Many libraries offer fine-free student cards, access to ebooks, online learning resources, high speed wi-fi and much more.
Back to school looks very different for families this fall, with some schools continuing virtual learning, others meeting in person, and some families opting to homeschool until the COVID-19 threat is reduced. Whatever your situation, your local public library has many resources to make teaching and learning easier for everyone.
In March 2020, students and their families had to quickly adapt to a virtual learning environment. Many did not have access to the internet, quality online learning resources, or electronic devices to complete homework. To meet these urgent needs, public libraries made it easier to obtain a library card online in order to use digital resources, extended Wi-Fi access to their parking lots, and some checked out devices to students.
Libraries are continuously expanding these resources. Here are some that may be useful as students head back to school:
For many families suddenly faced with distance learning in the spring, public libraries met a critical internet need. In fact, there were more than 200,000 Wi-Fi sessions from library parking lots from mid-March to May 2020. In many rural Georgia communities, public libraries offer the only free high-speed access.
Internet remains available in and outside libraries, so even if libraries have to close again due to COVID-19, you can still access Wi-Fi from parking lots.
Many libraries began offering digital-only cards during the spring to expand access to online resources like eRead Kids, Mango Languages, and Learning Express, which has math and reading skills improvement tests for grades four through college.
This fall, the Georgia Public Library Service will roll out an ecard service to all Georgia public libraries, allowing people to apply for a full-service library card from home.
DEVICES FOR CHECKOUT
Georgia Public Library Service provided technology funds for seven library systems in spring 2020 to purchase Chromebooks that students and others in need of a device can borrow to get their work done. There are now 500 Chromebooks available for checkout in libraries across the state. You can check with your local library for availability.
“It’s me, my sister, and my niece living here, and there’s no computer in the house,” said college sophomore Nykira, who gained access to a laptop to finish her semester virtually through Georgia’s public libraries.
The Worth County Library also will offer devices for checkout in their rural community. According to Library Director Leigh Wiley, “We will have ebook apps loaded so the patron just has to sign into their individual account to start using them.”
ONLINE LEARNING RESOURCES
Georgia Public Library Service has provided all 408 public libraries with continued access to Beanstack, a tool that makes it easy to create and track fun reading activities. The service allowed libraries to continue their summer reading programs virtually and keep kids reading. The program will be useful year-round because it also enables teachers to sign up entire classes for reading challenges.
The Azalea Regional Library System used Beanstack to partner with the Morgan County School System during the summer by creating a video on how to use Beanstack. The library will continue the partnership this fall through a reading program with challenges.
At the Cherokee Regional Library System, librarians provide school media specialists with the names of children who participate in summer reading so they can receive prizes. “We are lucky to have a great relationship with our school district’s supervisor of digital learning, who works with us to enhance our partnership to benefit students,” said Chelsea Kovalevskiy, assistant director of Cherokee Regional Library.
There are many other online learning resources available through your library. A few include:
- eRead Kids – provides a collection of 20,000 audio and ebooks for kids in kindergarten through grade four.
- Learning Express – includes math and reading skills for grades four through college.
- Mango Languages – offers 72 different online language learning courses.
- Georgia Historic Newspapers – gives free access to newspapers to inspire social studies, journalism, or vocabulary lessons.
The list of online library resources continues to grow and become even more vital. You can find information at georgialibraries.org/library-everywhere.
Coming soon, the Georgia Public Library Service will launch fine-free K-12 student cards across the state. Students will be automatically enrolled using their student number, which is the number used for school lunches and other services. There will be no overdue fines for student accounts; the only charges will be for lost or damaged items.
The program will provide library cards to K-12 students in all 53 PINES library systems across Georgia in the coming years, as funding allows.
The student card program was piloted at Live Oak Public Libraries in March, when the library and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System partnered to provide all 38,000 students with a card. Area students can now easily connect to public library materials and resources to help them succeed in and outside of school.
“The coordination between libraries and schools strengthens our community’s commitment to educational achievement and brings together shared efforts to support literacy and lifelong learning,” said David Singleton, director of Live Oak Public Libraries. “The public library is serving as an extension of the classroom, providing students with access to books, computers, free tutoring, reading programs, and many other important resources.”
A handful of other public library systems have local student cards as well, including Athens, Chattooga, Cobb, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Marshes of Glynn, and Twin Lakes public libraries.
“We’ve been issuing cards for all students in Forsyth County as parents register their children for school,” said Assistant Director Stephen Kight. “We are happy to say that almost all students – more than 50,000 – now have library card accounts and have all the privileges that come with having a library card, including checking out materials, reserving study rooms, using library computers, and accessing our eResources.”
While the Georgia Public Library Service provides many learning resources for libraries to utilize, the best school and library partnerships are forged at the local level, so check with your library to learn more: georgialibraries.org/find-a-library.