During last week’s State of the Schools address, Superintendent Scott Smith read and answered a few questions written by the audience.
“At least eight Maryland school systems have worked with their county libraries to get fine-free library cards for all students,” Smith read from a yellow sheet of paper. “Parents may opt out. There’s no cost to parents or the school and students have access to the library online resources. May we work with you on that?”
“Who wrote that?” Smith asked the audience.
Michael Blackwell, the director of St. Mary’s County Library, fessed up as the culprit. Smith thanked him for his question and answered “yes.”
St. Mary’s public library branches have been attempting to give all students free library cards. They already gave some to a class at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center. Mike Egan, principal of the Forrest center, thanked Blackwell for the cards he provided to his students, including the “huge database” that comes with it.
“It really saved us here at the Forrest center because we have a great [substitute teacher] in there, but they are not a CAD person,” the principal said during the Nov. 13 event.
While the Forrest center looks for a new computer aided design teacher, St. Mary’s libraries gave each student free library cards and access to lynda.com. The website shows tech-related videos for those interested in pursuing computers as a career, Blackwell said.
He said the students’ library cards would be the same as their school ID numbers, “so it’s easy for them to remember. They then can use that to access our online resources including our e-books or audio e-books,” Blackwell said, adding the card will not grant them DVDs because they want to encourage reading.
No fines are associated with the card. “What we find is the books do come back,” Blackwell told The Enterprise.
Mary Anne Bowman, the library’s deputy director, said this initiative is already being done in Calvert.
“I think it’s a little more complicated than we think, which is why it hasn’t happened yet,” she said.
Blackwell said he does not have a status on the library cards at the moment and added they have been talking to the school system about this for a couple of years now. However, he’s hoping it will be implemented by next school year. He said the school system had some security concerns and added the details are still being worked out.