The Dana Hall Library, digitally reinvented

The Helen Temple Cooke Library and Shipley Science Center on opening day, October 16, 1998.
The Helen Temple Cooke Library and Shipley Science Center on opening day, October 16, 1998.

Dana Hall’s Helen Temple Cooke Library has been the warm and welcoming heart of our campus since we opened our current doors in 1998. Even before that, in the old Helen Temple Cooke Library (now our Middle School!) and the Eastman Library in the original Dana Main building, past Dana Hall community members similarly enjoyed a cozy and welcoming library. In March of this past year when the Library had to abruptly pivot from being a physical space to an entirely digital one, I worried about the loss to our community, suddenly learning around the world without access to our cozy nooks and sunny windows, our thousands of books, or easy access to the best resource of all: one of the friendly and knowledgeable Dana Hall librarians!  

While we can’t replace those cozy chairs and sunny nooks, I’ve been extremely proud of how the library flexibly and rapidly adapted to our new digital learning environment. The fabulous librarians leapt to the challenge to reinvent how we do what we do best: support the academic and personal growth of our students. Instead of offering help at a reference desk, we now offer help online via our chat services platform, accessible from anywhere in the world on our website during our virtual hours, as well as via privately booked one on one appointments through Zoom. Our website, which offers access to more than 75 databases, news providers, and streaming video services, as well as access to some of the content found in our amazing school Archives, is open 24 hours a day, every day, in whatever time zone you find yourself in around the world!

I’m extremely proud that the Library was able to adapt our services to provide books in all formats to our students domestically and internationally during a very scary and isolating time. Last spring, for the first time ever, we shifted our focus to collect books digitally via our Overdrive account. Not only do we have our own pretty great collection, but through a partnership with other local independent schools, we offer access to an expanded collection of eBooks and streaming audiobooks. We’re proud that our Dana Hall Library digital collection features a diverse range of authors, protagonists, nationalities and stories. We’ve intentionally tried to support a variety of learning styles by offering both text and audio versions of class titles when available. Our number of digital checkouts between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021 was just shy of 1,300, which is almost the same number of physical books that were checked out in all of 2019; at the rate we’re going, I’m confident that Dana Hall will have checked out more books digitally this year than we have in person before!

Dana Hall students moving books into the new Helen Temple Cooke Library in the Classroom Building in 1956.
Dana Hall students moving books into the new Helen Temple Cooke Library in the Classroom Building in 1956. The students are from the classes of 1957, 1958, and 1959.

Over the summer, we were delighted to offer virtual book clubs to students, staff, parents and alumnae, and have continued to offer several parent and student book clubs throughout this past year. For more information on how to join our parent Community, Equity and Inclusion book club or general parent book club, please contact Kathy Luby. To see what we’ve added to our collection, check out our online catalog. And, as always, if you have any questions about the library or just want to say hi, stop by our virtual desk to chat with one of our fabulous librarians anytime we are open virtually.

Happy reading!

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About Stephanie Donohue

Stephanie Donohue is the Library Director at the Dana Hall School. She first joined the community as the Library Assistant between 2007-2010, and returned in her current role in 2014.

3 Replies to “The Dana Hall Library, digitally reinvented”

  1. What a tremendous resource! Thank you (and all the librarians) for continuing to inspire, support, and educate our community.

  2. The library staff is incredible – passionate, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, helpful, and creative! How interesting that as a community we are on pace to check out more books digitally this year than physical books in 2019!

  3. Thank you to all of our librarians! Your enthusiasm for the work you do is infectious, and you are doing incredible things to make library resources available to all members of the community.

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