November 29, 2021

John A. Williams on Connecting Library Resources to Student Learning, Connecting to the Common Core, and other factors impacted by the Digital Shift

John A. WilliamsOn October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.

Follett is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to John A. Williams, Director of Digital Products for Follett School Solutions, to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital experiences.

LJ: How do you see the digital shift enabling collaborations and how are these new kinds of partnerships changing the library user experience?

JW: The goal for schools to deliver digital content at the point of learning has created opportunities for partners across all areas of “digital.” Today, ebook distributors, publishers, library management systems, learning management systems, and student information systems must define and deliver a consistent user experience that focus on key areas like discoverability, single sign-on access, reporting, and ease of use for library patrons. New partnerships are forming and data standards are being defined to help schools make informed decisions.

Now that the digital shift and mobile and tablet use are converging to create an expectation of accessing library materials everywhere, how is the library world rising to that challenge, how must we modify user experience to cross screens successfully, and how do we best serve those still struggling with the digital divide?

Libraries across the world are shifting more of their budgets toward the purchase of digital content.  As content standards evolve from PDF, to EPUB and beyond, the challenge facing libraries is how to ensure content availability across devices of yesterday as well as the latest devices today. Successful library programs provide patrons with clear information in the discovery experience that helps them select the appropriate content for their device. Many schools have adopted one-to-one programs to help support those students without access to devices for digital consumption.

How are you and your library partners assessing the impact of the content they provide on their patrons?

School libraries are being asked more and more to connect library resources to student learning. In the past, circulation data was the key indicator for effective materials in the library. Today schools are requiring vendors to connect circulation data to assessments and standards to help measure the impact of digital content purchases. Lately there have been more and more requests to provide additional teacher specific features and measure the usage of these specific features. Teacher usage of digital content tends to be one of the key indicators of the impact of digital content on student learning.

In communities that are implementing the Common Core, what changes in content focus and curriculum support have your customers been asking for?

Customers have really been looking for more focused lessons that meet the skills requirements of CCSS. Teachers want to dig deep into content with students and give them opportunities to think, evaluate and synthesize and apply what they are learning. The content itself becomes a bit secondary, but if it supports the teacher in building the types of skills necessary to perform on Common Core Assessments they are all ears. Performance tasks that require students to demonstrate skills learned as well as parent engagement activities are in high demand.