Scholar Card: The Key to Academic Success!

It’s been an incredible week at San Francisco Public Library since the launch of the Scholar Card. What’s the Scholar Card, you might ask? This is an exclusive SFPL library card for all San Francisco Unified School District students in PreK – High School. With over 57,000 SFUSD students and 130 public schools in San Francisco, our goal is for every SFUSD student to activate their Scholar Card. Ambitious? We think not. What’s made this week so incredible is the positive response from SFUSD administrators, teachers, teacher librarians, parents, caregivers, and our own youth-serving librarians. With a streamlined library application process (read: no paper application and no parent/guardian signature required), we are hopeful that this will the key for students to access the myriad of resources that help them achieve academic success.

With Scholar Cards, for free, students can:

  •        Access Library research databases
  •        Access language learning tools
  •        Receive online homework help
  •        Borrow digital materials such as e-books, e-audiobooks and magazines
  •        Stream video and music
  •        Borrow up to 50 print, audio books, DVDs or CDs
  •        Borrow museum and attraction passes through Discover & Go

We definitely have listened to our community and understand that many students already have SFPL library cards that have accrued late fees from lost items. Guess what, folks? With the activation of the Scholar Card, SFUSD students will start off with a “clean slate,” which means we will waive all pre-existing fees. Building off our hugely successful Fine Forgiveness Program earlier this year, I’d say our patrons are pretty happy with us right now. All joking aside, we’re thrilled that we reach back out to students that may have stopped coming to the Library because of a record that prevents them from checking out materials. With summer fast approaching, we’re hoping to see a lot of students coming to our libraries for our annual summer learning program: Summer Stride.

Pick your favorite Scholar Card design!
Christian Robinson at our launch event seeing the Scholar Cards for the first time.

Did I mention that SFUSD students will be able to select a special, limited edition commemorative Library card designed by award-winning local artist Christian Robinson, courtesy, Leo, Chronicle Books? This is multi-pronged partnership story and we’re so thankful our partners at Chronicle Books who have been instrumental to bringing Christian Robinson’s incredibly infectious and lovable art to the Scholar Card. Wouldn’t you want a cat Library Card?

How did this happen for SFPL? Well, it definitely took an incredible amount of research, diligence, determination, allies and supporters at the highest levels, and above all shrewd strategy to see how our library system could partner with our local school district within the constraints of student privacy. We’re so glad to join our colleagues in other library systems throughout the nation that also have developed similar programs as a response to the ConnectED Library Challenge and greatly appreciated learning about their victories and challenges at conferences, webinars, and more. Developed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and initiated by the Obama administration, the ConnectED Library Challenge called upon library directors to work with their mayors and school leaders to strengthen partnerships so that every child enrolled in school can receive a library card and have access to the books and learning resources of America’s public libraries.

At the launch event on April 13, the Library Commission President Wardell Ghirarduzzi said, “I know, as President Obama knew, that libraries transform lives…They are spaces of equity and inclusion, especially for our most marginalized in society. Today we provide a basic human right of access to knowledge through the district wide-unveiling of Scholar Cards. I’m so proud to be part of this transformation for the youngest residents of San Francisco.” We couldn’t agree more!

We’re just at the beginning of the new partnership with our school district and we’re humble and eager to learn the lessons that lay ahead. For now, our staff is spreading the word to as many  SFUSD students as we can before school lets out before in May. We’re ready to welcome them into the library with their new Scholar Cards. Cat library cards for every SFUSD student!

Cristina Mitra is the Family Engagement Coordinator at San Francisco Public Library where she leads citywide programming and partnerships for youth and their families. She is also a member of the ALSC School Age Programs & Services Committee and Program Coordinating Committee. She welcomes your questions about the Scholar Card at cristina.mitra[at]sfpl.org.

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