#hyperlib Emerging Technology Plan: Collaboration!

Disclaimer: The author of this post has no affiliation with either Spotsylvania County Schools or the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This plan was written as an exercise for a class at San Jose State University’s iSchool, and while the author is happy to discuss it with you it has no basis in the real world.

Introduction: This plan will discuss a new collaboration between Spotsylvania County Schools and the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, which will culminate with the addition of Envisionware 24-hour Libraries to each of the County’s seven middle schools and five high schools. One machine will be added to each school’s cafeteria, so that students can access them during the educational day. The machines, in aggregate, will be treated as a new branch of the public library, and will contain a selection of books chosen in consultation between the public librarian and each school’s media specialist.

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service: By installing book vending machines throughout Spotsylvania County Schools, we hope to increase library usage among public school students — especially those living in Partlow, Todd’s Tavern, or other rural areas within Spotsylvania County whose families may find regular library visits to be a hardship due to distance or monetary concerns. Furthermore, we hope to supplement the SCS libraries’ collections to improve the quality of education throughout the county. Finally, we hope that circulation will increase among family members of public school students.

Description of Community you wish to engage: Spotsylvania County is a growing community located approximately halfway between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA. According to the 2014 Census Bureau Estimate, Spotsylvania has approximately 129,188 residents, 25.6% of whom are children under the age of eighteen, and it is reasonable to assume that the majority of those minors are enrolled in the public school system.

Spotsylvania County Schools serves the county with seventeen elementary schools, seven middle schools, five high schools, and one alternative school. At the high school level, there are several options: students can enroll in a variety of vocational programs, earn standard or advanced studies diplomas, or apply for the Commonwealth Governor’s School, an advanced college preparatory program.

Spotsylvania, along with the nearby City of Fredericksburg and Counties of Stafford and Westmoreland, are served by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, a system with eight locations (two of which are in Spotsylvania). While the services provided by CRRL are extensive and award-winning, the fact remains that large portions of Spotsylvania are extremely rural and may not be well-served by the CRRL with its current branch locations.

Action Brief Statement: Convince the citizens of Spotsylvania County that by placing EnvisionWare 24-hour Libraries in the middle and high schools they will allow students easy access to a wider variety of materials than are available in the school libraries, which will enhance their educations and expand their minds, because reading is fundamental.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service: It’s well-documented that collaborations between schools and public libraries are beneficial students and their families. The American Library Association and the U.S. Department of Education published a joint paper in School Library Media Research (now called School Library Research), and a very thorough list of resources can be found at OCLC’s WebJunction. It is also quite easy to find examples of library book vending machines being used to supplement traditional library service in both rural and urban areas, such as Tulare County, CA, Contra Costa County, CA, and Toronto, ON.

While it is commonplace for public librarians to visit schools for book talks and library card sign-ups, we were unable to find examples of public libraries locating a portion of their collections permanently within a school system. Even so, we are convinced that this collaboration will benefit both SCS and CRRL — and, more importantly, the respective users of each.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service: All guidelines and policies regarding the 24-hour libraries will be in alignment with the mission statements of SCS and CRRL, and will be developed on a school-by-school basis by the public librarian in charge of the program in collaboration with each school’s media specialist. While the collections housed inside the machines will be owned by the CRRL, the ultimate decisions regarding use of and access to the machines will lie with the school media specialists.

One 24-hour library will be placed in each school’s cafeteria, where students are able to browse at will. Because Spotsylvania County students are not given free time during the day and the majority of them do not take study hall, it is difficult for many of them to use their school libraries. During lunch, students at the middle and high school level are required to remain in their cafeterias but permitted to leave their tables. Therefore, the cafeteria is the ideal location for a book vending machine. In addition, the cafeterias in all five of Spotsylvania’s high schools already contain vending machines from which the students can purchase items to supplement their lunches.

While using the machines, students will be expected to follow their school’s code of conduct. Fines, damages, and other issues relating to the care and maintenance of the books will follow the CRRL’s policy.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: There are three main areas of concern regarding the monetary impact of this program: initial acquisition of the machines, collection development, and maintenance.

The machines themselves will be purchased largely through fundraising: CRRL will apply for grants to cover their costs, which will be supplemented by fundraising campaigns by the Friends of the Library, each school’s Parent-Teacher Organization, and requests for donations which will be sent home with students. All of the money raised by a school’s PTO will go towards that school’s 24-hour library, with CRRL and Friends money supplementing as necessary.

The initial collections for the machines will be chosen from the CRRL’s current holdings or funded by excess funds raised to purchase the machines, with additional materials purchasing being derived from the CRRL’s overall acquisitions budget in the upcoming years. For collection development purposes, the 24-hour libraries in aggregate will be considered an independent branch of the CRRL. At the discretion of the librarians involved, donated books can also be used to improve the machines’ collections.

Maintenance of the machines will come from each school’s facilities budget, where it is expected to make a negligible impact.

