Library Resources for Digital Learning

Library Resources for Digital Learning


Whether you realize it or not, your library no longer contains just books on a shelf waiting to be checked out. Libraries have many free resources that are accessible from home, ranging from encyclopedias and reference materials to magazines, journals, newspapers, test prep materials, career skill builders, financial information, language learning, and short courses of all kinds.  As digitization projects have become more frequent, and as eBooks, eMagazines, and eAudio has become more popular and accessible, students and educators can have all the information they need for learning, fun, and for individual growth by exploring online library resources. In addition to information sources, many libraries have online programming from story time, to book clubs, to online classes. They sky is the limit when it comes to online learning!

Whether your student is in the lower grades or in middle or high school, they will need and want library resources from time to time. Fortunately, there has never been a better time to access resources for digital learning than now.

Your Local School and Public Libraries

One of the best places to start is with your school library or your local public library. They frequently have resources that you might not know about, but a librarian can help you find them. Some adults have memories of librarians being stern and shushing people, but these days librarians are not like that at all. Think of them as live Google help. They can help you find what you need and will track down resources to help you. They can answer all kinds of reference questions, help you find pictures of orangutangs or the rain forest, help you find articles for a research paper, or help you find information on rocket scientists. Just ask!

Public libraries often have special collections for teachers and home educators as well. Of course, libraries still have many print books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, etc. at their physical location, too. A service that some people might not know about is called interlibrary loan. Interlibrary loan is when someone wants a book or article that their local library doesn’t have, but another library does. The local library requests the item from another library (anywhere in the country!) and it is delivered to your local library for pick up. During COVID, even if some library services are limited, librarians are still working and available for you. If you can’t come in, they can do curbside pick-up. To find out what your library has available, start by going to your school or public library website. If you need help, contact a librarian by phone, email or chat. They are there to help you!

Specific Resources

The following resources can be accessed directly by parents, students, and educators. They are free to the public.

  • Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL)
    TEL is a collection of over 400,000 resources for all ages that is available to all Tennessee residents. You can see a short video about TEL here. Resources for students, educators, and the general public are grouped by age and subject. TEL contains the World Book Encyclopedia, historical newspapers, Tennessee primary sources, article databases, homework help, test prep, career exploration, genealogy resources and much more.

  • Tennessee READS
    Tennessee READS is a statewide collection of thousands of eBooks, eAudiobooks, Videos, and eMagazines for all ages that is available to Tennessee residents. You can sign in with your local library card number with your mobile phone number. These resources are able to be used on multiple platforms. The Libby app is available for tablets and mobile devices.

  • Library of Congress
    The Library of Congress is our national library. Thanks to an emphasis on digital collections, we can enjoy an amazing array of online resources for free. Collections include historical pictures and documents, primary sources, map collections, historical sound and video recordings, and much more. There are also online programs for children and families including author programs and activities. Teachers and home educators will appreciate the classroom materials, information about primary sources, and professional development.

  • Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
    DPLA is a non-profit organization that collects digital resources from dozens of archives and libraries from across the country and makes them accessible for free to educators, students, and the general public. Users can browse by topic or by institutional collections, such as the New York Public Library or the National Archives.

  • Smithsonian Institution
    According to their website, “the Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum, education, and research complex.” Although fun to visit in person, the Smithsonian also has a ton of free resources, online exhibitions, and learning experiences from art to history, to science to nature, and beyond. Children and teens can find all sorts of resources here from coloring pages, to digital puzzles, and games, all oriented for learning. Educators have their own area which includes more information about distance learning resources.

While not exhaustive, this list should help you get started with resources for digital learning. In addition to libraries, any organization with a website may have free digital learning resources. For instance, the National Park Foundation  and NASA both have virtual tours, while the Shedd Aquarium  and the San Diego Zoo both post informative videos about their inhabitants. Other virtual zoos can be found here! Farther away,  The British Museum,  the Louvre,  and the Vatican allow users to virtually view their collections.

So, whether you are an educator, parent, or student, there are many information sources waiting for you at your library. Choose one and get started!