Daphne, AL - Charlotte Lauderdale was no stranger to Big Universe when she interviewed with Principal Mark Doherty for the Library Media Specialist position at Daphne East Elementary. “I personally have been using Big Universe for about seven years, because I worked for another district that had Big Universe’s district license,” she explains. The digital library made an impression. “I mentioned Big Universe during my interview.”
After hearing about Big Universe from Ms. Lauderdale — and hiring her — Principal Doherty decided to purchase the program for one year. That was four years ago. Now Daphne East Elementary is one of seven schools in the Baldwin County School District using Big Universe. The school hasn’t received library enhancement money from the state for some time, and in an environment where educators are tasked with doing more with less, Big Universe has proven to be a smart investment. “We use it to get more books into students’ hands,” says Ms. Lauderdale. “The value for the number of books you get is great.”
Big Universe Fills Funding Gaps and Proves Versatile
Big Universe’s more than 10,000 eBooks serve Daphne East and its 1,087 K-6 grade students in a number of ways. For example, the school utilizes the Accelerated Reader (AR) program. Students often are assigned AR books from Big Universe on their iPads or Chromebooks, and then take quizzes on the content to assess their learning.
Big Universe also has been instrumental in a new district push to offer more personalized and differentiated reading instruction. “This year, our county is training a team of educators at each school on Guided Reading,” Ms. Lauderdale says. This approach, in which educators work with small groups of students with similar reading levels, requires multiple copies of the same guided reading text. Daphne East wouldn’t typically have the funds to purchase enough Guided Reading sets for the number of students enrolled. Thanks to Big Universe, students can easily access the same book on their personal devices.
“I also use Big Universe in my library classes,” Ms. Lauderdale adds. Her third grade classes enjoy creating their own books with Big Universe’s writing component, while older students use the digital library to expand access to books available to them at their reading levels. “We have a lot of students in the upper grades, 6t h grade especially, who ask for specific reading levels,” says Ms. Lauderdale. The school can’t house a wide variety of books at 7th grade or higher levels in its physical library, but Ms. Lauderdale can direct students to Big Universe. She says she often reminds them: “‘Guys, we have 10,000 books in this digital library. It’s like we basically have a second library.’”
An Essential Line Item in School and Library Budgets
After the first year of using Big Universe, Principal Doherty renewed it for another two years using school funds. When it was time to discuss renewal for the 2016-17 and 2018-19 school years, Big Universe was a must-have despite a shrinking budget. Ms. Lauderdale offered to pay for the subscription with library fundraising money to ensure students and educators have access. “I didn’t want it to be an if,” says Ms. Lauderdale. “I wanted to make sure we had it.”