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Shared Digital Collections

Dear Dr. Laura,

I'd love to give ebooks a try but my budget isn't really set up to get a good starting collection. Do you have any ideas to help me test out some ebooks with my students?


Wanna Be E-Book Librarian

Hi! Perfect timing! I'm going to be co-featured in a Mackin webinar on June 30th at 3 PM CST that talks about shared digital collections. I hope you can join us!

Shared collections are an awesome way to get resources out to students. My own public library does something similar by joining in a cooperative with other public libraries in a 300-mile radius. The cooperative buys ebooks and audiobooks together and all of their patrons can log in to this shared digital collwcrion and check out the titles when they are available.

Shared digital collections make good use of your budget because together you can buy so much more than you could buy on your own. In a shared collection your resources won't sit on your digital shelf for long and you won't have to personally buy one of every new title out there.

In my previous job, I worked with Mackin to create a shared digital collection for over 430,000 students from 600+ schools. Some of my 37 districts were tiny with only 250 students total. While other districts had over 44,000 students! Quite a difference in student enrollment, which you know means quite a difference in funding. (Texas schools are funded per pupil.) I worked with Mackin to set up individual campus MackinVIA accounts for each one of the 600+ schools and they all had access to the over 10,000 ebooks and audiobooks.

By creating a shared digital collection, everyone was able to test out the different types of ebooks and audiobooks to see if their student population used them or not. If they found their students and teachers did use the books, they had the opportunity to buy more resources (on their own, using their own budget) to add to their part of our shared collection. This meant those who bought more titles had the shared collection + their new purchases. Other schools did not have access to the titles purchased by an individual campus or district.

I have seen this play out in a smaller way also. Sometimes districts will create their own shared digital collection. All of the schools contributed to the collection and could all access the shared titles. It was a shared ownership model.

If you do start a shared collection, I recommend working with your publishers to see if they allow multiuser books to be added. In my regional collection, I could only purchase single copy titles for my shared collection. I could buy as many single copies as I wanted. I was just restricted from purchasing multiuser titles from most of the publishers.

You'll need to develop a plan of how the titles will be selected for the shared collection. In my case, we had a cooperative of 37 districts who would meet regularly. I would listen to their needs and make title selections based on what they talked about. I would also look at state initiatives, like early childhood or bilingual education, and buy resources to support those initiatives. And finally, I would also buy multiple copies of our Battle of the Books titles to be sure all districts had a way to participate if they wanted to.

Shared digital collections are the way to go! It's a great way to provide access to a large number of titles for your patrons. I hope you give it a try. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific questions.

Dr. Laura

Have you met Rosario Ozuna? In this week's podcast, she discusses how to Use YouTube to Advocate for Your Library. She just completed 2 years at a middle school library in Rio Grande City ISD. Click here to listen to her interview now.

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