In April 2013, a Sunday morning fire at Lilian J. Rice Elementary in Chula Vista, Calif., ruined their computer lab and damaged their library. They had been looking into eBooks and audiobooks as a possibility for the future, but seeing as their students no longer had a library to visit, they had to make that decision quicker than anticipated. I had a chance to speak with Principal Ernesto Villanueva about their transition to eBooks and OverDrive, and what it’s been like for their school.


How did you go about making the decision for OverDrive and eBooks?

We were facing the reality of going without a library for at least one year after the fire. We looked for a silver lining, and luckily had already researched OverDrive. We chose OverDrive because it was a tried-and-true company; many of our surrounding schools and the public library already had it, and the personal experience gave us confidence to move forward.

What have you and your students found most helpful in getting acquainted with the service?

For staff, OverDrive gives immediate access to react and respond to what students want to read. We started out with around 125 titles, and immediately could see what was popular. When there are six or seven students on a waiting list, the first thing you want to do is buy more copies so students feel they have a voice and a role in their academic program. They can also recommend titles, so it’s more of a “What would you like to read?” rather than “This is what we have.” We also had the Digital Bookmobile at a great time, when we were just getting started, and this helped “demystify” this new service we had.

What are your plans for your physical library?

We are developing an instructional media center and our collection will consist of more eBooks than physical books. What we are building won’t be what it was before, and having a digital library allows us to have more actual space to enhance the different opportunities – kids will be able to come in and have access to pictures, videos, online content, tablets, laptops, and handhelds. They’ll be able to work as individuals but also as groups in a campfire-like setup. We need furniture and space to provide all these different settings, and with eBooks taking the place of some of the physical books, it makes it possible.

What are some of the other benefits you’ve noticed so far?

We are able to share this with the parents, staff and students. Parents enjoy what their children are able to do, staff members now have access to professional reading materials at any time, and for students, access to high-quality books that continue to foster literacy as a school-wide focus is available 24/7. Promoting literacy for enjoyment as well as improving reading foundations is now easier, and ultimately, we feel that our students deserve ongoing access wherever they are. They have that opportunity because of the publishers that OverDrive works with, and we found that other companies are limited in their scope or selection.


Interest from the students at Lilian J. Rice Elementary School has been increasing steadily each month (with the exception of March when it skyrocketed), and they’ve already quadrupled their checkouts in April when compared to January. OverDrive is delighted to be a part of the process that has turned misfortune into gain for the entire school, and we congratulate them on a job well done!

Click here to learn more about getting started with OverDrive eBooks at your school.


Beau Livengood is an Account Specialist at OverDrive.

Comments are closed.