By Sue Schumacher, Duluth Public Library

ConnectED Library Challenge in Minnesota

During this session, Ramsey County, Hennepin County, and St. Paul public libraries talked about their new library card initiatives designed to meet the White House ConnectED Library Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to give every student a library card. In Minnesota, meeting the White House challenge has been facilitated by a 2015 change in state statutes, creating opportunities for schools and libraries to share information.

All three libraries had a different approach to providing public library cards to students. It was interesting to hear how each library and school district had created a program that they were very excited to roll out. All three discussed how students’ data was being shared, how they chose to create the cards, and how they entered the information needed for each card. They talked about whether they were going to require parents to sign an application or an opt-out choice. They discussed their decisions on handling duplicate cards and existing fines and fees.

Ramsey County, working with specific grades in the White Bear Lake school district, decided to merge existing public library cards with the new school/library cards. They chose to forgive existing fines to bring amounts owed below the library’s limit. They require a parent’s signature on an application.

Hennepin County worked with the Hopkins school district and provided 100% of the K-12 students with cards. They are using an opt-out method. The Hopkins school district was so enthusiastic about the program, that they are now offering a weekly after-school bus to the public library for some of their students.

St. Paul Public Library decided to issue virtual library cards (no physical card) with a five-item limit and no fines or fees to all students. Students are able to have a duplicate record, so they don’t have to give up their existing public library card with higher borrowing privileges. They also won’t be held back by fines or fees on an existing card. Students’ 14 digit barcode numbers will begin with the library’s unique first four digits, then a unique number for their school, then their school ID number.  Giving students a virtual library card, with a number that is easy for the students to remember, eliminates the problem of students not having their card with them when they want to check out materials or access the public library’s catalog and e-resources. Students can read down fines or fees.

The information shared by Ramsey, Hennepin, and the St. Paul library provided a good base of knowledge for anyone interested in moving forward on their own initiative. Jen Nelson from the State Library Services shared an information sheet entitled “K-12 Public School Student Data Privacy and Library Cards.”  She has also sent additional information for the Duluth Public Library to consider.

A connected library card system could help solve some of the tough issues we face in serving youth, especially when trying to reach underserved students in our area. I’m ready to take what I learned back to the Duluth Public Library and see what we can accomplish north of the Twin Cities!