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School Library 2.0
[May 04, 2006]

School Library 2.0

(School Library Journal Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)A group of students from Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, MI, is sitting down to a discussion of Elie Wiesels Night (Hill & Wang, 1960). Its a fairly typical exercisethe Nobel Laureates haunting memoir of the Holocaust has been widely read in high schools (long before being tapped for Oprahs book club earlier this year).

Not so typical is the discussion itself. It will take place entirely online, in the form of a blog. Margaret Lincoln, a librarian at Lakeview, set up the blog so students at her school could talk about Night with their peers, 700 miles distant, at Cold Spring Harbor High School in New York.

Blogging is nothing new, for sure. Numerous educators, including media specialists, have already begun taking their class discussions online. Yet its only a hint of things to come. Blogs and the whole gamut of interactive, Web-based tools are redefining how we connect with people and content on the Internet.

This is the widely discussed next step known as Web 2.0, a truly revolutionary concept in which pervasive interactivity, where multitudes of users online actively exchange or contribute content, will transform the very nature of knowledge and information. With a blog, for example, the author connects with a group of readers by writing a post. Then the readers join the conversation, adding their comments to the information collective. To extend the sharing, theres social bookmarking, with tools like or to help others locate your online resources. Flickr, already a dynamic online presence, allows us to contribute pictures to the community, while new sites just emerging will let users share video.

These tools will necessarily redefine the learning landscape as we know it. And school librariesif they are to remain relevantmust undergo transformation as well.

Interactive technologies have already galvanized the greater library community. You may have already caught some of the online chatter about Library 2.0, a reconsideration of what library services will be in the future.

So what about School Library 2.0? Initially, I set out to explore that question in a series of posts on my blog Infomancy (
). Then I quickly realized that this issue demands further discussion.

Redefining the school library is not a response to some inherent failure on the part of the institution. Its an opportunity for library professionals to engage in some exciting activities that will enable our institutions to remain effective in the midst of fast-moving technological change. It was school libraries, in fact, that led the way in the first wave that brought computers and then the Internet into our classrooms. This is about adapting, once again, to a new, perhaps even more compelling digital revolution, in which powerful new ideas are enhancing the way in which we function in an electronic information environment.

Believe the HypeWhile some may claim that Web 2.0 is just a lot of hype, a dramatic change in how we use the Internet is already happening. If you have any doubts, just do a quick search for your local high school on MySpace or LiveJournal. Although these sites are likely blocked at school, that hasnt stopped millions of our students and others from using social networking sites to communicate and create their own content.

Still other events taking place in the world are pushing us toward change. School libraries are becoming marginalized by state and federal regulations. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, does not recognize librarians as teachers. Moreover, the 65 percent solution, an education budget formula being enacted by many states, also jeopardizes library funding. Add to this the Google effect, which has schools questioning the relevancy of libraries in an online world, and we are in real trouble.

So Where Do We Go from Here?We library professionals have continually sought to establish the media center as the central foundation of a school. We must persist in this effort. But in its 2.0 incarnation, the digitally re-shifted school library, as I call it, must transcend the physical space to bring services and programming to every student and teacher throughout the school wherever learning is taking place. Consequently, librarians, while still based in the media center, will interact more directly with students as well as their teacher peers in new spaces.

This isnt about installing a coffee bar next to the circulation desk, but finding ways for the library to make truly substantive things happen. For example, using their integrated library system, librarians can help reading specialists assess students progress by tracking the use of leveled readers and other books. Going a step further, we could create an interface that would allow students to build a virtual collection of their favorite books by letting them copy a record to display on their bookshelf. Perhaps students could rate the titles and add comments, giving the reading specialist greater insight into the students relationship to the book.

This service, by the way, already exists. A nonlibrarian, Tim Spalding, created to allow users to catalog their personal libraries by downloading MARC records from the Library of Congress and then applying tags to categorize the books. In the hands of school librarians, this could be a powerful tool, providing an OPAC interface that actively engages students.

Ramp Up Book DiscussionsMedia specialists have already begun to use blogs and podcasts to facilitate book discussions and booktalks. In the 2.0 world, students and teachers should be encouraged to assume authorship of these projects.

You can further stimulate a dialogue by establishing a Book Talk program through voicemail. Many schools are moving to digital phone systems that can deliver voicemail messages to an e-mail account in the form of an MP3 file. So set up a special Book Talk phone number so students can submit their contributions from their cellphones. These efforts are not much different from what school librarians have been doing all alongencouraging reading.

One librarian, Robert Eiffert, from Pacific Middle School in Vancouver, WA, has created a new space for sharing book reviews on Pacifics School Library BookBlog (
). While some students contribute to the blog toward earning a grade, others continue to post and help maintain the community out of a love for reading, according to Eiffert. Two students, Kandise and Raynah (screen names), rule the site and strongly encourage their peers to stay focused. What do these blog masters expect? I want a nice, neat little thread, says Kandise. The same with pictures, nice, neat, and small. She recommends that other libraries start their own book blogs. They are a fun way to find new books to read and post about, says Kandise.

