Whitewright Public Library

Digital Library Outreach

The Whitewright Public Library has started a new outreach program for schools in area communities without their own public library.

After discussions with local educators about how many children outside the library’s immediate area are unable to visit due to lack of transportation during library hours, library staff begin to research how to expand access.

For a traditional library card, anyone under 18 needs a parent or guardian to co-sign their application in person at the library. This can be another barrier for many kids, so the library’s advisory board was approached about creating a “digital” library card. The board overwhelmingly supported the idea and directed staff to begin researching how to implement the program.

Applications are filled out at school, and unlike a traditional card, a digital library card does not allow access to physical items in the library, such as books or DVDs, but does allow access to eBooks, eAudiobooks, and streaming video via OverDrive. All that’s needed is a computer, tablet, or smartphone. There’s no risk of lost or overdue materials, or the fines that would occur, as digital items turn themselves in automatically.

Our pilot program was coordinated with Carol Brandt from Bells ISD’s Pritchard Junior High. With 50+ students signed up and using the service beginning in early September, the library’s OverDrive checkouts have skyrocketed, exceeding in half a month the total number of checkouts the previous month.

“This group came in very frustrated with their past reading experiences, but they are all excited to give it a try again this year,” Brandt said. “OverDrive allows students to spend more time browsing to find books they like from a much larger collection than was available to them previously. This is very important because it educates them about genres and how to search and makes them more curious about what books are out there and what they have to offer.”

Brandt has been helping students set up their devices, and noted that for some, it’s their first experience with audiobooks. One student returned an audiobook because "That voice! I just couldn't handle it Mrs. Brandt. Just no." The student found another audiobook with a different narrator and in reading time she yelled, while pointing at her headphones, "I'm on chapter three! Can you hear me? Chapter THREE!"

“This is just a natural extension of our service to the community,” Library Director Chris Ely said. “We don’t want students in our area to be left out, and coordinating with local schools is a perfect way to reach those who cannot reach us. With so many students having a smartphone, it’s an easy way to connect them to a diverse collection of titles.” She also recommends any local educator interested in joining the outreach program should contact the library, 903-364-2955 or whitewrightpl@gmail.com.