Remote Locker Allows Dearborn Students to Access Library Materials


Salina School Media Specialist Cindy Alvarado demonstrating how the remote library locker is used

As a conclusion to the Telegram's series, 'More Than Just Books', the focus this week is on the collaborative efforts of the Dearborn Public Library system and the library staff at Dearborn's Salina Intermediate School to get library materials into the hands of students.

The southeast end of Dearborn is a highly industrialized area, yet it is also home to a tight-knit population of recent immigrants, mainly from the Middle East. Within this community sits Dearborn's Salina Intermediate School, the location of Michigan's first remote library locker.

Most residents in this neighborhood bordered by factories and smokestacks are low-income and many do not speak English. For most, owning a car is not a possibility and access to reliable transportation is lacking. The remote library locker at Salina School means that for students who are unable to visit a library located several miles away, the library will come to them.

The remote library locker was made possible through a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant totaling $110,000. Dearborn Public Schools and the Dearborn Public Library partnered to install and maintain the remote locker. The location at Salina Intermediate School was chosen as it is an area of the city underserved by library services. Salina School's Media Specialist, Cindy Alvarado says, "We've been talking about access for this community because they are geographically isolated from the rest of Dearborn. It's difficult for parents to get their children to the library."

While Salina Intermediate does have a library for the students to use, as a school library, its collection is limited. The remote library locker enables students to access library materials from all three of Dearborn's public libraries. "It definitely expands the availability of materials that students can have," says Dearborn Public Library's Deputy Director, Julie Schaefer.

The remote locker is located in the community center which was constructed as an addition to the school in the early 2000s. Students use the community center's computer lab to access the Dearborn Public Library's website and place their orders for materials. Library staff retrieves the requested items and delivers them to the remote locker at Salina School. The student receives a notification e-mail when their order is ready for pick up and they are able to get it from the locker, which has 28 separate drawers for holding materials. The entire process takes less than two days. Most students acquire their items after school when the community center is open for tutoring and study time from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays.

Students are not the only ones using the remote library locker. Parents find the locker's location convenient for them as well, especially if transportation is unavailable. Alvarado says the remote locker is available to anyone in the community to use as long as they hold a Dearborn Public Library Card. Anything in the public library's collection can be placed on hold and delivered to the remote locker, including DVDs and video games. Schaefer says the most popular requested item is simply books. "It's good to work with the schools," she says of the library and school collaboration. "I think that anything that brings us on the same page is a good thing."

Schaefer also sees application of this program in other areas of the state as well. As this is the first such remote locker program in Michigan, other communities will be able to assess the program in Dearborn and see what works and what doesn't. Alvarado says, "I would recommend to other public libraries that if they have underserved areas like this one, that they have identified a need in, that they should look into it because I feel it's a very effective way to address that." So far, the program is a success and students are eager to obtain library material from the city's public libraries. When the remote library locker was first introduced this past January, librarians weren't sure it would be well received.

"We didn't know what was going to happen," Schaefer says. "It's been exciting, it's been fun. If you build it, they will come, that's how I've been feeling."

The remote locker is located at Salina Intermediate School, 2623 Salina Street in Dearborn. School Media Specialist, Cindy Alvarado can be reached at 313-827-6600 or at [email protected]. If you are interested in using the remote locker, be advised you must have a library card with the Dearborn Public Library. The community center at Salina Intermediate School is open 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday only. Dearborn Library Deputy Director Julie Schaefer can be reached at 313-943-2338 or at [email protected].


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