Schools’ e-library will follow Stanislaus Union kids home for the summer

naustin@modbee.comMay 11, 2014 

— Summer reading just got a whole lot easier and cheaper for Stanislaus Union School District students. A good book is only an app away on smartphones, tablets and computers through the digital library that formally launched this month, a first for the region.

“We are going to grab those kids who don’t typically read during the summer. This makes an uncool thing cool,” said Wendy Moitoso, one of the multimedia librarians shepherding the project. “What’s so awesome is they can log in and read anywhere they are – at school, at home, in another country.”

Standing in a small crowd of Eisenhut Elementary library regulars, Moitoso showed on a large screen how the user-friendly e-library works. Beside her, first-grader Katerina Lopez-Salazar explained how she logs on by herself.

“That was exactly how it should work. Then I know that we have first-graders able to access this,” Moitoso said.

Katerina’s mother said the e-library came at a good time. “She grabs a book and won’t stop reading until she finishes. She goes through maybe a book a day. I can’t keep up with buying books for her,” said Ivonee Salazar. Once read, she added, “This way, they aren’t sitting on a shelf.”

The digital library, like the paper-and-ink ones, has only so many books on its virtual shelves. Books with all copies checked out appear with a grayed-out corner, giving readers an option to request a copy when available. Checkout is for two weeks, with digital check-in automatic – no late fees, no frayed corners, spills or crayon marks.

The “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has proven so popular Moitoso has already bought two more series sets. The “Goosebumps” series she adds as available and “Harry Potter” books remain a hope for the future.

In the digital world, shopping can be done by many Stanislaus librarians through a central coordinator. Packing and shipping is a download. Confirm-purchase click to ready-to-read takes hours instead of days. Moitoso takes advantage of publisher sales to stretch her book budget.

“The cost of the e-library startup was $30,000. However, we negotiated a deal that allows that entire sum to be put toward books,” said Superintendent Britta Skavdahl. School sites pooled their money to create the districtwide digital resource, the only school e-library in a three-county area, the Stanislaus County Office of Education told her.

Surveys found 85 percent of Stanislaus Union students have access to e-reading devices, including smartphones, said Chris Gomula-Kruzic, information systems manager. He works with a nonprofit to refurbish older computers and hopes to begin closing that 15 percent gap over the summer.

Fourth-grader Alayna Tello said she just likes reading, electronically or in print. “Reading gives you a lot of imagination. The ones with no pictures, you can picture yourself,” Alayna said.

“I’ve been waiting for e-books for a while now, because I’ve read all the books in my house,” said fourth-grader Kylie Webb.

Fifth-grader Saina Javan said she wasn’t sure she would like e-books, but found them easy to read. “I was impressed, and then I was, like, more impressed,” she said. Now, she prefers them. “I get tired of holding (hardbacks),” she said. “I finish my homework so quick so I can read e-books.”

Arya Gandhi, also a fifth-grader, said his family will travel to India this summer. He likes that a wealth of books for young readers will still be at his fingertips through the e-library.

But the cutting-edge cool of e-books has not replaced the page-turners with real pages to turn. The Eisenhut library still has 10,000 bound books, Moitoso said, gesturing around the spacious room rimmed by rows of book-lined shelves.

“This is wonderful, but we have to be able to grow with our kids,” Moitoso said. They will work and live in a digital world, she said. “This is how we’re going to get them ready.”

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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