100 Scope Notes
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Lending E-Readers in the School Library (Part II: Planning)

Part I: Background

We just started an e-reader lending program in my 5th and 6th grade school library and I plan to share my experiences until there ain’t no more experiences left to share. Am I an expert on the matter? Nay. If you have questions, comments, or a “hey dude, you forgot something”, let’s hear it in the comments.

Let’s begin today with a headline (click it to read):

Ownership of E-Readers, Tablets Almost Doubles in One Month

In the span of 30 days, we went from 10% of the population to 19% of the population owning some form of e-reader? Dang. If what I’m reading about e-books eliminating cover shame are true, it time to get into the romance novel biz. The explosion of e-readers is staggering to consider.

Okay, so you’re feeling like the time is now. You want to start offering e-readers to students. Let’s talk planning. We’ll mostly hit the hardware this time and save talk of e-books for a whole ‘nother post.


Buffy Hamilton, 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker has been sharing her e-reader insights on her blog and through a LibGuide – both of which have been valuable resources.

More recently, School Library Journal published an article titled The Truth About Tablets, a must-read on the topic. If you’re considering a e-reader program, get over there and check it out.

Grade level

Before you begin an e-reader program, you should ask yourself who the program is for. I work in a situation where grade levels are grouped by school building, so I have K-2, 3-4, and 5-6 schools. Considering the limitations of the device, the cost, and the intended use, it seemed like beginning with 5th and 6th graders was the place to start. We’re also offering e-readers to middle school and high school students in my district.


When looking at a program dependent on electronic devices, the dollars and cents immediately come into play. I urge you to get creative. The funds for our program came from a grant we submitted at the beginning of the school year. If your library budget is tight and no grant opportunities are working, write up a proposal and submit it to your administration. Any school looking to stay current should at least give it a bit of consideration.

The beauty is, the prices of e-readers are coming down so quickly, cost is becoming a non-issue. Folks are already wondering if the Kindle will be free in the near future. The Nook is now free if you purchase a subscription to the New York Times.

Basically, the day is fast approaching when you’ll be getting e-readers as junk mail. “Not another e-reader!” you’ll moan. A national Do Not Send Me an E-Reader list will be created if you are being bombarded by e-reader device spam in your mailbox.

However you ante up the funds, don’t forget to factor in these costs when budgeting:

  • A protection plan of some sort. Everyone offers them, but for a library circulation, it is essential. Basically, these are like insurance policies for your e-reader. Accidental break? No problem to exchange for a new one. Although we’ve only been circulating our e-readers for a few weeks, the protection plan has already come into play.
  • A decent case. Initially we were going to circulate the e-readers in neoprene sleeves, but at the last minute wised up and purchased more rigid cases. Considering that these things may find their way into backpacks, having something sturdy is a good idea.
  • E-books. Because you sort of need them and forgetting to include them in the budget would be very embarrassing.


Requiring some form of parent/guardian permission slip seems a wise move (send me an email if you’d like to see the one we used). From a school district standpoint, this is especially true if the device has internet access (folks tend to get all permission-y when internet access is involved). We’re circulating Nook Simple Touch e-readers, which don’t have an advertised web browser (there’s a hidden, very poor one though), so that lessens the internet access issue. The best bet is to work with your school district technology director to see what’s acceptable. Permission slips can get legal-y in a hurry though, so push for brevity when possible.


Once the e-reader is checked out, where are students allowed to take them? Some options:

  • Take Them Home

I’m of the mind that kids should be able to check our e-readers out and bring them home. That can be a scary thing to consider (librarian fear is directly correlated to cost of item in question), but who is the e-reader program for? The importance of providing access should outweigh concerns about lost/damaged devices. And with the cost dropping (see above) that worry will soon be off the table.

  • At School Only

It’s also an option to circulate the e-readers within the school. I’ve spoken with a fellow school librarian who had to go this route due to internet filtering rules in their district. It wouldn’t hurt to look into this with your school technology department before making final decisions.

  • Teachers

Aside from students checking them out individually, another possibility is loading up some books that classrooms use for literature circles. It’s likely if you did this you’d want to get enough to outfit a whole classroom. I don’t see everyone being pleased if one or two groups have e-readers and other groups do not.

Next time we’ll talk e-reader devices.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Thanks for the (entertaining) analysis. Our school district may need to wait until the devices start pouring in as junk mail – but who knows – our budget woes could disappear before then.

  2. Suzanne Jackson says

    We are going the “teacher checkout for literature group” route. Why? Because our students have emotional/behavior issues. I already cry when a book comes back with every page torn (or should I say the remnants of a book). I’d probably be on a three-day-jag if the Nooks came back in the same shape as some of the Playaways.

    Bonus is that because of this we have very small classroom sizes. So, we can have a sets of 6 (and maybe a class needs one or two sets) and load them up with award nominees for a much lower price than buying one copy of the nominated book.

  3. Right now we are only able to afford two ereaders, both Nooks, for our elementary school library. I will use them as one of our library learning centers so that all of the students have a chance to experience them.

  4. I aquired 32 Color NOOKs at the beginning of this school year. They are used in classrooms during the day and students only check them out overnight (3:35 to 8:20 the next morning). I have them in the leather cover and send them home in a large ziplock bag the keep the bottom of the bookbag grunge away. I have 7th and 8th grade. It is working out well. I would like to see a copy of the agreement you have for parents and students.

  5. I need nonfiction books to put on the Color NOOKs, fiction is no problem. I need nonfiction books that go along with the 7th and 8th grade curriculum so that the NOOKs can be used in all classrooms. I have subscribed to Science World magazine. I have found only one or two appropriate nonfictions I can download. I would appreciate any suggestions.

  6. I have 1 Ipad, 1 Nook, and 2 Sony Readers. I had a third Sony Reader, but it was left in a car during the winter one night, and the screen cracked. Note to self, right?

    I use them to provide books to students that we don’t have. The ICPL has given me a library card that I can use with Overdrive, and it works out very well. If a kid or teacher want’s a book, and I can get it quickly, and it’s a one-time only book, then pow. There it is!

  7. Evelyn House says

    This is my second year of using a classroom set of nook color ereaders. I teach 7th and 8th grade English. We have 270 novels for the kids but I have found the educational apps and loading my short stories and author videos (mostly from utube downloads) to be a tremendous incentive and time saver during instruction. We also loan out the nook wifi 3g’s (discontinued but plentiful on ebay) to students to read over the weekend and holidays. A/R testing has skyrocketed since we started. The 3g’s can be updated without wireless by the students at home when we add a book. I see the possibilities and imaginative ways to use the ereaders as endless.