Allen Co., local library launch "Boundless Library" initiative, giving students, teachers free access to databases, online courses, hard-to-find books; parents to have opt-out choice

Citizen-Times, Scottsville, July 28, 2016

“Boundless Library” Offered for Schools
School/Public Library Link May be Unique
By Matt Pedigo

When the new school year starts on Thursday, Aug. 4, students will have access to far more educational resources, free to them, thanks to a new, locally-conceived program that may be the first of its kind in Kentucky and some other states.

The Allen County Public Library and the libraries of all four of Allen County’s public schools are collaborating to create Boundless Library, which in essence digitally links all four school libraries to the Public Library’s digital resources. The goals, said Public Library Executive Director Shelia Stovall, were to promote greater literacy and help level the academic playing field for all Allen County students.

The system will use software from Huntsville, Ala., based Book Systems, which sent trainer Cindy Gray up for the training sessions that school and Public Library personnel were engaged in last Thursday and Friday.

“This is great,” Gray said, noting that she knew of no other school districts elsewhere that were doing this. “It will probably be the way of the future.”

The process will begin with all students kindergarten through grade 12, (whose parents or guardians approve) being issued an Allen County Public Library card. If students can’t get the books or educational/research materials they need at their school library, they will have instant access—via their Smart phones, iPads or school or home computers—to all of the Public Library’s resources, which range from digital book versions to free online courses and tutorial programs.

Myra Little, library media specialist for Allen County-Scottsville High School, noted that the school and public libraries have collaborated for years, but not on this scale. She’s already seeing students access resources on their smart phones.

“Now, everybody can have access to the things they need for classroom success,” Little said.

“Some resources were too expensive for the school to purchase,” Allen County Primary Center Library Media Specialist Tosha Stamper adds. “But to have access through the library gives our kids access to so many more things.”

Public Library Executive Director Shelia Stovall noted that, in addition to its hard-copy materials, the library has thousands of digital-version books and publications, digital subscriptions to 50 different magazines, 30 databases and more than 500 online courses. It can also order hard-to-find books, or borrow them for students from other libraries or sources. Need a Chilton automobile manual? You’ll find it through Boundless Library, Stovall said.

Boundless Library also includes preparatory materials for students preparing to take tests like the ACT, SAT or to earn their GEDs.

For card-holders, most of these resources will be available around the clock, seven days a week. For students, there’s also access to Tutor.com. This service features live online teachers and experts that students can interact with; as such, it will be offered from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Allen County Schools Curriculum Coordinator Chad Cooper said Boundless Library would be an asset for faculty as well as students. For one example, the Kentucky Virtual Library had been used by some AC-S teachers in their lesson plans, but not enough, he said, for the School District to feasibly continue the subscription expense.

However, with Boundless Library, AC-S can still have that access without having to pay for it, because the Public Library carries it. In this way, the new system will also help eliminate duplication of services.

Boundless Library will work with a variety of web browsers, including Google Chrome® or Mac systems like Firefox® and Safari®, though some problems have been encountered with Internet Explorer®. Smart phone apps in the App Store like Atrium on the Go® are also helpful.

Boundless Library will be offered to every Allen County School District students, from kindergarten through 12th grade. However, parents can opt out of having their child participate. Ashley Spears, ACIC’s library media specialist, noted one possible concern parents might have. When a child of any age gets the Boundless Library card, he or she will have access to the same materials that any other students of any age can get.

While none of the libraries involved carry obscene or otherwise adult materials, this still means that a primary-age student could access high-school-level materials, particularly novels or other literature, that may not be appropriate for younger children. In the end, Stovall and the other librarians note, responsibility will fall to parents or guardians to police what their child is viewing or reading—the same way they would for any other internet use the child may engage in.

Stovall said Boundless Library had been born as library staff and its board sought ways to spend excess tax revenue the library had taken in. A petition drive early last year—in which the library attempted to lower its tax rate—was unsuccessful due to a lack of citizen interest, and that revenue will now fund Boundless Library. It was a good use of the money, Stovall said, as it benefits any student, regardless of whether they physically visit the library at all.

The entire Boundless Library program will cost the public library less than $5,000 a year—a worthy investment, Stovall said, in a program that will promote much more widespread library usage as well as student achievement.

“We want to be good stewards of the taxpayers ’money,” she said.

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