State library offers licensed content free to schools
(Calif.) As social media giants like Facebook and YouTube struggle over content and privacy issues, K-12 students throughout California will soon be getting access to a wealth of high-value online resources in a program spearheaded by State Librarian Greg Lucas.
Using a $3 million allocation from the state budget, the library will make available the Encyclopedia Britannica, ProQuest and TeachingBooks.net at no cost to students statewide who will be able to use these resources in the classroom, at home or anywhere they can log-in.
“I was surprised to learn that California is the last state in the nation to be providing these sorts of online data-bases to schools,” Lucas said in an interview. “The experience of the 49 other states that have done this was that once we got a statewide agreement with these online content providers, it becomes a lot more cost-effective.”
The Internet’s dominance as both a communication and research tool has been established for decades. But problems persist with the widespread distribution of unsubstantiated and even erroneous content, as well as the unregulated harvest of consumer data by third party vendors.
Both remain challenges to school administrators and educators who want to provide a safe environment for students to benefit from the promise of the Internet.
Lucas said the three databases being offered through the State Library were culled through a bidding and screening process that was overseen by a panel of educators and librarians. One key condition for participating, he said, is that the content had to be aligned with the state’s version of the Common Core Standards.
“One important goal of Common Core is to promote student-led inquiry, that is, students exploring on their own,” he said. “And schools need high quality sources for that. You can’t just have the wide-open web, where anyone can just publish anything they want.”
The program comes forward as most school districts in California are trying to rebuild their library resources after years of cuts. In 2014-15, the number of teacher librarians in California rebounded to 859, up from a low of 804 in 2013-14.
Even with the upswing, the ratio of school librarians to students in the state is one to 7,187–one of the highest nationally.
It is also important to note that while overall school funding has increased significantly over the past three years, prior to 2012 the Legislature provided an annual block grant just for K-12 library services. Now, under the Local Control Funding Formula, library services are covered by district general funds.
Lucas said that many districts are providing their schools with licensed databases similar to the ones negotiated under the new program. A survey conducted by the California Department of Education concluded that only about half the districts statewide are making licensed content available.
Under the terms of the program, district information technology personnel will need to sign up for the services by completing a form that will include IP address, email domains and remote access information. Lucas said superintendents will be getting invitations to apply later this year.
Here’s a snapshot of the resources being provided:
- Britannica School – Age-appropriate English language encyclopedias for elementary, middle, and high schools.
- Britannica Escolar – Age-appropriate Spanish language encyclopedias for elementary and middle school students.
A suite of instructional resources that enrich the fiction and nonfiction books read by children and young adults that includes:
- Book guides & lesson plans
- Diverse books
- Literature-based vocabulary lists
- Meet-the-Author videos and book readings
- Resources for award-winning books
- CultureGrams – Concise cultural information on countries around the world.
- eLibrary – General reference aggregation of periodical and digital media content with editorial guidance for novice researchers.
- ProQuest Central Student – Database of millions of articles from more than 10,000 full-text scholarly journals.
- SIRS Discoverer – Selected content for beginning researchers, especially elementary and middle school students and educators.
- SIRS Issues Researcher – Curriculum-aligned database of content organized by complex issues, ideally for middle and high school students and educators.
- Research Companion – Information literacy tools and tutorials to help develop critical thinking.
- School & Educators Complete – eBook subscription database of over 12,000 titles that supports English Language Arts, Science, Math, Social Studies, Health, Physical Education, Information Literacy and Technology.