Good-bye library cards. Hello accessability!

Excited to toss out library cards.

My school district has already fired up the back-to-school machine, and I’ve been thinking about vertical planning, equitable access, and tossing out library cards.

I’m a middle school librarian in a community that shares its name with a primary, intermediate, middle and high school all located within walking distance of each other. In fact, we are a little on top of one another, with each of our schools having between 1,200-1,400 students. Morning traffic is a real issue, and parking can feel a little like the Hunger Games. We’re fortunate because, our proximity to one another makes it reasonably easy to visit each other’s libraries and explore vertical planning. Honestly, I’m a little surprised it took us this long to think about vertical planning and collaboration between our schools.

During our most recent back to school in-service, my co-librarian and I spoke with the intermediate school’s librarian and found out students log onto computers with a username and password. This was unexpected since students come to middle school and seem genuinely confused when we ask them to log on to a computer. Now we are thinking about ways we can reinforce computer credentials, especially for rising 6th graders. Then we talked to the high school librarians and got some disappointing news. Students coming from our middle school library are stressed because they think they cannot check out books without a library card. At the middle school, we’ve always (loosely) required school issued library cards for student checkout, but the high school library does not issue or require library cards. This makes me wonder how many students have wanted a book, but haven’t even tried to check it out because they do not have a library card and don’t realize they do not need one at the high school. This feels like a library fail for the middle school.

This also feels like an issue with equitable accessibility. In defense of library cards, we’d been under the impression the high school had been issuing library cards. We thought we were preparing them for high school and helping them learn accountability and get real-world experience. Turns out we may have been creating barriers for students. Through our vertical planning discussion, we learned the other schools in our community use keypads or self-checkout options. If our middle school library was the only time students were using cards, it was time for us to take another look at the library card policy.

If I’m being honest, a huge factor in keeping library cards was the revenue generated. Students were given a card and charged $5.00 for every replacement. If students did not have a card, we would always speak with their teachers and ask if we should waive the card policy, but what about the students who didn’t have a card, knew they couldn’t pay for a replacement, and never came back to the library? Ultimately, we decided the library cards should be replaced with keypads, and we’re going to keep striving for 100% equitable accessibility.

Collins, S. (2008). Hunger games. New York City: Scholastic.

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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4 replies

  1. This is wonderful news. I would like more information.Do you just a kiosk or computer station set up to check out books.? I am just concerned with identity!

  2. Janet,
    We have a keypad thing plugged into the main (only) circ computer. Students still have to come see us, and we don’t do self-checkout. We have about 1400 students, so I’m sure someone could type someone else’s number and we might not catch it, but they could have done that with cards too. It may be something we need to address at some point.

  3. Good for you! Thanks so much for sharing this “fail” so publicly. It’s good (and encouraging) to get a reminder that admitting our shortcomings shouldn’t be taboo and that, just like our students, we all have room to improve and grow. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better!”

  4. Laura Wylie-Fiallos-
    Unfortunately most of our “fails” are pretty public, but we’d rather stumble across the finish line than not at all :)

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