Partnership Connects Students to their Libraries

Hopkins is building lifelong learning through technology, educational spaces, and books
May 05, 2017

In a world where electronic media is king, you might think a room dedicated to books would be at risk for extinction. You would be wrong. Hopkins media centers leverage technology to create dynamic spaces for learning, reflecting, creating, and yes, even reading real books. A partnership with Hennepin County Library provides even more learning experiences to students — from access to databases to after-school enrichment and homework help. It's all part of a goal to foster lifelong learning and lifelong library users.

Leveraging technology and resources
Technology in media centers is not a new concept. These spaces have long offered students a place where they can go to conduct research, connect to Wi-Fi, and access multimedia materials. As Hopkins students traded textbooks for devices, media centers underwent their own transformations. In 2015, Hopkins was one of the first districts in Minnesota to participate in the White House sponsored ConnectED challenge through a partnership with
Hennepin County Library. Hopkins was chosen as a partnering school district because of its robust 1:1 digital environment.

"I love this partnership," said Robin Price, media specialist at West Junior High. "Hennepin County Library has been awesome every step of the way."

As part of the collaboration, all Hopkins students now have active Hennepin County Library cards. The junior high media centers led the way in this effort and became a testing ground for other schools. Because of the 1:1 digital device initiative, junior high students were already using apps like OverDrive to check out books and other materials electronically. Having access to Hennepin County Library's resources expands these opportunities and

allows for cost savings where there is overlap. North Junior High alone subscribes to nine databases and several magazines that Hennepin County Library already provides access to. All schools are free to discontinue redundant subscriptions and use the funds elsewhere in their libraries.

A change in readership habits
Increased access to online resources has changed how students prefer to obtain information. They are more likely to use internet databases to conduct their research,they still appreciate physical books for reading fiction. This means Jen Legatt, a media specialist at North Junior High, no longer purchases encyclopedias, which are outdated as soon as they are printed. With more room available on the library shelf, she is able to create more engaging experiences for students, focusing on the fiction and topic-based books they enjoy reading.

"Students overall prefer paper books for fiction," Legatt said. "They spend enough time plugged in for other reasons. In many ways, books provide an escape from technology."  



Managing the details

The strength of the library partnership is the commitment from both organizations to navigate potentially complicated issues like data privacy.
Without library cards, students cannot take advantage of the expanded learning opportunities offered through the partnership, yet anyone who knows a junior-high student knows that they are prone to lose things — like their library cards. Hopkins wanted to store the library cards assigned to
students in case they were lost or forgotten, but the barcodes are proprietary information, and Hennepin County Library did not have a policy that allowed for Hopkins staff to have this access. Eventually, the two organizations found a solution in storing the information in each student's school profile, a system that is also classified as data private.  

"Data privacy was one of our biggest, most complicated issues," said Price. "Hennepin County Library would not share this information without knowing it was going into the right hands. It was essential that we had buy-in from senior leadership, and a library-minded culture with full-time media specialists."

A place to belong
Both Hopkins and Hennepin County want students to explore the resources available to them through the library and also to get them to
physically go there. So far it's working.

Hennepin County Library's Homework Help program is bursting at the seams. Last May, when attendance typically drops, it increased as new students took advantage of the in-person tutoring program.

In addition to Homework Help, North and West junior high students have been participating in a teen after-school library enrichment program at Ridgedale Library.  

Hennepin County Library supervises the program and pays for an activity bus to transport students. Students spend about two hours engaged in a
variety of educational and fun activities. They play games, work on art projects, listen to speakers, and read books.  

"I love going to the after-school library program," said Annika Widenhoefer, a North Junior High eighth-grader. "I like to come here and unwind."  

The teen enrichment program runs from October through March on Tuesdays. About 30 students participate between both junior highs. It gives
students a place to hang out and participate in a non-traditional after-school activity, with the idea that they will continue to use the library during
the summer when school is not in session.

"If we can get our kids connected with the library resources, then during the summer, they feel supported," Price said. "They know Hennepin County Library is a resource. They are comfortable checking out books on OverDrive, and they feel comfortable going to the library." 

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