BHS students get public library cards

Similar program planned for AVHS

On May 22, Burnsville High School students in grades nine through 11 were automatically issued public library cards.

Just in time for the summer reading season, 1,900 new card-holders have full access to the print and digital offerings of the Dakota and Scott county libraries.

It’s part of a nationwide effort to connect schoolkids with learning resources.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled ConnectED, a program to connect all K-12 students with broadband services. The Institute of Museum and Library Services took up the challenge, aiming to give public library cards to all schoolkids.

Such programs already exist in St. Paul, Ramsey County and Hennepin County. Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 joined with the Dakota and Scott county libraries to bring a program here.

“I actually think the resources at a public library are some of the best-kept secrets from students that exist,” District 191 School Board Member Bob VandenBoom said. “A lot of people think that I’ve got access to Google, therefore I’ve got access to everything I can find at the library, and they’re absolutely wrong.”

The district’s issuance of Chromebook computers to all high school students, which they keep for the summer, is a key link in the program, said Renee Grassi, youth services manager for the Dakota County library system.

Apple Valley High School in District 196 is the next stop for library cards. The county plans to launch a pilot program there in the fall, Grassi said. AVHS students get personal i-Pads.

The Dakota and Scott libraries plan to expand the program to District 191 middle schools, according to the district.

Burnsville High students log into their digital library cards with the numbers “191” and their student I.D. numbers.

“We’ve already had a lot of positive feedback from families and from students,” Grassi said, adding that some students have visited the library’s Burnhaven branch in Burnsville with Chromebooks in hand, seeking instructions.

In Dakota County, the cards are fine-free. Scott County has a program through which youths can “read down” fines and fees on their cards by reading or being read to at the library.

Fine-free cards are “new territory for the Dakota County Library,” said Deputy Director Jennifer Reichert Simpson. “Fines are a barrier, especially to our youth who face economic challenges.”

In addition to printed materials, county libraries have access to more digital resources than school libraries do, Grassi said. They include round-the-clock homework help with a live tutor, she said.

“Homework help is just one of the many, many others that the schools don’t have access to,” she said. “But now, with the student cards, students will be able to have access to them.”

Tutorials, foreign-language instruction, large e-book collections, biography collections, newspapers, magazines and various encyclopedias are other examples of resources that might not be available in school media centers, Reichert Simpson said.

“To me, this is a true win-win,” said Doug Johnson, District 191 technology director and a former school librarian. “Our students and staff are getting access to huge amounts of resources they might not otherwise have. But also, the public libraries are developing a new generation, I think, of library users and library advocates.”