A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Downloading Hope: Providing E-Books to Low-Income Students

by on June 29, 2015

In April, President Obama reported that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will provide support to Open eBooks Initiatives and ConnectED Library Challenge in an effort to allow e-book access to thousands of low-income students. The goal is to equip these students with the tools that they need to boost their literacy skills, educational opportunities, and appreciation for reading.

Open eBooks Initiatives is set to “make over $250 million in popular e-books from major publishers available, for free, to children from low-income families.” This will be accomplished through an app designed by New York Public Library, Digital Public Library of America, and First Book and funded by IMLS. The ConnecteED Library Challenge steps in by collaborating with 30 communities to ensure that every student has a library card and will be able to access these e-books.[1]

Not connected with this initiative, but a very timely piece, is Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Op-Ed “The Power of Hope is Real.” Nicholas Kristof is a journalist who brings awareness to social injustice, global poverty, and economic struggles on a global and national landscape. He and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, authored Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and, more recently, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. His latest addition to his regular column discusses hope and begs the question: “Could hopelessness and stress create a ‘poverty trap’ — abroad or here in the U.S. — in which people surrender to a kind of whirlpool of despair?”[2] Bringing in randomized studies and statistics, Kristof explains that one’s motivation and outlook on life can dramatically brighten when given a ray of sunshine (hope).

As librarians, we can all agree that a major perk of the job is helping people by introducing them to resources, websites, and books that can change their day, week, month, or even their life. Personally, as the Business Liaison Librarian, one of my favorite moments is when I teach a job seekers course to participants who feel overwhelmed and disgruntled with the job search process. However, after class they are now equipped with new search strategies, effective databases, and optimism. I know that you have similar stories too.

It’s in this spirit that the White House proposal with IMLS, Open eBooks Initiatives, and ConnectED Library Challenge is truly valuable. The inspiration, enthusiasm, and hope for the future that these students (and their parents) experience when they are introduced to a new world of literacy, education, and opportunity are what really matter.


[1] “President Obama Announces Open EBooks and ConnectED Library Challenge.” Press Releases. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.

[2] Kristof, Nicholas. “The Power of Hope Is Real.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 May 2015. Web. 21 May 2015.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,