I took the day to reflect on what I have learned about virtual libraries. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of a week like I did last time! As I suspected, I was fairly accurate in what I thought a virtual library was, having had personal experience with the University and public library, and what it wasn’t. Sites like the Pembina Trails Infozone and LearnAlberta.ca would be a part of a larger library website.
What was the most troubling was the name: virtual library, electronic library, digital library. These are all synonyms. I wish I knew that when I started. Most have similar features but it still depends on the unique needs of the users.
Early in the week I had an epiphany about virutal libraries and how they connect to Web 2.0 under the umbrella of Libraries 2.0 and more specifically School Libraries 2.0.
In planning for a virtual library, it is important to consider the needs of both the students and teachers. It would be very easy to go over board with links, however, it is meant to be a point of access, a starting point for research highlighting a variety of high quality information and supportive teaching tools that link to the school’s inquiry model. It is no sense spending time putting things in that won’t be used or worse, overwhelm the user.
I know teachers often have favorite sites that they like to use to support teaching and learning. Those could be used as a place to start creating subject specific pathfinders. If teachers know where they are on the school library website, they can let their students know as well and then neither would have to type URLs into browsers. Easy navigation is essential. It should only be a couple clicks away. Teachers and Teacher-Librarians should be collaborating on the content that will be most helpful to students as they complete projects, assignments and course work. I like how the virtual library represents the culture of collaboration, inquiry and celebration of learning.
School doors may close at four but the library is open 24/7! If students are introduced to the virtual library at school, and develop the habit of making it their staring point, then I think they will be more likely to use it at home, particularly if they think it has “cool stuff.” Students could even have a hand in desiging it. I would love to show students Valenza’s page then have a competition to do one unique to our school. Of course, I’d have to learn how to link an image map . . . maybe one of the students already knows how.
The idea of a virtual library built in a wiki is very appealing to me. I dread the thought of FrontPage and ftp having spent so much time with them in the past. With pbwiki for example, I could design the layout or structure then give teachers the password and they could add and annotate the links for their subject specific wiki page. We could collaborate together just like my colleague and I did as we researched virtual libraries.
I find the fluidity between physical and virtual library spaces facinating. Somewhere I read a suggestion to project your webpage on a wall in your library to showcase it. It could also be made into a slideshare. Another idea was to think about how your online presence could support the physical space. Students could listen to a podcast booktalking the new YRCA books then come to the library to sign out the one they want.
The benefits of virtual libraries far out weigh the costs. The majority of the time is spend in the initial design. Updates, particularly if using a 2.0 tool, can be done in a snap. Virtual librairies are a necessity required by students ensure success in navigating the new digital landscape.