-stripping program… DRM is ethically wrong and goes against fair use law anyhow…  I thought- what if I stripped the DRM from the books, and then downloaded them to the kids’ devices and then at the end of the checkout period, I could take them off of the devices… wow.  I think that for all of that manual maneuvering of data, I would need at least three more parapros in my LMC.  And it is in legal gray-area, which my district wouldn’t be happy with (to put it simply).

I have a real dilemma on my hands.  Bigger than ebooks, I think.

I want to stay current.  I want my library to stay relevant.  I want kids to have access to all of these awesome books and to be able to read them their way.  Hell, I don’t ever read paper books anymore.  I am strictly an ebook reader.  How can I, as a middle school librarian, expect that these kids aren’t going to want to read this way when I see the benefit of it?  It speaks to the entire field of educational technology, I think.  How do we get all of these awesome advances into the hands of kids?  I can give you a thousand examples of things that would benefit my kids more than you know, but I can’t utilize them because I have no way of delivering them.

I emailed the public library to see if they would like to do a membership drive at my library so that kids can get library cards and check ebooks out from them.  I haven’t heard back.  Does no one read my emails?  Even then, about 20% of my students live in an unincorporated area where they do not belong to the library.  So they wouldn’t be eligible to get cards.

The only upside that I can offer my colleague is that the Nooks do get checked out- they are never not checked out.  But that means that 10 of my patrons are benefiting from the thousands of dollars I have spent at a time.  Ten!

I am at a loss.





10 thoughts on “What do I have to say about ebooks in my school library?

  1. Cassie

    I think this is a great argument. I have not switched to e-reading because I just can’t give up my paperbacks. My school library doesn’t have e-readers as of yet, but I can see that they’re coming as my students technology standards are getting higher and higher.


  2. Inion N. Mathair

    Hi, we are new to your blog finding you, by way of mutual blogging friend Casey Voight. This post was very smart and you brought up some excellent points that I think all writers/readers should be asking. I find myself lax in info. regarding e-books as I have yet to cross over. My daughter (Inion) on the other hand, goes no where without her’s! I wasn’t even aware that libraries were going to offer them as a source, but I can see now that it would only make sense. Plan on sharing this with our networking buddies on facebook and twitter as I think you have brought up questions we all should be asking ourselves while trying to find the solution! Look forward to your future posts.


  3. Amy Chisek

    My sister lives outside of the city where her daughter goes to school. The public library in that city allows students of the school to have library cards for their library. I may be worth while to ask the library if they would be willing to give free library cards to all of the students who attend the school. I have also found that persistance works. Keep contacting the librarians at the public library, and they will eventually help you… it is their job.


    1. Kristina Post author

      Thanks for commenting! Actually, I used to live in the same unincorporated area, and we had to pay based on our tax assessment to get a card. It is only fair, but hard for parents to swallow an extra $200 bill. For the rest if us, that $200 is hidden in our property taxes.


  4. Emily

    My daughter’s school board has Overdrive for the whole board. She reads on her iPod. It is great. They have a Boyd policy, which I don’t like as it makes the playing field slant to kids whose families can provide current tech. However, they have great access to digital resources. Can you pool resources in your district t o access Overdrive with several schools? We are in Ontario, Canada. I use Overdrive through our public library more than I do the physical library anymore. Mostly because it is so convenient. Plus I can stay in my jammies.



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