Equity of access is always a top concern for districts and schools across the country, and particularly for the Connect Information Technology Center. Connect provides resources to more than 90 districts and schools across Northeast Ohio. This runs the gamut from well-funded privates to large and small publics and parochials.

“They’re so diverse, and their needs are so different,” Library Support Specialist Lori Slingerland said of the wide-ranging financial situations of the districts and schools Connect serves.

While Connect offers support for nearly every aspect of its schools’ libraries – including automation software, textbook management, and professional development – it hadn’t yet incorporated a recreational reading complement to the electronic databases supplied through the state’s INFOhio network.

With equity of access a leading factor, Connect launched a Shared eBook and audiobook Collection from OverDrive in January 2017.

“OverDrive allows us to think outside the box, and that’s what we have to do a lot of times with our user group,” Slingerland said.

“It provides a service that they couldn’t afford on their own”shared ebook collection

Through the Shared Collection, students and educators access eBooks and audiobooks from a single, easy-to-use website. Because all purchased titles are available to all participating schools’ users, members have access to an expansive selection of digital reading and learning resources much larger than most could build alone.

“It provides a service that they couldn’t afford on their own,” Slingerland said of her schools with more limited financial capabilities. “And, as more schools join, the collection grows and they all benefit.”

Additional Shared Collection benefits noted by Slingerland and fellow Connect Library Support Specialist Joshua Pease include:

A seamless implementation of the OverDrive digital reading platform: “OverDrive made it amazingly easy,” Slingerland said.

OverDrive staff librarians manage collection development based on member librarian input, with a focus on popular juvenile and young adult fiction from the industry’s largest catalog: “We have full confidence that the OverDrive librarians will take care of that,” Pease said

The OverDrive support team handles members’ day-to-day questions: “It’s really a very wonderful, happy situation for us,” Slingerland said.

Promotion of digital literacy: “I think the biggest reason I was such a supporter of the Shared Collection is that digital literacy is so important for students nowadays; it’s a skill set that’s required for future success,” Pease said. “Having access to eBooks will not only help them, but they’re going to have fun in the process.”

“…it’s exceeded all expectations”

Pease and Slingerland agree that the Shared Collection has more than met Connect’s – and its districts’ and schools’ – goals.

Ohio's Connect Information Technology Center's Shared Collection provides member schools access to an expansive selection of eBooks and audiobooks much larger than most could build alone.
“I’d say it’s exceeding all expectations,” he said.

After only a few short months, member schools were already posting impressive circulation numbers. And the feedback from students and member librarians has been excellent.

“The students are excited,” Pease said. “All the librarians have no complaints; they’re super happy with the service. They think that everyone at OverDrive is working hard for them and are very accessible.”

Going forward, Connect has already begun actively recruiting new schools to join the Shared Collection. More members mean more titles, which means more reading and learning opportunities for students.

“We want to grow this library, we’re very proud of it,” Slingerland said.