When I first heard about the upcoming launch of the NC Digital Kids Library in February of this year, I knew it was going to be great. But what I didn’t know is what a game changer this was going to be! Public library directors Ruth Ann Copley (Davidson County) and Jennifer Sackett (Lincoln County) worked very closely with a committee of other directors and Overdrive to launch this program that is the first of its kind in the nation.
What is NC Kid’s Digital Library? NC Kids is a database of more than 6,000 high-quality, high-interest digital books suitable for grades K-4th that are available for checkout through NC Cardinal. Anyone in North Carolina can access this database with a public library card and any device connected to the Internet.
How did they pay for it? The committee worked in conjunction with the State Library of North Carolina and Overdrive to come up with a plan. The public library directors lobbied the state legislature for funds to launch the program as well as secure LSTA grants. It was decided to purchase books rather than have an annual subscription, and funds were collected to keep the program going for a number of years to come. Local library systems were encouraged to join with a nominal $100 fee.
How has it been promoted? Ruth Ann Copley and Jennifer Sackett revealed the program at ALA Annual in Atlanta this past January. It has since been shared through social media, dozens of newspapers across the state, and in local libraries. The program was shared on the NCSLMA Facebook page, and it was shared more than 70 times in 24 hours!
How does this benefit school libraries? In anticipation of the increased demand and to make this resource more accessible, the public library directors also developed a program called StudentAccess. Participating school districts are able to partner with their local library system by integrating student ID numbers into the public library database. This allows students to access not only NC Kids Digital Library, but a number of other digital resources, such as research databases, magazines, and journals, provided by the public library. This levels the playing field for those students who live in rural areas or lack the transportation or opportunities to visit the library in person; it also gives school librarians and public librarians opportunities to collaborate and join forces to best serve our students.
About the collection: All of the titles have been purchased, and the collection is being curated with its readers in mind. Not only does it have more than 6,000 ebooks, audiobooks, read-a-longs, and videos, but holdings include recent award-winning titles as well as multiple copies of state awards and Battle of the Books titles. This can be incredibly helpful to public school librarians as budgets for print books are always shrinking.
What’s next? With the overnight success of NC Kids Digital Library, the committee recently launched Teens eReading Room in mid-October. The Teens eReading Room is a similar platform with YA readers in mind. With more than 3,800 titles, young people can choose from both fiction and non-fiction ebooks as well as videos. Students can search by subject, genre, or keyword and can read books on any wireless device–including their phones!
School librarians are excited: Each month, more and more school districts are joining forces with their local public libraries in this effort. It will take a while to get all 115 school districts on board, but there is no doubt this innovative new program is an overnight success.
I would like to add a note that Ruth Ann Copley was recently given the Distinguished Service Award from the North Carolina Library Association for her many, many years of dedicated service to public libraries in our state.
Author: Sedley Abercrombie
Sedley Abercrombie is the district digital learning and library media programs specialist for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina, an NCSLMA executive board member, and an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.