Come on in…we are now open 24/7
Librarian, librarian please let me in
Not by the power of my webmasterin’
Well, I’ll search and I’ll google and I’ll go social networkin’
and I won’t come back here again…
Students and researchers expect to be able to access information around the clock from almost anywhere in the world. Libraries are at a turning point. As technology rapidly transforms the way we access information, and resources are increasingly available on-line in digital formats, the established role of the library as a physical space housing racks of books is looking increasingly out of step with the needs of students and researchers.-JISC’s ‘Libraries of the Future Brochure‘
Why Virtual Libraries
Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create,communicate and compute, using printed and written materialsssociated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve his or her goals, develop his or her knowledge and potential, and participate fully incommunity and wider society.—UNESCO 2005.
Virtual libraries help students develop and use the literacy skills required to function effectively in our world. There is a guide, a teacher-librarian, who develops the virtual library to help develop the literacy skills students need. In essence the virtual library can make order for information seekers.
Virtual libraries support teachers.
If libraries want to stay relevant they have to meet the demands of their clients. And because of the read and write web these demands have changed. Libraries are no longer just places to house books and research independently and school virtual libraries need to go beyond just places that archive information for research.
What Virtual Libraries Need to be Relevant
If we are honest, google and Wikipedia are the first places students go to when they research online so what does this mean for virtual school libraries? It means that our virtual libraries have to be personal to engage students.
I have a virtual library but it has no true collaborative space for students. Students are forced to go there at school because it is the default page on the computers but honestly, I doubt this is the first place they go when they are at home unless they are accessing a pathfinder for an assignment.
I want it to be more than just a research space and so the area I focused on while researching virtual libraries is how are other virtual libraries involving teachers and students in the space? How can I make the virtual library a collaborative place where students and staff can go to exchange and discover knowledge? What are other schools libraries doing to encourage the use of Web 2.0 tools?
In her article “Open the Door and Let ‘em In” Joyce Valenza points out that virtual libraries need to have an open space for students to collaborate and contribute.
Features of School Virtual Libraries
When I was researching I found that most libraries had these common features:
- Access to subscription databases
- A mission statement
- Access to the library catalogue
- A search the library site
- Specific assignments and research pathfinders
- Research information guidance
- Book reviews and reading lists
- Links to web reference materials
- Information on how to research, citation and plagiarism guidelines
In Velanza wiki A Webquest About School Libraries she provides great information on what virtual libraries should have. I found myself using her work to guide me as I flipped through the various library sites.
What I found for the libraries I found to be the most effective were the ones that embraced web 2.0. These libraries went beyond a place for research and material access and instead invited participation and showcased student work. Although they all have the same basic information they have personalized their space and each site has a voice of its own.
My Favorite Virtual Library Sites
All of these sites have the features that Velanza stated in her study on the Core Features of School Library Websites . But they also have something in addition to those features that appeals to me. Personality and a connection with students!
I like the clean look, the fact that there is a teacher’s section. She does a great job creating her own widgets and this adds to the site. It is very clean an easy to navigate.
The Library KSS (Kelowna Secondary School Library)
I like the “feature a reader section” and the library news section. It really personalizes the site. They also have book blogs,online reading clubs and the site has podcasts.
Has a place where students can post their creative writing and a section that lists online games for students to play.
It was a wealth of information. I like the library blog. It features personalized book reviews.
Again it has a wealth of information but also has a reading room and students can submit their book reviews with an invitation that includes not only students, but parents and teachers.
It is quite a loud site but students have helped create the site so they really have ownership. It has a lot of student creations on it. It has a student book review blog, animoto videos created by students and contests the students can enter and the winning results are posted. I love the idea of having a contest where a student gets to create the library bookmark.
This is the only elementary library I included. I love that it has a tutorial for teachers on how to create a wiki. It even has what the teacher librarian calls centres divided by grades where students can go to get information, play games and participate in various learning activities.
They have the library online at Twitter. This is the first school that I have seen that does this. They also have the catelogue on Library Thing which means the catelogue is much more interactive than most. I wonder how long it too them to do this? Is it possible for me to do this. They also have a reading club wiki!
It is a library site that has everything. Student s can participate in numerous ways. I really that tutorial videos are included. With our students being so visual, it is a shame that I can’t do this with what is already out there because of filtering. It also has a meebo. I wonder how much work that is to maintain?
Maintaining a Virtual Library
I can only speak from my own experience. It is a lot of commitment. Like my in house collection I have to keep adding to the virtual library. Whether it be changing the pictures of students, adding student work, showcasing new resources or updating and maintaining links.
When looking at virtual libraries it quickly became apparent which libraries worked at maintaining their site versus those that hadn’t been updated or added to since October last year.
Roadblocks to the Virtual Library
Lack of time, money and lack of expertise.
If you want the students to use the virtual library they have to first be introduced to it at school and this can be a difficult for libraries that don’t have access to enough computers. For instance, at my previous school the library only had 10 computers and they were outdated. This definitely hinders introducing students to the virtual library and if they don’t know about it, they won’t use it.
Not very many schools in my district have full time teacher librarians and perhaps this explains why there are so few virtual libraries out there. No…no perhaps about it…this is why there aren’t very many.
And again, training or expertise. The reason that there are not wikis, podcasts, and other web 2.0 technologies incorporated into my library site is because I didn’t know enough about them or how to use them. Now when I get back to work, I am going to make it a goal to incorporate my new learnings into the site..
Definitely the filtering system. Students cannot access things like twitter, facebook, my space, Youtube so links to these things cannot be on the site at all. It makes it more difficult especially if this is what the students want to access.
There are also issues with privacy that institutions like schools need to be wary of and this can turn some off. It is a lot of work making sure I have a FOIP form from every student in every picture that I upload to the site.
Implications for the future
Libraries need to have a virtual place that allows for collaboration and involvement. Like our in house libraries that are adopting the learning commons models, our virtual libraries need to follow suit. Our clients demand it, need it and if we don’t create it, they will go elsewhere and where will that leave us?
Our cateloguing system needs to change to adapt. It really is, as Michael Casy says in Chapter 2 of Courtney’s book Library 2.0 and Beyond, “antiquated and obstructionist” (17). Numerous times I have students come to me asking why we don’t have a book only to discover that they have spelt the author’s name wrong. The idea of having a catelogue that users can interact with using things like tagging and reviews is much more user friendly than the OPAC we now have. I can keep my figures crossed that is will eventually come. If not, perhaps I will need to look into starting to use The Library Thing for the new additions to the library.
When I am finished this course, I am going to have a lot of work implementing all of the ideas I want to the Strathcona Library site. One of the first things I am going to do when I get back to work is start involving students in the library site.
Michael Stephens uses the term hyperlinked library rather than the virtual library but he is refering to the same thing when he says that the hyperlinked library needs to be ” an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user and staff involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence and point the way.”
Students, students please come in
We’ll read and we’ll create and go collaboratin’
JISC Libraries of the Future at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/librariesofthefuture
Stephens, M. The Hyperlinked Library from “Taming the Web” at http://tametheweb.com/speaking/the-hyperlinked-library/
UNESD paper “Towards Informational Literacy” at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001587/158723e.pdf