Esparto students gets special issued cards from Yolo County Library

The library forgave around $123,000 in youth fines in January, and Fink says that in the last few months they are already able to see changes in library involvement
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Photo by Rosemary Hemenway for the Winters Express

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The Esparto school district has partnered with the Yolo County Library to give every student a public library card that is linked to their student ID. This program, named the Student Success Initiative, is a pilot program that will eventually roll out to other school districts in Yolo County.

Yolo County Librarian Mark Fink says that it “just made sense” to kick off the Student Success Initiative after forgiving minors’ fines at the beginning of 2019. Both initiatives, the fine forgiveness and the school issued library card, have the same purpose: To make the library more accessible for minors. Knowing that every Esparto student would soon have a library card, it was important to the Yolo County Library to ensure that every student would be capable of using it.

The library forgave around $123,000 in youth fines in January, and Fink says that in the last few months they are already able to see changes in library involvement. Anecdotally, librarians have seen more involvement in library programs. Fink believes that parents are less worried about their children incurring fines, and that this leads to greater family engagement with the library services.

“It’s definitely created a space where we have more kids and they borrow more,” Fink says.

In the Esparto school district, the library has now issued 900 student cards, which are printed with original artwork by an Esparto student.

What makes these school-issued cards different, apart from their design, is their account number. Each student’s library account number is now the same as their student ID number, which remains the same throughout the student’s time in the Esparto School District.

The purpose of this simple change is to make library materials more accessible to students. Now they can check out library materials even if they don’t have their physical library card, all because of easy access to their student ID.

The first of these types of programs began in Napa County two years ago, through a partnership between the Napa County Library and the Napa Unified School District. Jennifer Baker of the Napa Unified School District, says that this program has been one of the best things they have done.

“We’re really proud of it,” Baker says.

In Napa, as in Yolo, library access for students means more than the ability to check out books. Both Baker and Fink say that the school and the libraries are working to educate students about the resources available though the library website. In Yolo County, library card holders can access study tools for the SAT and GED, encyclopedia articles in English and Spanish, language learning tools and California history flashcards.

Baker says that the schools in Napa often remind parents of all the resources they can use on long weekends or school breaks, like audiobooks and museum passes.

“This has been huge,” Baker says. Of the 18,000 students who have been enrolled in the program in the last two years, only six have opted out.

Now Napa is helping school districts across the state implement similar programs. Solano County, Sonoma County and San Rafael County are all starting their own versions of the Student Success Initiative, with some help from Napa.

In Yolo County, the library is still learning what will happen in Esparto. It took a year of preparation to implement the Student Success Initiative in the Esparto School District. Fink hopes that, now that they have done it once, the setup will be faster with subsequent Yolo County school districts.

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