By Shelby Anderson, Cook County Schools
One of the sessions I attended was the Digital Dynamic Duo (A Public Library Sidekick and a School Media Specialist Superhero Unite) where a former school media specialist, Gina Drellack, and Kathy Enger, Executive Director, Northern Lights Library Network, teamed up to introduce ebooks to the middle and high schools.

The public library had the resources having created a Digital Teen Fiction Center. The problem was nobody knew the ebooks were available, much less how to use them. The school media specialist had the students but not the resources. They developed a four point strategy to introduce the ebooks to the students.

#1 – Personal attention cannot be neglected. It’s a cultural change to embrace ebooks which can lead to self-empowerment.

#2 – Interactive Learning was provided by putting on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Party! The media specialist contacted teachers asking if she could walk the students through the whole process during a class time with students using their own devices.

#3 – Emphasize the expanded collection with not only the school’s collection but also the public library’s collection which included ebook copies of all the Maud Hart Lovelace books. High school students were excited to access high interest modern fiction. On-demand reading, available 24/7, was emphasized. They pointed out the advantages of getting a public library card which they could use after high school, whatever career they chose or wherever they may be in the world.

#4 – Be sure all students have their cards (or if we did this in Cook County Schools, their patron number).  If a student didn’t have a device, they either sat with a buddy or the school provided a device.

To kick this all off, they held a workshop right away in the fall and hit it hard!

Pitfalls they encountered included scheduling snafus. As a media specialist, she didn’t have the best access to all the students, picking the English department to try hit all of the high school classes. In order to work with the middle school, she had to take 7th and 8th grade classes, all together, which did NOT work very well.

In their implementation, there were problems with filling out the application for a library card from the public library. No post office boxes were allowed; some students were from a neighboring city which put them into a different regional library; some students had outstanding fines that needed to be paid. (An anonymous donor contributed a scholarship donation to pay fines!)

The public library created a whole support system for the public school and it was FREE. ( This is something I feel we have experienced since joining Arrowhead Library System). The best result they felt was seeing student empowerment.

This session was helpful to me as we implement Arrowhead’s purchase of ebooks for schools. I am going to contact English teachers to see if they can spare 15-20 minutes of class time to make a pitch. I liked the idea of actually walking students through the whole process of actually checking out an ebook. To make it simpler, I’ll need to arrange putting MackinVia shortcuts on all iPads, Chromebooks, and lab computers. We have been making an effort this year to update student patron numbers issued by school and ensure all students and staff have patron numbers. New students especially don’t realize that they automatically are assigned a patron number, nor do they realize our school is a member of ALS with all the accompanying benefits.

Thank you to ALS for providing the opportunity to attend ITEM. I’m looking forward to putting things I’ve learned into action!