This article was originally published in the winter 2013 Harker Quarterly.
Three new e-Book services provided by Harker’s libraries mean avid readers can access books 24/7/365, and they can choose what format to read them in – an attractive facet for younger readers. BrainHive, FollettShelf and OverDrive enable students and teachers at the lower, middle and upper schools, respectively, to instantly access popular titles for pleasure reading. Each service was selected to suit campus needs and works with a number of devices, including iPad, Kindle, Nook, smart phone, tablet and the everyday laptop.
The upper school library led the way when it launched OverDrive at the close of the 2013 school year. Using an interface designed by OverDrive specifically for Harker, students and teachers can browse an electronic library of more than 300 titles ready for download; more titles are being added as use of the service ramps up. “We originally planned to roll out Over- Drive in August, but were so excited once the initial collection was created in the finals days of the school year, we thought, ‘Why wait?’ Before we knew it, 25 percent of the collection was checked out!” said Meredith Cranston,upper school librarian.
“Three hundred titles may not seem like a big number,” noted Sue Smith, library director, “but for a pleasure reading collection – which has to be fresh – it’s pretty good.”
Teachers, too, took advantage of the new service. “It was easy to download the books,” said upper school history teacher Carol Zink. “I appreciate the variety and portability afforded by OverDrive. I downloaded and read three books over the summer and really enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to pack so many books in my suitcase.”
With the successful launch of e-books for pleasure reading underway with older students, Bernie Morrissey, middle school campus librarian, brought FollettShelf online in time for the weeklong October trips.
“FollettShelf seemed the perfect choice for the middle school because it fully integrates with our catalog and check-out is a breeze!” said Smith. “Our students can easily read titles on their laptops, a device we know everyone has!” Readers have taken quickly to the enhanced access.
Like the upper school, a high percentage of the initial collection flew off the virtual shelves. “My newest Follett e-books appeared at 6:03 this morning,” said Morrissey in November,” and by 7:30 some of them were already checked out!” The middle school currently has 171 titles available and is adding more monthly.
Sonya Verma, grade 7, is thrilled with the new service. “I have always loved books, and I always take them with me wherever I go. Now there’s a great selection of e-books that I can keep on my phone! All of the forgetfulness associated with remembering to bring the book is gone!” she said.
In early December, the lower school library rolled out their app for teachers, prior to a campuswide release. The service is compatible with the Chromebooks lower school students are using, as well as iPads, which are used in K-2 classrooms.
“BrainHive covers both fiction as well as nonfiction books for a variety of ages,” said Kathy Clark, lower school campus librarian. “Teachers will be able to place their students into virtual book clubs and they will be able to read the books, take notes and share recommendations.” BrainHive has a library of about 3,400 titles, which are all available to Harker students.
Harker’s stacks won’t disappear into the cloud anytime soon, however. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, folks who read e-books read more in general (both print and electronic books).
While some avid readers enjoy the convenience and mobility of e-books, others are reluctant to give up the printed word. Harker readers are no different.
“Having a physical copy of a book contributes to the complete experience of reading; as a result, I personally prefer reading printed books,” said Zina Jawadi, grade 12.
“E-books are great, but I don’t think that they should completely replace the printed word,” agreed Karen Tu, grade 10. “For some reason, reading from a physically tangible book somehow makes reading more relaxing than reading from something electronic.”
Harker librarians are committed to offering both e-books and print books so students can enjoy both experiences.
Tu was an early convert. “The best thing about having a book on a mobile device is that I can access it from wherever I want. Whether I’m reading from my phone or my laptop, I don’t really have to worry about leaving a book
somewhere or forgetting it at home.”