December 10, 2023

Making the Shift: A School Librarian Considers the Douglas County Ebook Model


By Phil Goerner

The ability to stream all of my library’s digital content for students and staff to access on a range of personal devices—that’s my dream. At Douglas County Libraries (DCL) in Colorado, they’ve made it a reality.

In a DCL survey of its patrons, readership on digital devices has risen more than 25 percent over the past year, according to Jamie LaRue, DCL’s director, who delivered a presentation on ebooks at Barnes & Noble in Boulder, CO, April 12. That’s one reason why DCL has decided to purchase digital content and streaming services.

At my school—where I’ve seen my students turning increasingly to ereaders—we’d like that, too. But we want to have our online databases streamed via the same portal through which our students access ebooks. Working with Gale Cengage, LaRue says he’s striving to do just that, stream databases on DCL’s server.

In my library, we know what our kids are reading and what they might like to read next. DCL’s system works like that, as well; it collects reader history so the library can build recommendations based on past selections and other factors. This enables readers to make “serendipitous connections between books,” says LaRue.

Some librarians such as Carolyn Foote, district and high school librarian at Westlake High School Research Center in Austin, TX, are experimenting with OverDrive in their libraries. Others are moving to access their digital textbooks and online classrooms materials from the online textbook publisher themselves. I’d like to offer textbooks from my server, but don’t know if that’s possible. I do know that Michelle Luthala, library department chair of New Canaan (CT) High School, has been talking to LaRue about how this might work.

Say I achieve all of this in my library—how would I tell my students about it? LaRue has ideas on this, too. He’s helped establish a great online presence for DCL, that includes a promotional video. They’ve produced a mobile app and in their main branch, they use a huge 4×6 touch-screen display to show off their online books. They plan to install 12 more.

Another area that LaRue’s pioneering? They’re publishing patrons’ work at DCL and streaming it online. Self-publishing is a rapidly growing trend, and libraries can play a big role, says LaRue. Libraries have the opportunity to support aspiring writers by assisting in their research, connecting them with local authors, and introducing them to established editors or professionals involved in publicity and marketing. This is the stuff we’re already good at and now we’ll be able to publish and stream their work online.

LaRue is seeking partners who are willing to try purchasing digital content and streaming their collection using the cloud model. My neighboring school district is looking into purchasing servers to host online streaming and I would love my district to join them so that our library could offer my students their own books to download and enjoy.

About the Author:

Phil Goerner is teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, CO.



Photo by Johan Larsson.



  1. Kim Ackerman says:

    Great article that got me thinking about marketing ebooks in our school libraries. Watched Douglas County video and got more inspiration for changes. Thanks, Phil!

  2. Krista Brakhage says:

    Thanks for researching the eBook explosion. I would love to have a district vision for moving forward with eBooks and eContent in general. We’re purchasing eBooks from Follett but can’t figure out the download option, so students have to read the books on their laptops or computers. Students don’t have the permissions to download anything onto their district purchased laptops, so we’re trying to get the software as part of basic image for next year, but there are challenges there as well. It would be great if we, like Douglas County, could purchase our own content for our very large district.