From Access to Success with MyTRL

Access is one of the most powerful tools in education. When children have access to the supports and resources they need, they are more likely to succeed.

That’s the idea behind MyTRL, a program provided through the collaboration of ESD 113, Olympia School District, and the Timberland Regional Library. The program offers students and families a digital library account that grants access to a collection of library materials.

“One of the best things about this project is that students have equal opportunity to access the same resources that other students, either in their classroom or district, might have,” says Timberland Regional Library Youth Services Coordinator Kristi Selby. “For some students, it can be difficult to come in and get a physical library card. We have a lot of rural students who can’t access physical buildings easily.”

The program’s beginnings came from a teacher-librarian in the Olympia School District in 2015. She had seen a similar program that was in place throughout Tacoma and believed a program like theirs would work well for this region.

In 2016, the Timberland Regional Library and ESD 113 assisted OSD in becoming the pilot district for the program. As the pilot showed signs of success, the program began to spread to other regional districts.

“All five of the counties that encompass ESD 113 also encompass Timberland, so it worked really well,” adds Selby. “We’ve also had a couple of districts from 112 and 114 because those service districts intersect, but it’s primarily 113.”

MyTRL accounts don’t have all the benefits of a physical card, such as the ability to check out physical books, but the program offers plenty of content for students to choose from. Students can access digital resources, eBooks, databases, homework, help tools, and more through their accounts.

Most students use resources for homework reports ranging from animal reports to country culture to salmon to state reports and much more. Mango Languages, a tool for learning new languages, is also now available.

One of the most popular resources is Libby, an app that offers thousands of eBooks and audiobooks to students and parents alike. Many have used it for both educational purposes and pleasure reading.

College and career prep materials are also available for those preparing for the next step in their lives after high school.

For many students, especially those in rural areas, the ease of access to valuable materials they might not typically be able to obtain has been an effective tool.

“COVID really emphasized the need for us to be ready at the helm to have a lot of these services, virtual services, e-services, available for students, staff, and families,” said Selby. “There was a high turnover rate of school personnel during the pandemic. Many of the school districts had signed the MOU but had a couple more steps that needed to be taken to get the technical pieces in place to make it happen.

“We did a lot of outreach and education during that period. We continue to do a lot of outreach and education. Some of our frontline staff do presentations at schools. This past year has been a really great opportunity to get a lot of these questions answered.”

Currently, 43 school districts have signed up for MyTRL services. Nearly all of the districts that encompass ESD 113 have found their way into the program. They continue to work on bringing the entire region into the fold.

As this happens, they would like to continue collaborating with specific schools and the ESD on more nuanced stats about the resources they offer and how they can better them.

“We would like to do a little bit more specific tracking on how these resources are being used, and we hope to continue the collaboration with ESD 113 and the various schools on this,” says Selby. “I encourage any educator who is interested in speaking with me or their frontline service staff to go into their public library if they have questions or contact me directly.

“I hope there is something for everybody in their families to utilize in this program and that students get something useful out of it. And I hope they see just how much of a support system the public library is, just like their school libraries, teachers, and educators are.”

For more information, Kristi Selby can be reached at [email protected] or 360-704-4618.