Turning ‘screen time’ into a positive in the far North with an online library app

Sahtu educational council counters geographical challenges through digital library services

The Sahtu region of Canada’s Northwest Territories faces a unique challenge. For a remote region encompassing five towns and a total population of roughly 2,450, how do you get books to your students that don’t cost an arm and a leg?

Enter the OverDrive app, a digital e-book service that works with libraries, schools, and publishers—and is set to solve geographical barriers to access for the Sahtu Divisional Education Council.

“With OverDrive, we’re able to purchase digital copies of books that are available for students to sign out immediately,” says Wanda Quigg, school programs consultant for the education council.

“Not only does it solve the problem of time and shipping costs to get physical copies of books, but now libraries can never ‘lose’ a book again.”

Sahtu DEC first subscribed to OverDrive in December of 2017 for the roughly 500 students in the region.

Now, the next obstacles to tackle are purchasing more content onto the app and getting students familiar with its use, the latter of which Quigg estimates will take another two years.

“I’m really excited about the interactive feature of OverDrive, but we’re not quite there yet,” says Quigg. “Once we’re up and running, we’ll be able to track what our students are reading and students will even be able to send their notes and questions to teachers directly.”

The town of Norman Wells, the largest of the Sahtu region with a population of 800, is 73 kilometres away from the next closest town of Tulita. Being able to interconnect the five towns is almost a necessity in order to share educational materials.

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Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities near our operations, and our recent donation of $5,000 to the Sahtu DEC will purchase tablets for students and more online content for the OverDrive app.

Although most books are recreational use for now, Quigg says academic books are on the horizon: “Right now, I’m just trying to get the students familiar with using OverDrive for all of their reading. As the students grow up, I’m hoping it will become second nature to them.”

Purchasing the OverDrive service is an investment for Sahtu DEC. Although books are considerably more expensive to hold in an online library, it has clear benefits for isolated communities like those in the Sahtu region.

Around the world, OverDrive is also put to good use in remote communities throughout Africa and the Australian Outback.

For a community without bookstores, Quigg says the benefits have been felt immediately.

“We have access to current and popular books right now. We don’t have to wait for postal. I’m pleased to be able to offer that to our deserving students.”