Logo lockup of Kirby School District 140 and Public Library CONNECT, available in the Sora app. Learn how school and public library partnership can expand access to reading for students.Located in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, Kirby School District 140 serves more than 3,500 students in preschool through eighth grade. Like many schools in 2020, the district — which includes two middle and five elementary schools — was not fully prepared for some of the challenges of circulating reading material to students during remote learning, said Dawn Bik, Media Center Director at KSD 140’s Virgil I. Grissom Middle School.

To ensure that students had access to the books they needed, they turned to the Sora K-12 digital reading platform — and its Public Library CONNECT feature — to close the gap.

“A simple answer for our students”

Public Library CONNECT allows KSD 140’s students to borrow age-appropriate ebooks and audiobooks from the Tinley Park Public Library from right within Sora, using only their school credentials.

“Sora, along with Public Library CONNECT, made it a simple answer for our students,” said Bik. “While we do purchase ebooks and audiobooks for our individual school libraries, our collection cannot compare to that of the public library. Being able to offer a supplemental collection for our students from the Tinley Park Public Library helps.” This is especially important given that one of the primary ways KSD 140 is using Sora is to increase pleasure reading among students, even when they may not have physical access to the school library.

“We’ve been making a huge push to increase reading stamina, with numerous classes implementing silent reading, and self-selected reading with conferencing,” said Bik. “At the beginning of the year and during testing windows, access to the library is very limited. (But) students are allowed to utilize Sora to read.”

Foster reading excitement with school + public library partnership

The partnership between KSD 140 and Tinley Park Public Library has been an unquestionable success toward bridging the access gap: Since November 2020, students have borrowed more than 80,000 books from the Tinley Park Public Library. In 2023 alone, students checked out over 38,000 titles.

To Bik, simply being asked to share KSD 140’s story of the partnership with Tinley Park Public Library is an indicator of the program’s huge success, and she’d encourage her peers to strongly consider similar partnerships for themselves.

“My advice to other districts would be to not hesitate,” she said, acknowledging that while there may be some initial budget concerns about adding digital books, “you can supplement that with a Public Library CONNECT, if your public library participates. Getting the students into a reading app and hearing their excitement about titles available is a satisfaction that could only justify your decision.”

Learn more about Public Library CONNECT

To learn more about Public Library CONNECT from the public library’s perspective, check out our profile of Tinley Park Public Library.

CTA with link to article on Tinley Park Public Library's perspective on school and public library partnership.