On the face of it, were talking about using blogs and podcasts. The heart of the concept, though, is not about the tools, but rather the communities and the conversations that they make possible.

Position School Libraries as the Next Intel InsideOf course, media specialists should never let their efforts go unnoticed. Yet every librarian I know has a distinct distaste for self-marketing. The digitally re-shifted librarian, however, cannot shy away from this essential task in an era of increasing demands and decreasing resources. Remember the 65 percent solution? It calls for 65 percent of school funding to go to classrooms to support student learning, yet in many states school libraries are not considered classrooms in this legislation.

Im thinking of the longtime advertising campaign for Intel computer processors, which placed a sticker proclaiming Intel Inside on the chassis of every computer that used Intel products. How about putting Library Powered stickers on everything we do? I am only halfway joking here. It could go a long way toward showcasing the power and reach of the digitally re-shifted library.

One example of effective marketing is a new blog I have set up for my school system, Genesee Valley BOCES, and the 22 districts that we serve. Prompted by a flood of questions about the New York state tests, along with a longer-term need for an information repository on the subject, Genesee Valley turned to its library system for help.

The librarians, after all, were already familiar with the blog-like layout of our content management system, Drupal (
). Now that expertise has been tapped to create a blog about testing. Theres a growing repository of Q&A posts on the testing blog, which distributes updates via RSS and e-mail. By using library technologies and librarians expertise in information management, this innovative solution to a complex communication problem is serving as a model throughout the state. Now, where are those Library Powered stickers?

Discard the Flex vs. Fixed ModelThis may be a bit of a stretch from Web 2.0, but stick with me for a bit. The digitally re-shifted library will end the argument over flex vs. fixed scheduling once and for all by shifting to a new model.

Many school libraries have switched to flexible access scheduling as a way to better meet student needs, but this doesnt go far enough. Like fixed schedules, flex programs are still built around the delivery of library resources at a set time, in a set place. So if Mrs. Smith, a second-grade teacher, wants to have a fixed schedule in the library, lets say, that is fine. But this doesnt mean shes on a fixed schedule with the librarian. While Mrs. Smith is using the library, the librarian may be in another classroom, in a computer lab, or off on a research excursion with students, because there is no more weekly library lesson. The library is still functioning as the Intel Inside, but that doesnt have to mean In Your Presence.

How else can libraries harness the power of 2.0 to provide services wherever and whenever they are needed? You might consider screencastingmaking a movie of what you do on your computerlets say a how-to on using databases that a classroom teacher can share with students. Then there are pathfinders, which can be built on the fly using dynamic RSS extractions from resource lists generated from keyword searches or by accessing categories from tags from Web-based bookmarking services, such as or

Or to further secure your position as the schools information provider, you can download the open source social bookmarking program Scuttle (
) to build your own bookmarking network to enable student resource sharing. Among the most powerful tools in the 2.0 arsenal, open source software can be downloaded free of charge and customized to your specifications. Make sure when you create new programs to release them under a Creative Commons license (
). Its a way to give back to the information collective.

Push Library Services Out to the WorldAs previously mentioned, school libraries need to extend services beyond the four walls of the media center. One thing I see for the digitally re-shifted library is moving into nontraditional educational spaces.

In my organization, we are creating libraries for two educational centers to support career and technical and alternative education programs. It is exciting to imagine what a library that serves culinary arts and automotive technology programs could be. We are looking to create something akin to an information commons, which will feature a print and audio fiction collection and primarily digital reference and nonfiction resources.

In order to stake its claim as the Intel Inside of the school, the digitally re-shifted library must keep moving into new curriculum areas, as we have done, or at the very least forge new ground in math and science, all while continuing to support our traditional programs.

Digitally re-shifting your school library is about harnessing the power of new ideas like Web 2.0 to help fulfill the mission of school libraries. It does not necessarily mean discarding the old, but rather reconsidering what works best in meeting new challenges in a changing educational world. Its all a part of helping students become literate users of information in order for them to have successful careers in school and beyond. Remember that for some students, a rich school library experience may be their only library experience. Lets use every opportunity to help our students engage the joy of reading and the power of information.

Christopher Harris is coordinator of the school library system for Genesee Valley (NY) BOCES.

A 2.0 PrimerChristopher HarrisA beginners guide to all things 2.0.

InfomancyChristopher Harriss blog, where the school library professional discusses technology issues as they relate to libraries and more.

Library 2.0A collection of related Web links.

Library 2.0 and Library 2.0A balanced look at Library 2.0 from Walt Crawford, Senior Analyst for Research Libraries Group, Inc.

Library 2.0/Web 2.0A wealth of 2.0 blog entries by Michael Stevens, former special projects librarian at the St. Joseph County (IN) Public Library.

School Library BlogsAlso by Chris Harris, an aggregated page of top school library blogs.

Tags/library20Library 2.0 in pictures.

TechCrunchA blog that reviews emerging Web 2.0 tools.

What Is Web 2.0The article that started it all, by Tim OReilly, the publisher and Internet guru who coined the term.

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