Napa High School Embraces Online Resources

4 min read

| Originally posted on the Napa Valley Register |

The school library. For decades, it was the go-to source for students looking for books to research a topic or write a paper.

Not anymore. Today, the library comes to the students – on their smartphones, iPads, laptops or other tech devices.

At Napa Valley Unified School District high schools, libraries have transitioned from a room with four walls to a virtual collection of digital resources including e-books, databases and much more.

“We’re bringing libraries to the 21st century.”

—Kate MacMillan, coordinator of library services at NVUSD.

Schools and teachers are now educating kids using technology such as smart boards, e-books and shared electronic documents such as Google Docs. That means libraries must follow suit.

“We have to be technologically nimble,” said MacMillan.

“Everything has changed,” said Jennifer Baker, NVUSD communications media specialist. “Students don’t need to be physically in the library” to use it, she said. “Our goal now is to get the instruction to bring the library directly to the classroom.”

“The need for library services or info is not going to go away,” said MacMillan. “We’re just providing it in a different manner.”

The Numbers

Library circulation at NVUSD high schools confirms the trend. The number of printed books checked out has dropped significantly over the past years.

Over the past 12 months, a total of 593 printed books were checked out at the American Canyon High School library. At Napa High, the number was 1,062. At Vintage High: 1,764.

To compare, back in 2009, 7,124 printed books were checked out at Vintage High.

At the same time, the use of e-books and online databases at those libraries has risen greatly.

E-books provide instant access to class novels, advance placement and college-bound reading lists. All high school students are able to self-check, renew and take notes in e-books.

Over the past 12 months a total of 10,150 e-books were “checked out” by users at those same three high schools. That’s a 25 percent increase from the year before, said MacMillan.

In addition, “retrievals” from one virtual reference library that NVUSD uses — called Gale — topped 8,186 at Vintage over the past 12 months.

A retrieval is essentially the same thing as “checking out” information, but online instead of in print.

The Gale databases provide instant access to newspaper articles, magazine articles, academic journal articles and critical essays, along with videos and audio reports. These resources can be instantly translated into 13 different languages including Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.

Retrievals totaled 6,303 at American Canyon High and 21,579 at Napa High. MacMillan thinks the Napa High number is larger because they’ve had that particular online resource longer and their school has more students than say, American Canyon High. New Tech High School has always had a primarily digital library.

The NVUSD is the sixth largest user of Gale databases in California, according to the company.

Today, there is no budget for new printed books at the high school libraries, said MacMillan. Some books are donated by alumni groups or others. Instead, library funds are used to buy access to a wide variety of databases such as Gale, e-books, and other digital resources.

“Providing these materials in print at each high school would be cost prohibitive,” said MacMillan.

At the Library

Napa High School junior Lillie Leon said she doesn’t go to the library that often, “because if I need books, I have my computer.”

When asked about online resources she uses, Leon said, “I love Gale,” the database collection that NVUSD subscribes to.

Leon said she also likes using print books to do research, but “I’m glad I live in a day and age” where online resources are available to her.

For most students, “I don’t think they’d know how to survive” without access to online databases and e-books, said Leon.



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