UCS, libraries roll out virtual library card program

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 25, 2017

UTICA — The Suburban Library Cooperative and Utica Community Schools recently entered into a partnership that will allow all of the district’s 28,000 students the opportunity to, at no cost, become virtual library card holders.

The ConnectED initiative allows each student to access a variety of online content, including downloadable e-books, audiobooks, magazines, music, personal tutor services and more, at the click of a mouse or touch of a finger.

Parents just need to sign students up, and schools will be rolling out the program during their annual curriculum nights.

Once signed up, students can access library materials from the Utica Community Schools home page from anywhere with an internet connection. Students with virtual library cards can also come into participating libraries to sign up for a physical library card.

Suburban Library Cooperative Director Tammy Turgeon and the Shelby Township, Utica, Sterling Heights, Clinton-Macomb and Ray Township libraries brought the idea to Utica Community Schools Superintendent Christine Johns a few months ago.

Shelby Township Library Director Katie Ester provided examples of real-life scenarios in which UCS students in kindergarten through 12th grade can access the free databases for personal and academic gain during a Sept. 22 kickoff event at the Shelby Township Library.

“That means students who leave ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in their lockers over the weekend can download a copy right to their tablet through the library. It means when you’ve got a famous-person report due tomorrow, you can use our databases to look for that information at home in your pajamas,” she said. “They can get music and full issues of popular magazines, all digital.”

Ester said the program gives students a new way to appreciate the importance of public libraries for their education, and that they will go on to utilize the resource as college students and adults.

“It’ s a component of lifelong learning, and they can teach their children the importance of public libraries,” she said.

Kerry Brown, 13, a Shelby Junior High School student and Macomb Township resident, demonstrated how to log on and access library materials through the virtual library card during the Shelby Township Library’s kickoff event.

Brown said she is excited to use the library’s resources, citing the constant ways technology is evolving to benefit students in their coursework.

“Kids can be nervous coming in to get help, and face-to-face they don’t know what to ask, but it’s easy if you can just do it from home and get your answers from a live tutor without having to guess and check,” she said.

The virtual library card automatically includes services from a new package offered through tutor.com, which provides resources and live one-on-one sessions with real, certified tutors.

“I’m really excited about this program because it will give all students access to information some of them cannot get now,” Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “I’m convinced it will make our creative students more creative, our curious students more curious as they learn, and these students that have thinking skills will be bigger thinkers.”

The Suburban Library Cooperative’s goal is to provide each student in Macomb County with the virtual library card program.

Utica Community Schools and Chippewa Valley Schools, two of the largest districts in the county, will test out the program in the hopes that it will become available to all of the schools throughout the county, according to Johns.

For more information, visit www.uticak12.org or call the Shelby Township Library at (586) 739-7414.