Posted by: eheino | March 8, 2013

The use of e-books in School Libraries

There is no doubt that student’s preferences for accessing information is changing. In classrooms every day we see students reaching for technology rather than books when they need information or entertainment. As Teacher Librarians we need to keep up with the needs of our students to ensure they have access to the information they need, in a way that will keep their attention and hopefully assist in retaining that information as well.

Shatzkin (2013) points to the trends in digital and print media in 2013, and he suggests that “store sales for books will continue to lose ground to online (print and digital) at a rate of 5-to-10 percent a year for some years to come” (Shatzkin, 2013). The question is, what will this mean for our school libraries? I think it will be necessary for libraries to have a collection of e-books that reflect this trend, particularly in high schools, where students are more likely to want immersive literature rather than picture books. However, having a collection exclusively in electronic form could isolate students who do not have access to the necessary equipment to read e-books. For this reason I believe it is necessary to replicate the electronic collection in print form, at least at this stage of transition.

Something I am finding difficult to comprehend is what exactly students want and need from e-books. For me, there is something different about holding a book and physically turning the pages. Being able to physically touch the pages and the pictures has always been important to me as an alternative to all the screens I look at on a day-to-day basis. But I was born in the transition period. My childhood was dominated by physical learning tools, and we only had access to computers once a week. It wasn’t until mid to late high school that use of the internet became widespread , and smaller devices have only become popular since reaching adulthood. But for children that are born with this technology, will they have the desire for physical books? Will it mean something to them to hold the book in their hand and read it? Or will they become so accustomed to looking at a screen that a print book won’t hold their attention? Only small children hold the answer to these questions at the moment, and I am fascinated (and slightly terrified) to find out.

With that in mind, at present I think it is important that we provide both options for students, and allow them to choose which they would rather interact with. Digital content should not replace print content entirely; instead it should complement current print collections, and provide an alternative source of access for popular items. According to Mitchell (2011), ‘A key role for school libraries is to […] incorporate resources that are both ‘high touch and high tech’ to maximise student engagement and learning.’ I think we should keep this in mind as the push for our collections to change increases.

Shatzkin (2013) also mentioned the potential for branded digital subscription offers from the biggest publishers. If this comes to pass I think it would be a fantastic thing for school libraries. If libraries had subscriptions to these services, they would automatically have access to a plethora of new resources which they could then share with their students. Librarians could then preview these books online, and purchase the best resources in print form for the physical collection.

In summary, while it is important for school libraries to keep up with current trends in e-books, it is equally important for students to have access to quality print media. Libraries with excellent collections of both print and e-books are equitable for all students and allow students to choose the type of media they would like to access.

Mitchell, P (2011) Resourcing 21st century online Australian Curriculum: The role of school libraries, FYI Autumn 2011, pp. 10-15.

Shatzkin, M. (2013). What to Watch for in 2013 In The Idea Logical Company. Retrieved from http://www.idealog.com/blog/what-to-watch-for-in-2013/

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