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Innovation SummaryMyLibraryNYC is a collaboration between the NYC Department of Education and the city’s three public library systems. The program offers book delivery to schools, fine-free borrowing, a shared catalog that searches across school and public library collections, librarian-curated teacher sets, and access to the public libraries' electronic resources.
Simply put, access to reading materials improves literacy skills among students. While robust school library service in every New York City public school is ideal; the reality is that only half of NYC school libraries have an up-to-date online catalog and very few have sufficient materials. The need for robust library service is compounded by the need to support teachers in the current nation-wide rollout of new Common Core Curriculum Standards, which requires expanded access to a wide variety of vetted, informational text resources not currently available in most schools. By integrating the resources of one of the world’s largest public library systems with one of the nation’s largest educational systems, this project is unprecedented in its ability to share and deliver reading material to millions of New York City students. An innovative, forward-thinking model, the pilot re-imagines the collaborative role of public libraries within society and is likely to be a model for national replication.
Two recent technological advances at NYPL are facilitating these activities: NYPL’s partnership with BiblioCommons (a Toronto-based technology firm) has made it possible to combine school and public library resources in a single catalog search, enabling best-in-class search across both collections. Second, the new, automated sorting facility at NYPL ensures the ability to efficiently sort and deliver millions of items across all New York City schools. Right now, the planned expansion is to reach 400 schools next school year. Another aspect of this project I find particularly fortuitous is the synchronicity of its implementation with the implementation of the Common Core. Because NYPL has a responsibility to collect broadly, we have many copies of the kind of informational texts the Common Core requires students learn to read and understand. Many of these titles don’t circulate as often as the less demanding, more fun titles kids come to the branches to check out. The Common Core presents us with an opportunity to mobilize our collections and get these titles into the classroom where they will be used. We have been working to curate our collection into sets of good quality, current, but lower-circ, non-fiction texts aligned to the common core and now have just over 700 of these teacher sets in the catalog. I, personally, will feel like we have succeeded with this project when teachers around New York are saying, “I cannot possibly begin this unit without my box of books from the public library.”
Students in the pilot program were 3X more likely to have a book checked out from their public library. Participating school libraries had their circulation increase by 100%. We introduced a new fines-friendly model for teachers and students and our return rate of materials was close to 100%. There was great enthusiasm for this project as 99% of educators surveyed would recommend expanding this project city-wide. One school librarian stated, “This is the most amazing advance in my library career! I cannot imagine life without it. The positive impact is immeasurable.” We are also excited by the early impact on time spent reading as 83% of educators surveyed reported that their students read more because of the pilot.