PORTLAND — The Portland Public Library and the School Department have teamed up to create a new library card designed to increase the accessibility and visibility of the library to students and their families.

Called SEED, for Student Education, Entertainment, and Discovery, the card is being piloted to students at Reiche Elementary and King Middle schools this month, with a plan to expand the program to all of the city’s schools in the future.

The hope is that the new card will “enhance students’ opportunities to read, learn and engage,” according to a School Department press release.

Every student and staff member at Reiche and King, even if they already have a library card, will receive a SEED card, which will “enable them to use any of the library’s locations and online resources and borrow up to three items at a time (with) no overdue fees for late books,” the department said.

Sarah Campbell, executive director at the library, said “SEED cards give students more opportunities to pursue their interests, build their curiosity, and strengthen their learning through the library’s collections and programs.”

She said the SEED card is not only beneficial to students and their families, but also to the library because it helps “(us) to build a stronger relationship with them.”

Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said “I believe that providing public library cards for all of our students and staff is a surefire way to bring all of the library’s resources to Portland families with maximum ease and convenience.”

In the press release, the School Department said the SEED card is “part of a national movement … to increase collaboration among school superintendents, library directors, and elected officials with the goal to improve education outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, and create a framework for an integrated approach to education.”

Campbell said that in addition to access to books, the SEED card also ensures “every student has equal access to electronic resources as teachers are increasingly using eResources in the classroom and for homework.”

Many school children in Portland already have a library card, but the goal with the SEED card is to provide a “better understanding of the resources available to them at the library, access to anytime at-home reading and learning and (to encourage) involvement in the extensive programming we have for both children and teens,” Campbell said.

What makes the SEED card different, is that there’s no physical card needed. Students can simply use their School Department ID number to identify themselves.

To roll out the SEED card, Campbell said, “we expect to have many classes visit the library (and) teachers will (also) explain to their students how to use SEED cards to access (the library’s) eResources for reading and research purposes.”

Overall, Campbell said the hope with the SEED card is that it will encourage a “love of reading and exploring personal interests (and lead to) improved reading skills, improved research skills and exposure to new kinds of information.”

She said that Reiche and King schools were chosen for the pilot because “our children’s and teen’s librarians have existing strong relationships” with the school-based librarians.

“We chose them with the expectation that this would be a period of experimentation as we build our understanding of what will work best and develop tools to be used as we expand to more schools,” Campbell said.

She said the SEED card idea initially came from the Urban Libraries Council.

The Portland Public Library has been a member of the council for the past five years because it’s “actively involved in leading-edge conversations about the impact of public libraries in their communities,” Campbell said.

Since “libraries are all about self-directed learning, exploration, and engagement, we are the natural partner with (the local) schools,” she said. Like a school, the library can serve to “help inspire young people and equip them to choose interests, pursue curiosity, and share their creativity and ideas with others.”

Jeanne Crocker, assistant superintendent of school management at the Portland Public Schools, agreed and said, “given our joint commitment to children’s reading, it made total sense (to)enter (into this) partnership.”

Crocker said Campbell approached the School Department with the idea for a “library card for every student,” which then further coalesced around the district’s goal of every student reading at grade level in both elementary and middle school.

Through the SEED card, “we hope that students and their families will benefit from easier access to the public library and develop and grow a love of reading that lasts a lifetime,” Crocker said. “Partnerships with community organizations (like the library) enrich the lives of our students, their families, and our staff.”

And Campbell said, “The schools and the library have been long-standing partners, but with this program we are taking it to a new level of coordination and cohesion. By formalizing this partnership, we are able to make it smoother and easier for kids to make the library their own.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

This month students at Reiche Elementary and King Middle schools in Portland will recieve a new card designed to provide barrier-free access to the Portland Public Library. Here two youngsters celebrate the library’s 150th anniversary.