Saturday, March 1, 2008

Virtual libraries--To Infinity and Beyond!

To Infini
ty... and Beyond --- the real world of virtual libraries.

I begin with a quote from a
favourite philosopher, Buzz Lightyear. Buzz says it all when he invites us to infinity and beyond ---there is so much out there that it literally makes my head spin.In truth, I'm complaining about my health----I keep having major dizzy spells that must be part of some weird virus. I've been home most of the week sleeping and reading--but most of the writing I tried to Friday disappeared into the Blackboard-abyss, so today I still feel crummy AND I'm still behind. I'm quite disappointed in myself because I was so determined to stay playful and positive, NOT take it all too seriously.(Hopefully that explains all the cartoon images I've used this week). I guess I can decide that analytically, but my body has other ideas.

I know I'm a bit of a one-note Johnny when I keep underscoring the essential aspect of playful learning, but as I
contemplate introducing web 2.0 tools to some of my non-techie colleagues I know that there will be resistance. They are hesitant to embrace all of the new web 2.0 options---just like me. As I ponder the challenges of making professional development effective, I keep th
e leery learner in mind. But I digress, this is topic 2 musing....

So, back to the world of virtual libraries. My first research stop was at the Teacher-Librarian guru, Joyce Valenza's Springfield Township High School library. My first impression was funky, fun, inviting. I would definitely enjoy accessing this site whether I was a student, a teacher, a parent or visiting TL. I especially liked her design layout--artwork courtesy of a relative-- very Magic Schoolbus/Mrs. Frizzle--

tons of cool and extremely useful stuff.
But as I kept poking around I began to get overwhelmed. I thought WHOA! This is a galaxy of stuff to sort through.

This of course, is the same response I've had pretty well every week of this course. Too much information is almost as bad as too little, (not really!), and it can eat up a LOT of time and 'product hours'. For example, if I'm at work exploring virtual libraries to research the upcoming changes to our school website, at what point does the value of fresh inspiration and learning end, and the time-waster function
commence? We think about TV as a time-waster, but of course the internet trumps TV (to emulate Doug Johnson's pithy comments). Suddenly I'm doing an old Brittany Spears song: 'Oops, I've done it again.

By making the connection to Doug Johnson's article, Dangers and Opportunities:Challenges for Libraries in the Digital Age Ive started to side-trac
k myself again. There is so much fascinating stuff to explore, but the ability to re-focus on the task at hand is required. (As a teacher, I want to know more about the ways we help students develop this skill because internet use is a daily part of student life).

Back to Johnson for a moment.When he quotes Michael Jensen's list of the number of ways in which one type of information is becoming more valued than another by today's searchers, his comments are most pertinent to the evaluation of a virtual library. Jensen's list:
  • Free trumps cost
  • Open trumps firewalled
  • Easy trumps intricate
  • Fast sufficiency trumps clumsy quality.
  • Integrated/linked trumps siloed
  • Findable trumps precise
  • Recommended trumps available
  • Updateable trumps static
Every item on the list is an aspect of the ideal Virtual Library.

The virtual library is an amazing resource that can:
  • level the playing field for access to resources
  • take users on a journey of connection as they follow link after link
  • locate the actual (physical) resource in your library
  • teach users how to search online databases effectively
  • model and/or showcase best practice whether it's the best way to write a blog or research a social studies topic
  • highlight new books and other resources
  • offer on-line collaboration options e.g. wikis which then form a library of shared resources.
  • inform users about school policies, procedures, and news
  • publish student and staff creative work( links to videos, podcasts, poetry, essays etc. ad infinitum)
  • assist students with homework outside of library hours
  • advertise special events that take place in the(physical) library, i.e. visiting authors, book club discussions, workshops
  • quite a few thousand more things I haven't thought of yet...

Not surprisingly, Valenza's site hits the bull's eye. I continued my search for other good sites. I found a directory that listed virtual library sites from around the world. I checked out the Canadian sites and was especially impressed by the site created by Judith Comfort at Dr.Charles Best Secondary School Library
Some of my favourite features were a Should we buy these titles? link on the teacher resources page that listed 5 titles (and the links to Amazon with more product information). Getting feedback from other staff about prospective titles is a great idea. Of course what really sold me was the question posed 'Virtual tools speed up your life but do they improve it' with an invitation to leave a comment just below. Another feature,
Behind the screen - for teacher-librarians, led me to a million more reasons to frequent this site.

All this leaves me back where I started, slightly overwhelmed with all the possibilities there are out there for amazingly useful, vibrant, stimulating virtual libraries.
Make that overwhelmed, inspired, and motivated to keep learning.


Arlene said...

Thanks for pointing out the Dr. Charles Best Secondary School Library. I plan to go back. I was intrigued by the left hand side bar that said that the site is a web of 30 linked blogs!

Katie said...

I have to second Arlene's comment- I really enjoyed that site and I have future plans for more exploration!


Jennifer said...

Great discussion this week. And it is overwhelming. As I continue to write on every blog this has to be a school-wide decision with school-wide support.

But, kids can and will help with this and VL club is way cooler that just plain old library club.