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Limitless Libraries

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Limitless Libraries

Nashville Public Library, Tenn.

Education - Birth Thru Teens | 2013 | Top Innovator

Innovation Summary

Problem Statement

In 2008, Nashville’s Mayor, Karl Dean, approached the public library director and asked how our public library, known throughout the city for being innovative and smart, could help our struggling school system. At the time, Nashville’s public school system was in a state of flux, in large part because of the district’s status under federal No Child Left Behind laws. Metro Nashville Public Schools was close to entering a legal status that would allow the Tennessee Department of Education to remove the director of schools and appoint a trustee to oversee the school district. The Mayor was poised to take over the helm of the school system and was seeking help from every corner of the city in case that change occurred. At the time, only 14 of 16 high school libraries had the volumes required per student to meet State Department of Education standards and the average age of materials in the school non-fiction collections exceeded 20 years. With appropriate weeding, it was estimated that most of the schools would not meet their targets. Moreover, MNPS introduced academies to the 16 high schools but school libraries did not have the means or material to support this transition. Funding was inadequate at $7.50 per student, and there was little collaboration between NPL & MNPS librarians.


Starting with 4 pilot schools, NPL assessed the collections, weeded out the inappropriate items and settled on what items could be added. Additionally, we received generous funding from Ingram Digital to pilot 400 ebooks in the pilot schools and we purchased 50 netbooks for the schools to lend to the students. After expanding to all high schools and then all middle schools, we have registered 63% of the students, of which 15,000 had never had library cards before. The student data is ftp’ed to the library every night and student id’s serve as their library cards. The library also connected its courier system to MNPS’ delivery system so that students may request items from NPL or our ILL partners and have them delivered to their schools. By February of 2012, NPL had purchased 45,000 items for the schools, worked with the school librarians to withdraw over 70,000 out of date books and are delivering approximately 800 items a day to the schools. Additionally, all schools now meet state standards for collection size, have collections that include Playaways, DVD’s and ebooks. They also have netbooks and eReaders for checkout to the students. We are also collaborating in a systematic way for the first time and have partnered on Teen Read Week, Food For Fines, Battle of the Books, and School Library month.


We have met the goals of the program so that all collections in the 54 Limitless Libraries schools have been analyzed and inappropriate items removed, every school has 9 good items per student to meet State Standards and all schools have access to NPL materials. The average circulation increase is 130% for the schools and it is estimated that with the discounts negotiated with vendors, almost $172,000 in saving were realized. 83% of the school librarians believe Limitless Libraries is the reason for increased usage and visits to the library this year. 99% of school librarians believe that the material delivered from NPL is a good resource for students and helping them in the classroom. We now have 25,221 Registered LL Users which is 63% of MNPS Middle & High Students. 15,000 of those students had never had a library card before. This librarian says it best however We get asked at least 25 times a day, “Is the green bag here, yet?”. They want their books and other materials! We have even had students skip class to come to the library to check out materials from LL. They asked their teacher if they could go to the restroom and/or locker and showed up to the library instead. While I don’t want them to get in trouble, it is a testament to how much the program means to the students. They are also reading more! One student said, “I have to check out something for the weekend….I am grounded and need something to do.” Thanks again for all your help! I know there are more good things to come.” –Melissa Raines, Librarian, Dupont-Tyler Middle School We anticipate all elementary schools will be included in next year’s budget.