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schlow3Partnership increases access and choice

You know an idea is great when it grants more access without any additional cost. State College Area School District has been able to increase student access to reading materials without any additional expense. Access and choice are the foundation of reading instruction in the school district and staff strives every day to give students the best instruction and opportunities. Thanks to a field trip to Schlow Centre Region Library in the spring of 2016, an opportunity presented itself that increased both access to and choice of reading material for the students.

“As the teachers saw the students’ enthusiasm for the resources at Schlow, the germ of the idea was hatched,” says Dotty Delafield, librarian at Mount Nittany Middle School and the district’s Library Department co-coordinator.

How the program works

During the 2016-17 school year the State College Area School District teamed up with the local library and launched the Schlow to School Remote Delivery Pilot Program at the middle school level.

Students who want to participate in the program simply need to complete an application. The form is quick and easy to fill out and only requires a signature from a parent or guardian. Schlow will even mail the students a library card if they do not already have one.

Throughout the school year, participating students can request books from Schlow Library’s website. Books are delivered directly to the school library for pickup. The district’s delivery drivers already transport materials between the library and the school and can deliver the books without any added expense. The program increases options for reading material and provides a convenient option for checking out books when students are not able to make it downtown to the library.

A win for everyone

Students suggested the delivery program during their 2016 field trip and librarians immediately recognized it as a winning idea. While the district’s libraries already have a robust inter-school loan program, they now have access to Schlow’s impressive collection of over 150,000 items.

As stated in the school’s application for the 2018 Pennsylvania Library Association’s Best Practices Award, “Schlow staff realized this request fit with the library’s strategic plan of ‘We are where you are,’ [and] with the objective to improve access to materials…Librarians [had] observed that increased time demands on middle school students results in fewer visits to Schlow and subsequently less access to materials.”

A delivery program effectively addresses the growing time constraints facing students.

“Many of our students are frequent users of Schlow Library, particularly during the summer, but as family schedules fill up during the school year, making time to get to the public library becomes more difficult,” says Delafield. Now, students and their families don’t have to worry about that. They just order the books online and stop at the school library when the books are ready for pickup.

In a recent Schlow Library podcast, Park Forest Middle School librarian, Kathy Billet pointed out that many students live quite a distance from Schlow Library. Even if time commitment is not an issue for them, distance may still present a challenge. She says this school program is often their only means of accessing Schlow’s vast resources.

The program also cuts down on wait times. While a book may already be checked out through the school library, often times that same book is available at Schlow. This allows multiple students quick access to the same materials.

“We have so many voracious readers,” said Billet in the podcast. “Having globs and globs of opportunity for different kinds of books is a wonderful thing.”

What students are saying

In the short time this program has been implemented, it has made a tremendous difference for students. Many have reported how much they appreciate the delivery option.

One female student noted that her “parents’ work schedules make it hard for her to get to Schlow” and that she has been able to read more because of the program. Others have noted the program makes getting the books they need quick and easy and that they are grateful to have access to a wider selection of books.

It is not just students and families who are giving the program great reviews. The dedicated district staff responsible for implementing the program, Lisa Rivas Collens, Colleen Fisher, Dotty Delafield, Katherine Billet, Virginia Squire, Paula Bannon and Maria Burchill, received an Honorable Mention as part of the 2018 Pa. Library Association Best Practices Awards.

While the program is currently only available to middle school students, there is potential for growth.

The district is grateful for the staff members who helped develop and launch the Schlow to Schools Delivery Program and to the staff at Schlow Library for all their efforts to support local students. The district is looking forward to continuing this successful partnership.