Students in Australian schools could be given access to a wealth of pre-existing online books and journals with just a little coordination by the state.
Thinking about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools and the quiet online revolution taking place in our libraries has led me to the conclusion that it is very possible for students to access books and journals at relatively little expense to the state. In an era when families are being asked to provide their own laptops and tablets in an effort to reduce government IT expenses, the state could use resources to assist with content for students and schools by coordinating access to infrastructure that has been developed other government institutions in recent years.
The municipal libraries and our universities, who are funded largely by the taxpayer, have developed online catalogues of their ebooks and audiobooks that are accessed on a variety devices via web browsers, or apps like BorrowBox, OverDrive, ebrary and Bluefire Reader. It should be a relatively easy enterprise to extend access to our students and teachers in state (and other) schools. Our school would like the local municipal library to provide each of our students with a library card (or provide us the relevant data to print on the cards we issue each year) so they can access ebooks and audiobooks on their devices. If our local university would do the same thing, all of our students would have access to the growing library resources available online.
It seems simple but who has the will to coordinate such a venture?
These ebook and audiobook apps, supported by my local library, work well on my iPad and assist in any quest to spend less money buying books from Amazon and their audiobook arm, Audible (and they both receive considerable sums from me). In a BYOD world is seems obvious that students need access to resources, in this case books, and we already have a rapidly expanding community online infrastructure that can assist.
What happens to the local teacher-librarian in this scenario? The school library remains a hub where students learn to access information and seek the assistance of an expert in information retrieval and critical literacy. In fact, the skills of the teacher-librarian have never been more needed. They have a special role to assist in the coordination of the ideas outlined in this post. Get on the phone, on twitter, on your email distribution lists and lead the way. Start with your principal, after chatting with the kids, to push the boundaries of what is possible…before it is too late
Please talk to your local librarian, elected member of parliament and school about this idea when you get the chance.
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/9754911723/
UPDATE: Gain access to the State Library of NSW online collection by signing up here. Register for the National Library of Australia too, if you wish to access their online catalogue. South Australians, fantastically, have one card for all libraries. Finally, Barry O’Farrell, the Premier of NSW, has sent me an encouraging tweet: