Grand Forks Secondary School looks to add ebooks

Grand Forks Secondary School vice-principal Shawn Lockhart thinks digital books will address concerns about the library.

Grand Forks Secondary School vice-principal Shawn Lockhart thinks digital books will address the concerns surrounding the library at the high school.

Grand Forks Secondary School vice-principal Shawn Lockhart thinks digital books will address the concerns surrounding the library at the high school.

Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS) vice-principal Shawn Lockhart thinks digital books will address the concerns surrounding the library at the high school.

The school replaced the library with a gym to meet the growing health concerns that face kids these days, Lockhart said.

“The library we had was a very large space and it contained a lot of reading material, and sadly only about 20 per cent of those books were used,” he said at the school board meeting last Tuesday.

After the creation of the gym, there was a newly renovated space, the Distance Learning Centre (DLC), and Karen de Wynter, the new librarian at the time, wanted to bring an e-shelf of books into the space.

“I then talked to the administration and Sean Anderson, the past librarian, to discuss this adventure and they thought it would be a good idea,” said de Wynter in an email to the Gazette.

“The students in our school rarely go anywhere without their cell phones/iPod etc so I am hoping once this is up and running they can easily access the novels that have been purchased on their devices,” she said.

The school has purchased 91 online books (ebooks), which de Wynter said is just “baby steps,” but she is looking at potential resources that can be accessed by teachers to use in their classrooms and adding to the collection of novels down the road.

There is room to study in the DLC, which is where a portion of the books from the library have been transferred to, the multipurpose room, the seniors study lounge or the counseling area, said Lockhart.

However, Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teachers’ Association, told the Gazette that ebooks cannot replace the library. “The library is more than just books, it’s a place for the students to study and learn,” he said. “The old library was a great safe space for the kids.”

Lockhart said that the library did not represent an ideal study model.

“Some kids went in there and studied, but it was more of a social hangout,” he said.

The school district is optimistic that the ebooks will be a cost saving measure.

The purchase of 91 ebooks was approximately $1,000 which is comparable to the cost of hard copy books, said de Wynter.

“What’s cheaper is that they are not going to get lost, damaged or wear out. It’s the longevity of potential savings, your copy will be just as fresh and robust and graffiti free as the person who read it the first time,” said  Superintendent of Schools Michael Strukoff.

The ebooks can be read and viewed on a laptop, tablet reader, computer or a phone and because the school offers a wireless Internet connection, students will be able to access the books on their own device.

Sabourin’s concern is for children who come from families who cannot afford phones or tablets.

Strukoff said it’s something that the district has to address.

“We need to ensure there is adequate devices for students that forgot them at home or for people that don’t have them or cannot afford them,” he said.

Currently the school has 24 iPads, which can be used by the students, as well as three computer labs.

“Right now it is a non-issue and we will make sure that no students get left behind,” said Strukoff.

Ebooks will not be replacing hard copy books as not all students have devices but they are there to supplement and enhance our library experience, said de Wynter.

When the system is all up and running, which will begin after spring break, students will be able to sign out a book and in two weeks it will be automatically returned if the student hasn’t returned it earlier.

“We have more access to books than we have ever had, ever, and we have increased our space for physical daily activity, so I feel pretty good about where we are,” said Lockhart.