Isabel Patrick is a science fiction fan. But trips to the library for reading material tend to fall by the wayside for the junior at Johnson Senior High School, who is also taking college courses.
St. Paul’s public libraries and schools want to make it easier for students like Patrick to check out reading material and use the library system’s online resources. They are rolling out a program called Library Go this month that will allow high schoolers to use their student identification numbers to check out materials. They no longer need to get and carry around a physical library card.
The program, which has been piloted at Johnson, will be open to all students at public middle and high schools in the city Nov. 15, and elementary school students in January. St. Paul is still figuring out how to implement the change in charter schools, Jane Eastwood, director of the city’s public library system, told City Council members last week.
“Libraries are the center, outside the schools, with the most advanced technology,” Eastwood said, but many youth do not have library cards.
Rachel Panitzke, a librarian at Johnson, estimated that 30 percent of students at the school have public library cards. Many of those who do have them stopped using them because they have fines from overdue materials, she said.
Library Go will allow students and teachers to check out most material without risk of accruing fines for overdue items. Students will be able to access all the library’s digital resources with their virtual card and can check out up to five physical items at a time.
During the pilot phase at Johnson, Patrick used Library Go to get calculus tutoring through the library’s online Homework Help center. It was free and tutors were available until 11 p.m., which she said worked well with her busy schedule.
“It’s going to be really helpful and make things so much easier,” Patrick said. She also plans to use Library Go to check out electronic books and download music.
“This is something that is really nice to be able to use in my free time,” she said.
Library Go stemmed from President Obama’s “ConnectED” challenge, which pushed libraries across the country to improve access to books and digital content for children and young adults. St. Paul is one of about 50 communities that have participated in the initiative.
Librarians hope the program will also help connect teachers with resources, like the many databases available through the St. Paul Public Library website.
“We’re relying on [teachers] because we can’t be in every classroom, we can’t anticipate their curriculum needs,” Eastwood said.
Library staff are urging teachers to use Library Go and will be getting the word out during training sessions this month, Panitzke said.
“Teachers will absolutely be using it with students for research,” she said.