A few years ago, while working as a teacher librarian at Templeton Elementary School in Oregon, I had the opportunity to redesign the school’s library website to include digital resources for the students to use as part of a shift to 1:1 iPad learning.
Three years later, I’m replicating this model for the entire district, building a Library Learning Commons where all students have digital access to curated, shared resources in conjunction with full-scale 1:1 learning. The result of our Library Learning Commons initiative will include a seamless integration of shared digital resources that are pre-approved and pushed out every iPad, making it easy for students to read, research, collaborate, and own their learning experience.
As a district librarian media specialist, I work with more than 13,000 K-12 students, and building a digital library that can meet the needs of this many learners can seem intimidating. On top of that, I have to ensure that content is age-appropriate, platforms are vetted, and that the resources are able to be used in inclusive classrooms. I also have to make sure that my students are responding well to any new edtech product, and that the tools I curate are authentically enhancing learning.
Throughout this process, there are several platforms that have been able to meet multiple needs, most notably Epic!, a digital-media platform that provides K-6 students with unlimited access to more than 25,000 high-quality and curated books and video content through partnerships with trusted content partners like Encyclopedia Britannica, HarperCollins, and National Geographic.
While each district’s needs and access to technology can vary, here are four main steps I recommend for effectively implementing a district-wide Library Learning Commons project.
1. Identify the content needs of the district.
Weed out outdated titles and update your district’s Library Learning Commons website with electronic resources and reference materials that cover the topic areas your teachers identify. Survey your teachers to see which research projects they assign throughout the year and familiarize yourself with your school’s curriculum. Include resources that align with these topics and with district wide initiatives such as STEM instruction.
Epic! has been incredibly valuable for this purpose because of its variety of age-appropriate content including, picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, non-fiction titles covering thousands of topics, “read to me” books, learning videos, quizzes, and more.