Why Are Virtual Libraries Essential?

March 2, 2008 at 10:21 am (virtual library)

As I researched virtual libraries, every article I read seemed to present a new and different reason why students should have access to virtual libraries.  For me, the quotes speak for themselves.  I know that administrators and district officials often wonder what the academics have to say.  As such, I have titled them with their main theme.  The headings summarize the reasons while the quotes offer further explanation.  I started with the student and ended with where they will one day be – in the world of work.   

Student Preference
“In the 21st century, we live in a digital, online environment.  Periodicals, general nonfiction, and reference works are readily available and widely accepted in electronic format.  Our patrons like this electronic environment.  Library media specialists who ignore the fact that students prefer information in electronic format will be left behind.  To survive and thrive in the 21st century, school libraries must rethink collections and services.  Collections must include electronic resources, and services must be designed to reach patrons who are outside the physical library walls” (Church, 2005). 

Information Equity & Diminishing the Digital Divide
By connecting students to the wealth of high quality digital resources that are online, we are opening up the world to them.  By incorporating tutorials, we are helping them to be critical of the information that they take in.  No tools and no webpage equals no access and no equity.  Every student should have access to high quality resources.  (Valenza, 2006)

Standards and Curriculum
The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner define nine foundational beliefs related to reading, inquiry, ethical use of information, technology skills, equitable access, information literacy, thinking skills, the social nature of learning and essential role of school libraries.  As I read it, I was struck by how much they reminded me of Focus on Inquiry and the Information and Communication Technology Outcomes, elements of which are a part of all our provincial curricula.   Even though these are not course specific, they are important in ensuring our students are prepared for their future.  Fuller (2005) writes, “[w]eb design based on solid educational and learning theory must drive site development.”

Information Literacy and Critical Literacy
Church reminds us, “[t]here is so much good information our there, and it is out job as library media specialists to point our students to it!  There is so much bad information out there, and it is our job to teach students how to evaluate what they find….If we are to help students become information-literate-critical assessors, evaluators, and users of information-we have to meet them on the Web and provide library service and instruction online, at the point of need.”

Instruction
“A virtual library can become an integral part of the instructional culture of the school.  Serving as a school’s instructional archive, the site shares collaboratively developed lessons, WebQuests, rubrics, handouts, organziers, and research scaffolds.  Archiving…online encourages sharing among teachers and reinforces learning across grades and disciplines” (Valenza, 2006).  Some websites also include FAQs or Ask a Librarian a librarian services such as the Rochester School Library System and the Florida Virtual School which sponsored a video competition to promote its services.

Keeping Libraries Relevant
“To maintain relevance, the 21st century school library must expand and reinterpret library service.  Existing both offline and online, it must offer around-the-clock access as well as instruction and guidance that support face-to-face interactions of students with librarians and classroom teachers.  The school virtual library offers young people both independence and intervention, guiding learners through the complicated and often overwhelming processes of finding and using information….Librarians can tame the information chaos that students may experience by providng customized user-centered interfaces that create order as they offer instruction.” (Valenza, 2006).

Research Starting Point
“When people say that Springfield Township’s library is the heart and brain of the school, they are also referring to its virtual counterpart, which is the repository of around-the-clock instruction.  The virtual library has become students’ and teachers’ starting point for research — their access to rich and meaningful resources and learning.”

Ubiquitous Libraries – Anytime, Anywhere
Valenza says “[u]biquity changes everything.  In one-to-one schools, students visit the library less frequently.  In such environments, in all modern, truly relevant environments, library [must] also be ubiquitous.  Library MUST be everywhere.  Librarians must teach everywhere, in and outside the library.  And I think we need to redefine library.  We must be ready to scale our instructional voice, as well as our resources.  And we must make libraries just for me, just in time, all the time.”

Window on Each Student’s Desktop
“Library must find a way to be a window on a students’ desktops.  We must present ourselves as a real adult who knows the students, their techers, their learning and recreational needs, their curricula.  Library space, off- and online, is for the whole information fluency process; for displaying; for archiving the information and communication work of the whole school; for organizing collections that look far different from the ones I once collected.”  I can’t help but think of how Valenza’s school library website is visted more outside of school hours than during school.   

Evidence Based Practice
“Studies done by Keith Curry Lance and others in numerous states http://www.lrs.org/impact.php show that academic achievement is higher in schools where library media programs have quality collections, library media specialists take an active role in curriculum and instruction, information literacy is taught, and information technology is used effectively.  All of these elements come into play with virtual school libraries.  (Church, 2005).  Ross Todd writes about how to collect evidence that demonstrates the power of the school library. 

Post-Secondary
“We must create relevant landscapes for learners.  If we are to meet learners’ needs with quality resources, and if our goal is to graduate learners who enter the worlds of academia and business with 21st century information skills, there is no time to waste” (Valenza, 2006).  This reminds me of the Donham (2007) article “Graduating students who are not only learned but also learners” that we read in Topic 1. 

The World of Work
“In communicating the results of their research, students should be using the current tools of business and academia, and librarians should be introducing these opportunities to students”  (Valenza, 2006). 

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