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I've been reading articles on virtual libraries and making the virtual library space as cozy, comfortable and inviting as the physical space. I've also explored several impressive examples of best practice and "borrowed" some great ideas. Having mapped out the schema for the website, before I starting writing content I thought it would behoove me to organize this wealth of information into some sort of hierarchical set of principals to guide the development. I was talking to my Info Lit prof last night (who's supervising this independent study) about possibly doing a workshop to share these ideas with classmates. She generously offered me a 2 hour block during our last class to present, so I REALLY need to start making a coherent order out of all this (grin--and start writing for permission to copy articles to hand out! As an English teacher, I mostly ignored copyright laws. I'm trying to be more responsible now!)

LIBRARY TRUISM #1: Popular wisdom says kids are very tech savvy. This is true to greater and lesser degrees; however, they're not very information savvy. They want the quickest way to find the easiest information and often fail to search beyond the first few hits on Google. Moreoever, they find it very difficult to infer, so often don't even recognize that they've found their answer, because it's not stated directly.

Implications: It's not enough just to provide a plethora of links and resources. The virtual library must:

a) provide access to quality information up front (no hunting for the database link!) so it becomes almost as quick to search SIRS as it does to search Google. I saw several library pages that offered a Google search bar right on the front page. This disturbed me, as it seems to promote bad habits!

b) Provide online information literacy tutorials through pathfinders, podcasts, direct instruction pages. The pathfinders could even be a (moderated!) wiki, allowing students to add ideas, links, etc. and giving them more investment in the process.

LIBRARY TRUISM #2: Kids are social animals. If you want the library website to be an integral part of the school, it needs to do more than provide information. It must provide opportunities to personalize the learning process and allow students to express their individuality, creativity and ideas.

Plagiarized ideas to achieve this: a) Create an interactive blog for teachers and students to share what they're currently reading. 2) Work with classroom teachers to create book trailer podcasts and post these on the site. This would also be a good place to post student art work, writing, original music, etc. making it a sort of virtual cafe. 3) A "Sound Off!" page of student podcasts or digital storytelling projects on topical issues. 4) an "Ask the Librarian" link. 5) Online surveys/questionnaires to improve library service, seek book recommendations, etc.

Wow. That's a lot of work when you're starting from scratch! I laugh now to think a mere week or two ago I thought I'd have the site mostly finished by the end of summer. I'll do well to have it mostly finished by the end of NEXT summer! Of course, "finished" is a relative term, as this obviously is an ongoing project.

Anyway, next time-- Supporting the curriculum: moving beyond research papers.

BTW--I'm putting together an annotated bibliography of articles, books and exemplary sites if anyone wants a copy when I'm finished. (grin--how's that for hubris??)

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Comment by Tracy Poelzer on June 12, 2007 at 7:21pm
P.S. I LOVE the idea of the wiki pathfinders. What a great concept! I'm going to be thinking about that one over the summer for sure.
Comment by Tracy Poelzer on June 12, 2007 at 7:20pm
I'd love a copy too Jeri. I started my school library website a little over a year ago and it is a never ending, all-consuming project. "Finished" is not a word that is in my vocabulary when it comes to virtual libraries. I do, however, keep looking for ways to make the site more useful and relevant to my school community. Your annotated bibliography sounds like it will contain lots of useful info. Thank you for offering to share!
Comment by Jeri Hurd on June 4, 2007 at 10:19am
Okey, doke!
Comment by Judi Moreillon on June 1, 2007 at 6:11pm
Hi Jeri,
In the district where I served as a high school teacher-librarian, all blogs and social networking Web sites are blocked.

Teacher-librarians who want to collaborate with students and classroom teachers to make the school or library Web portal rich with 2.0 tools can be hand-cuffed by administrative policies.

It is no wonder than some tech-savvy students find schooling irrelevant to their "real" lives.

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