Virtual Library – If You Build It, Will They Come?

March 2, 2008 at 7:43 pm (virtual library)

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 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. 



  1. Jennifer said,

    I agree that you need to have the support of your teachers. You want them to be able to add links for their grades/curriculum, share with other teachers, and you want to be able to keep up with keeping all the links working and getting users coming back. You also want to engage parents in the process and provide support for them as they work with their children at home.

    I want to know what sites my child is going to and how to help with homework and also what is going on, bookfairs, information about volunteering, etc.


  2. linda said,

    I love the title of this post. Wish I’d thought of it!

    I like the idea, too, of getting students involved in the VL design….makes sense, and would be interesting to have a competition to jumpstart student involvement. Touche.

    Good on you, too, for thinking of having your online presence support your physical one with podcasts.

  3. Katie Bell said,

    I like the idea of including teacher chosen sites. I’m sure there are many effective sites that teachers use in their classrooms that would benefit a lot of students and staff!

  4. Val said,

    I like the idea of student involvement when creating a vl, as it gives the kids empowerment and ownership. On a much smaller scale, we are having a book festival in May at our University-College. Each year top authors of childrens books attend. The week prior to the event they go around to local schools speaking to students. Our PAC has generously given me the green light to book one of the authors. (they are not cheap ranging from $250-$750). To determine which author we wanted to put our bid in for (its a lottery as the authors are very popular), I had the grade 7’s take on the task. I gave them the websites of all the authors, then we had a critical discussion on what we were looking for ,age appropriate, who do we want to attend K-7 just primary, just intermediate etc. We came up with a criteria then split the class into groups, each looking up different authors. We then discussed the top three and chose one. Both staff and students are happy with our pick and if we are lucky enough to get Linda Bailey then our students can know they had a big part in choosing her.

    Your blog and discussion posts, start my head spinning (in a positive way). The information you provide and links are exceptional. Wow! Kudos to you.

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