Virtual Libraries – What Do I Know About Them?

March 2, 2008 at 10:18 am (virtual library)

Before I jump in and start exploring further, I thought I would reflect on my own experiences with virtual libraries or a library’s presense online.  Through that, I thought I would distill some of the features I appreciate being able to access online at a library’s website.

I frequently visit the Edmonton Public Library.  I love being able to make my requests online and going to my location of choice to pick them up.  While notices can be emailed, I still prefer the automated phone system.  Somehow, I think that if I skim an email, I will forget about my hold and then it will be sent back.  With a phone call I feel I am more likely to respond.  Maybe one day when I collect my email from my phone I will think differently! 

Other than the catalogue, hold and renew functions, I also like to see what is new and exciting at the library.  They often exhibit the art online that is on display in the gallery at the branch downtown.  There are also different programs promoting reading for kids, teens and adults. 

I have used the databases on occasion, although I must admit, I often forget they are there.  The library also has pathfinders, although I didn’t know their official name until my last course.  I found the first one on the list on an Aboriginal theme to be invaluable when I was completing a virtual seminar a few courses ago.

I also use the University of Alberta Libraries.  I often wonder what I would do if I wasn’t a student and didn’t have immediate access to the e-journals and databases.  While we do have access to ProQuest through our district, I wouldn’t have access to all the other resources available through the library website.  (Someone mentioned the Alberta Library Card that would give me similar access.  I will  have to check it out.)  I’m grateful for the ability to be able to request books from other libraries that will arrive at Coutts for pick up, my location of choice.  When I was completing my undergrad, I would search for the books I needed at home then go find them on the shelves knowing where they would be.  Now I can request them online and they will be ready in the self-serve holds for self-checkout.

I don’t know exactly when I learned about the Live Help or Instant Messaging service that U of A Libraries offers but I remember being impressed that they were taking the bold step.  I thought it was very cutting edge for them at the time as I had never heard of any other library doing it.  It wasn’t until we explored social bookmarking that I learned what the, digg or Reddit links were for.

As a user, the only downside that I see to a library’s virtual presence on the internet is the need for maintenance and upgrading of the system.  There is no good time to do this, however, it always seems to be when I am online rather than when I am sleeping! 

At the beginning of this course I visted those virtual libraries linked to from the course weblinks section including the Prince of Wales Secodary School Library page.  I liked how it was simple and I didn’t have to scroll far.  However, after reading Valenza’s suggestions to use real images instead of clipart, that would be my preference.  The Singapore American School library pages are divided into primary, intermediate, middle school and high school which makes sense to me when you have a multilevel school of 3800 students!

I also visted the M.E. LaZerte High School Library page.  I like how clean and simple it is.  It is not overwhelming and I don’t need to scroll – either down or to the right (I have a small monitor so I find myself having to do this with many pages these days to be able to see the whole page).  One might assume that there wouldn’t be a lot of content but there is as you drill down deeper into the site which includes content for both students and teachers.  

Early on in the course, I visited the Pembina Trails Infozone.  Because it’s focus is only on supporting reasearch I assume that it is not a virtual library.  Sites like, which provides access to curriculum related materials, databases and online encyclopedias through the Online Reference Centre, would also be linked to from school library webpages.

Last but not least, I love Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township HS Virtual Library.  As Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe talk about in Understanding by Design (1998, 2005), with backwards design you need to know what the end goal will be.  I think that Valenza’s page is an ultimate goal, however, I think that it is intimidating and if it is the first website that you see you might throw in the towel even before you start because it might seem impossible.  Rather, I think it is important to start small and not become overwhelmed, instead creating in manageable pieces with short term goals leading to the long term goal of a comprehensive virtual school library presence. 

My exploration was through a junior and senior high lens.  I have yet to created a virtual library for my own school and am currently sharing what I have learned about virtual libraries with a colleague at a high school that is in the planning stages of their virtual library.  “Web design experts consider age- and grade- specific access points essential to good Web design….[T]he stage where anything is better than nothing has passed….Further exploration of Web design is essential, particularly challenging the one-size-fits-all link approach, which short changes both high school and elementary” (Fuller, 2005).

I have decided to include my references here.  For me it doesn’t make sense to include them at the end which would be the top of the page.  This way they will be at the end when you scroll down. 

Church, A.P.  virtual school libraries-the time is now!  MultiMedia & internet@schools, 12(2), 8-13.  Retrieved January 14, 2008 from ProQuest. 

Donham, J.  (2007).  graduating students who are not only learned but also learners.  Teacher librarian, 35(8), 8-12.  Retrieved January 18, 2007 from ProQuest. 

Fuller, D.  (2005).  State-level support of k-12 virtual  libraries.  Knowledge quest, 33(3), 25-29.  Retrieved February 22, 2008 from ProQuest. 

Junion-Metz, G.  (2004). Desperately seeking study skills.  School library journal, 50(6), 30.  Retrieved February 22, 2008 from ProQuest. 

Kuntz, K.  (2003).  Pathfinders: Helping studnets find paths to information.  MultiMedia schools, 10(3), 12-15.  Retrieved February 1, 2008 from ProQuest.

Mardis, M.  (2003).  Uncovering the hidden web.  Principal leadership, 4(3), 62.  Retrieved February 22, 2008 from ProQuest.

McCaffrey, Meg.  (2004).  24/7 library.  School library journal 50(3), 32-33.  Retrieved February 22 2008 from ProQuest.

Morris, B.J. (2005). The emerging school library media center from teh past into the future: A keynote article.  Knowledge quest, 33(5), 22-27.  Retrieved February 22, 2008 from ProQuest.

Pappas, M. L.  (2004).  Finding information on the state virtual libraries.  School library media activities monthly, 20(5), 30.  Retrieved February 22 from ProQuest. 

St Lifer, E.  (2005). Guiding the Googlers.  School library journal, 51(1), 11.  Retrieved February 22, 2008 from ProQuest. 

Todd, R. J.  (2003).  Irrefutable evidence.  School library journal, 49(4), 52-53.  Retrieved February 1, 2008 from ProQuest. 

Valenza, J. (2006). The virtual library.  Educational leadership, 63(4), 54-59.  Retrieved February 22, 2008 from EBSCO. 


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