Chattanooga Public Library to drop $50 fee for county school students

photo Librarian Megan Schadlick, right, helps Ally Spruill, 12, sew at the Chattanooga Public Library's children section.

Live homework help online. Downloadable books. Video tutorials on how to build websites, create smart phone apps and write code.

Those are some of the resources that the Chattanooga Public Library on Tuesday announced it will make available free of charge to an additional 20,000 Hamilton County public school students.

Kindergarten through 12th-grade students who live outside the city limits will be exempt from a $50 annual fee that the library has charged since September 2011 to noncity residents. The library levied the fee in response to the county's decision that year to halt its library funding.

In the meantime, the library has remade itself into a hotbed of innovation.

"[Students] are coming back to a new library, basically," library spokeswoman Mary Barnett said.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Corinne Hill, hired in March 2012, the library has gotten national attention for such innovations as turning its fourth floor into a "maker space" equipped with 3-D printers, a laser cutter and a loom.

The library also started paying for an online service, Brainfuse, which offers live tutoring, a foreign language lab and practice quizzes in standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT and GED to library card holders.

Circulation is up by 24 percent at the library's four branches, Hill said at Tuesday's library board meeting. There's been a 37 percent increase in juvenile circulation and a 33 percent jump in teen material, she said.

"We're rocking," Hill said.

Students who live outside the city will sign up for a library card during school enrollment and will pick up the card at school.

"The kids will get it from their school librarian," Hill said.

photo The library will be offering all Hamilton County students free library cards where currently they are only offered to city residents.

Parents will be able to use their child's card, she said.

The library is changing the card's design and will offer it in a range of bold, bright colors.

"The kids in the schools will probably be the first ones to get the new design," Barnett said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or 423-757-6651.