Action Steps & Timeline: The goal is to have fully stocked 24-hour libraries placed into the majority of the target schools by the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The action steps are as follows:

  1. Place an employment announcement seeking a librarian to be dedicated to this project, who will operate out of the Salem Church Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Choose, hire, and begin training the best candidate. (By December 31, 2015).
  2. The Collaboration Librarian will contact EnvisionWare to determine a final cost for twelve 24-hour libraries and will develop a relationship with the necessary contacts at that company. (Early 2016).
  3. The Collaboration Librarian will contact and develop a rapport with each school’s media specialist. (January 2016).
  4. Fundraising will be conducted to cover the majority of the costs. Fundraising efforts will be coordinated between the Friends of the Library and each school’s PTO. (January 2016-July 2017).
  5. The Collaboration Librarian and the school media specialists will develop lists of titles to be placed in the machines initially. These lists will consist entirely of print books (90%) and audiobooks (10%), and should be able to be relocated from other branches in the CRRL system whenever possible. Following the development of the lists, the Collaboration Librarian will begin acquiring copies of the necessary titles. . Prior to the arrival of the machines, books purchased for this project will be stored within the Salem Church Branch or added temporarily to the circulating collection of other CRRL branches as necessary.  (February 2016-July 2017).
  6. Twelve 24-hour libraries will be purchased and delivered, installed in their respective schools, and filled with books. (July 2017).
  7. Tuesday, September 5, 2017: The first day of school and debut of the collaboration project.
  8. The bulk of the Collaboration Librarian’s duties from this point forward will be collection maintenance, collection development, and physically placing holds and other books into the machines as necessary. (S)He will also assist with staffing gaps at the other branches on an as-needed basis.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: This service will require staff; we estimate that one full-time librarian hired specifically for this purpose will be sufficient to cover the majority of the program’s needs. Fortunately, this librarian’s salary is already accounted for since CRRL has lost several librarians recently due to relocation. By eliminating a redundant position, this librarian’s salary can be accounted for.

In the event that this librarian cannot manage the project on his/her own, (s)he will be able to make up the deficit in manpower by using volunteers from CRRL’s volunteer program, parent volunteers from SCS, or unpaid interns enrolled in library science programs. Once the machines are successfully up and running, we anticipate that the majority of their maintenance will consist of restocking books, delivering holds, and other issues related to ensuring that the machines are kept full and books kept in good condition. For the most part, this could easily be accomplished by volunteers — perhaps even high school students looking to earn a community service seal on their diploma (as volunteer service for the public library counts towards the requisite 144 hours), further strengthening the bond between the students and their public library.

If this program is successful, it could has the potential to be expanded into the public schools in the City of Fredericksburg and the Counties of Stafford and Westmoreland, in which case the program’s staffing needs will be reevaluated.

Training for this Technology or Service: Fortunately, EnvisionWare offers training to those libraries who purchase their machines.  This training will be scheduled and attended by the Collaboration Librarian and his/her direct supervisor (from the Salem Church Branch). The Collaboration Librarian will then be responsible for training any volunteers or interns for the program, in order to ensure that the volunteers are comfortable asking questions of and communicating with the Collaboration Librarian.

In the event that the program is expanded into the rest of CRRL’s jurisdiction, the original Collaboration Librarian will be placed temporarily into a supervisory role to oversee the training of his/her counterparts in the other school systems.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: Beginning in October 2016, the 24-hour libraries will be promoted most heavily in the public schools, through newsletters, fliers sent home with students, morning announcements, discussion in homeroom classes, and at PTO meetings. Since middle and high school students are the members of the community most likely to directly benefit from the machines (and their parents who are most likely to participate in initial fundraising efforts), it is to them that the majority of marketing should be targeted.

Fliers will also be posted at the circulation desks of all CRRL branches, and all CRRL staff will be informed about the program in order to intelligently discuss it with library patrons. Furthermore, the machines will be mentioned as frequently as possible on CRRL’s social media accounts.

A press release will be sent to all radio stations broadcasting out of Spotsylvania and the City of Fredericksburg, as well as The Free Lance-Star. If any local news outlets are interested in covering the story, the Collaboration Librarian will be given free reign to respond to questions or give interviews about the program as (s)he sees fit.

Finally, the Collaboration Librarian will be given permission to advertise in any other way (s)he deems necessary or useful.

Evaluation: Since the 24-hour libraries will be considered as a separate branch for administrative purposes, it makes sense to plan to evaluate them using the same standards CRRL would use for any branch of similar size. Evaluation will consist of measuring circulation statistics, library card sign-ups, and how many holds are picked up at the machines (preferably broken down into student and teacher use).  In addition, all students will be asked at the end of the academic year to complete a survey regarding their use of the machines (to be developed by the Collaboration Librarian).

Read 2 comments

  1. I love your idea for the disclaimer. I think that I will go back and add one to mine. Just in case someone stumbles onto the article on the net.
    I love the idea of placing book vending machines at schools. Between sports, volunteering, and school work many struggle to find time to go to the library. Why not bring the library to them? This would work for Rural towns without local libraries within walking distance too. Maybe the machine could send out a signal asking to be refilled which would be helpful in times of high demand. I could envision this as a good way to test an area to see if they are in need of a book mobile visit from a library miles away. Great job!

  2. This is a great idea! It shows libraries actively reaching out and bringing library materials to potential users instead of passively waiting for those users to come to them. Schools and public libraries have similar objectives for supporting students’ learning, and partnerships such as this are mutually beneficial.

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