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Live Homework Help! makes the back to school experience easier for many California libraries

Just in time for homework season, the California State Library is now providing 28 California public libraries (PDF 16 KB) access to Live Homework Help, a dynamic service that enables a student to connect on-line with a tutor for assistance with the student’s homework questions. A federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant is paying for the innovative program that also serves Spanish-speaking library customers.

Live Homework Help benefits not only public library customers, but also the library itself. It prompts influential decision-makers in the community to identify the local library as a problem solver, a place where local youth improve academically because of their library. And, as it releases staff from unofficial after-school tutoring duty, Live Homework Help eases the business of day-to-day librarianship.

Although the California State Library (CSL) has made Live Homework Help available on “in-house” library PCs since March 2002, several libraries participating in the new LSTA grant will enjoy Live Homework Help’s remote feature, a service that enables customers to access Live Homework Help tutors from their home computers. Any time between 1:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. a participating library’s customers can use their library card ID number to log into Live Homework Help from that library’s homepage. In the midst of most families' challenging at-home routine - homework detail - their local library now comes to the rescue. Students can click on Live Homework Help and angst about square roots, periodic tables, the Civil War, or embedded adverbial clauses evaporates via the local library.

Live Homework Help’s tutors receive a seven-year criminal background check and are evaluated on a weekly basis. They are certified teachers, librarians, university professors, graduate school students, students at accredited four-year colleges and professionals who are experts in their fields.

San Francisco and Yorba Linda Librarians Praise 
Live Homework Help

Yorba Linda Public Library (YLPL) and San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) have had Live Homework Help with the remote feature for more than three years. Yorba Linda Public Library Director Danis Kreimeier and San Francisco Public Library Chief of Children and Youth Services Toni Bernardi agree that Live Homework Help, used remotely, is a good way to bring a positive library experience into people’s homes. Kreimeier and Bernardi also agree for Live Homework Help to succeed, it must have a champion in the library. As Kreimeier puts it, “internal public relations are just as important as external public relations.”

Live Homework Help’s early “in-house” years at SFPL were “tough,” according to Bernardi. Bernardi’s Youth Services staff resisted the untraditional program: PC access was “fierce,” and kids interfacing with the program demanded help from the staff. When SFPL added the remote feature, Bernardi made it clear to the SFPL team that the on-site issues would lessen. Today, Bernardi reports, staff sees that users accessing Live Homework Help from home on SFPL’s “teen” home page ease their workloads.

To help them “buy in” to remote Live Homework Help, Bernardi encouraged SFPL’s Youth Services staff to remind young customers that they could use Live Homework Help when they got home. “At staff meetings I pointed out that they [staff] don’t have to be tutors,” Bernardi says. “I told them that Live Homework Help will assist our students in a one-on-one way that we can’t supply…I reminded them that even if we could help with math, there are many levels of math –from division to trigonometry, just as there are many levels of English-from outlining to literary analysis.”

To show staff that Live Homework Help is working Bernardi distributes Live Homework Help’s remote usage statistics and the comments from SFPL’s kids every month. “It’s made all the difference in their [staff’s] attitude,” she says. In southern California, Kreimeier uses staff meetings to “sell” the program to staff. Kreimeier also distributes YLPL’s usage reports that, Kreimeier says, show YLPL received 100 Live Homework Help site hits from remote YLPL users. Before the remote feature so clearly caught on she points out, YLPL would receive only 20 user hits from in-house PCs. Both libraries’ statistics show that the highest percentage of Live Homework Help users accesses its tutors at home. “Our librarians love it because they can point the kids to it and it frees them up to do librarian work instead of the tutoring work,” Kreimeier says.

Both SFPL and YLPL included schools in the full push to launch remote access Live Homework Help. Kreimeier went to the local school district to talk with groups of school principals who then opened the door for Kreimeier’s team to attend teachers’ meetings. Bringing the schools on board was crucial to turning around YLPL’s Live Homework Help usage. In a similar vein, SFPL, through a grant with the San Francisco school district, paid teachers a stipend to come in on a Saturday morning to learn about Live Homework Help specifically and the library’s electronic resources generally.

In both northern and southern California, customers are talking amongst themselves about Live Homework Help. In San Francisco, where formal teen evaluations are in the high ninetieth percentile, kids rave about the program to each other at school and at the library. In Yorba Linda (where in the fall and during finals staff wear an “Ask me about Live Homework Help” button), Kreimeier says that “power brokers [are] witnessing the value of Live Homework Help: The assistant City Manager’s daughter went on-line for the math when she hit algebra II. The Library Commissioner’s son went on-line for help for calculus and got a math professor to help him. It’s the biggest sell of all!” she says.

For more information about Live Homework Help, please contact Kathy Low at (916) 653-6822 or by email to klow@library.ca.gov.


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