18 March 2021
RIPL bookmobile

Deepening community connections in a pandemic is no easy task, so it was a win-win when Rock Island Public Library found an opportunity to help digitally under-served Rock Island-Milan School District #41 students connect to remote and blended learning, and also increase their access to digital books.

In addition to city WiFi, Rock Island Public Library (RIPL) locations also host the District’s homework hotspots, known as ROCKfi (Reaching Our Community’s Kids with fidelity.) Hotspots are located at RIPL’s Downtown and Southwest Library buildings, and more recently, onboard the roaming Library2Go mobile library. Students can use RIPL sites and bookmobile stops to connect to instructional materials and live lessons through their school district-issued Chromebook or a personal device.

“What’s unique is that we can move homework hotspots around to the areas of greatest need by using Library2Go,” said Angela Campbell, library director. The mobile library visits 12 sites each week, many in digitally-underserved neighborhoods of Rock Island and Milan.  

Students sign onto ROCKfi with their school-issued ID.  While one-hour appointments for WiFi-only tables are available inside the library, access is expected to increase with more outside use.

“Like other libraries with bookmobiles, we pressed our mobile library into service last year as a traveling hotspot. We saw plenty of patrons sitting outside to access WiFi, and we expect that to continue,” Campbell added. Other ROCKfi access points are at schools, subsidized apartments, mobile home parks, churches, and restaurants in the Rock Island-Milan school and public library community.

That enhanced connectivity came just in time for the December 2020 introduction of another school-public library partnership, the OverDrive SORA app. School district library personnel, administration, and RIPL staff collaborated to introduce SORA as part of a shared goal to increase student access to digital materials, especially during remote learning.

Through SORA, students may borrow from the district’s collection of classroom and pleasure reading as well as from Rock Island Public Library’s juvenile and young adult OverDrive collection. As part of the partnership, RIPL is adding more titles to its collection in the Online Media of Northern Illinois (OMNI) Libraries OverDrive consortium.  Students log in with their school credentials, which enables access to all students in the district. If they like what they see, full-access physical and digital-only RIPL cards are available for ages 14 and older.

By combining access to RIPL and RIMSD K-12 eBooks and digital audiobooks into one app, the partnership provides students with thousands of age-appropriate titles for reading inside the classroom, at home, and anywhere else. Teacher resources are also included in the app.

“We are thrilled to help Rock Island-Milan School District students of all ages gain easy, seamless access to our public library’s digital OverDrive collection,” added Susan Foster, Director of Children's Services for the Rock Island Public Library. 

About our organizations: The Rock Island-Milan School District #41 (RIMSD#41) is a PreK-12 public school district that encompasses the City of Rock Island and Village of Milan with 14 school locations.

Submitted by: Rock Island Public Library