Sunday, October 19, 2008

There ain't no bun in my hair lady!

What is a virtual library? Joyce Valenza describes it as the following.  Your library Web page is your second front door. It meets your students where they live, and play, and work, with 24/7, just-in-time, just-for-me support and intervention. It creates online signage for students and staff. It projects the image of the librarian as a 21st century teacher and information professional. The effective library Web page pulls together, in one unified interface, all of a library's resources--print and electronic.”


“The library website represents the library program. It offers guidance and instruction while it fosters independent learning. It models careful selection. It offers valuable public service and can redefine “community.” The site supports reading, learning, and the building of knowledge.” Valenza’s webquest on school library websites ( provides a great resource on what to look for in a virtual library website.


Here’s my 2 cents on a few sites I explored.

Springfield Township

Right from the first page, this website is appealing for students particularly. The graphics are student friendly and really shows how technology is front and centre for this school. Now granted they have Joyce Valenza as their t-l, of course this will be the standard that we all strive towards in offering a virtual library that is student and teacher friendly with constantly updated information for users. There is an amazing wealth of resources available through this page. One of the things I really like about the page is that many of the links are either converted to or are in the process of being converted to wiki’s. This is a great idea as not only the t-l is contributing to the contents of the pages but others are invited to do so as well. Currently, my school division is in the process of establishing a resource page wiki for t-l’s and teachers to access throughout our division. It has been slow going as many of our t-l’s are not comfortable with or familiar with wiki’s (even after in-service). As a result, the majority of the contributions have come from only a few t-l’s in our system. Hopefully this will change in the near future. Have a peek and see what you think. Learning Library

Grandview Library

It was interesting to explore this site after visiting the Springfield High School website. It was great to see a K-3 school with an active virtual library that is being used. Too often we think of the “older kids” when we think of those who access a virtual library. Having students get familiar with technology early is a great asset. Getting them involved in a virtual library at this age is invaluable. If we can teach students to access virtual libraries at an early age, then they get to know and rely on having the valuable resource that this can be throughout their academic journey (however long that may be). Wiki’s again came up as a tool that is being used through virtual libraries. It really helps emphasize the importance of collaboration at all levels in schools. I also loved the idea of the blogs with the kids being audio and video blogs. Typing at this age is a challenge (trust me I’ve been trying this lately, but that is a whole other story); so setting up voice recordings (podcasts) is a great idea. Time would be the challenge for this one!

Bessie Chin Library

Upon first glance, I could honestly say that this is not a virtual library that I would spend a lot of time exploring. To begin, I found the layout very unpleasing to the eye. It looks as though there is just a bunch of links pasted in 3 columns. The text is small there is not much to draw the reader in to explore further. There are many useful links on this page for high school students (the intended audience) and for those who are using it and familiar with it, I’m sure it does the job. Personally, I need something else that grabs my attention more. Icons, rather than text may be helpful in drawing students in to use the virtual library more easily. I would challenge that the page is a little text heavy and that this may scare away users that are not text reliant. Without spending too much time exploring, I did not find that there were a tremendous number of resources for teachers, but instead it was geared more towards students. The more I played with the website, the more information I found. There is no doubt that there is a vast amount of information that one can access through this virtual library, however, I still get hung up a little on its visual appeal. Will it get used if it is not visually appealing to students? Research shows that students of this generation need something to catch their interest quickly or they will click away and look for something more appealing.

Parkcrest Media Centre

Tracy has done a good job creating a user-friendly virtual library for her school. The bubbles on the left side of the page make it easy for the user to quickly find what they are looking for. The topics are well organized and she really has created links for many important and useful tools available to students and teachers in her school. This is a good example of one of those sites that you know someone took a lot of time to create and you hope that the intended audience is using it. I like the fact that she has attempted to keep the site light on text and easy to navigate. This is so important when you have a variety of grade levels and reading levels accessing the site on a daily basis.


Maybry Middle School

This one may not be specific to virtual libraries, however I did want to share this school website with others.  Set up like an online magazine, Maybry Middle School website truly has it all going on. There is certainly no lack in visual appeal for the website and it is very user friendly. There is a definite sense of professionalism on this webpage and it is actually required by teachers to keep a webpage current. Technology is definitely a focus at this school. However, there is not a webpage for the resource centre. There is only a page that shows the media specialist’s pictures and a paragraph describing them and the services they provide along with a link to their blog. Interesting that a school with such a push on technology does not have a virtual library as an expectation for the school.


As my wife peeked over my shoulder and looked at my typing, she immediately asked me if I’d looked at Joyce Valenza’s website. Our conversation then went in the direction of that 4 letter swear word in education…TIME… Yes, her virtual library is what we should all strive towards but when do we get the time to do this? Certainly not while we are at school. So it falls onto our lap of doing it on our own time. If this is the case, hopefully you have access to the school website from home otherwise you’ll be putting in some mighty late nights! Support….do you have a technology consultant/specialist who can assist you in designing, planning and publishing your website? Know-how….do you have the know how to create a webpage?


Our school division moved to a website publishing system called Drupal last year. Drupal provides a template that is the same for all schools. Within the school website, each teacher has the ability to have their own webpage(s) and a blog. It is a pretty easy system to use for even the technology rookies on staff. It’s not flashy but you have the ability to do many of the things you could using a program such as Dreamweaver. I have played with it a fair amount and am still in the process of tweaking it to what I want my library webpage to look like and include. Unfortunately TIME is getting in the way again and preventing me from updating it as much as I would like to. The good thing about Drupal is that I can work on my webpage from wherever I want, whenever I want. Here’s the link to my current virtual library webpage: Wascana Virtual Resource Centre

Educational Impact

The power that an effective virtual library website has on student learning can be tremendous. As many libraries are understaffed, there is not always a t-l available to help students or teachers when they need it. The need for a virtual library is now essential. If students are linked to virtual library that holds most of the information needed in their studies, the need for the face-to-face contact is no longer as great. Don’t get me wrong, there is no replacement for face to face interaction, however, many of our students today are so “wired” that they want to be able to visit a website that can help guide them in their journey as effortlessly as possible. The same can be said for teachers. Collaborative planning will not and cannot be replaced by a virtual library, however a virtual library can save teachers tremendous amounts of time as they organize and research for their teaching.


So, what makes a good virtual library website?

Content and Design are the 2 categories that need to be considered when making an effective virtual library website.


  1. Information access & delivery
  2. Teaching & learning
  3. Books & reading
  4. Program administration


  1. School/curricular: Is there evidence that the site supports learning and school goals?
  2. Navigation: Does the site facilitate access? Is it clear and logically organized? Intuitive?
  3. Aesthetics / Appeal for the Audience
  4. Level of Interactivity: Opportunities for collaboration, feedback, involvement
  5. Freshness


Wow! There is much to consider when creating a virtual library but the possible payoff is tremendous if students and teachers know what information is available and how to access it properly.


“If you build it, they will come”

Field of Dreams

…but you still have to teach them what to do when they get there!



Here is some of the literature I accessed during this weeks learning.


Audrey P Church (2005, March). Virtual School Libraries - The Time Is Now! MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 12(2), 8-12.

Baumbach, D. J. (2005). The school library media center web page. Knowledge Quest, 33 (3), 8-12.

Braxton, B. (2004). Putting your school library online. Teacher Librarian, 31 (4).

Jurkowski, O. (2004). School library website components. TechTrends, 48 (6), 56-60.

Valenza, J. K. (2005). The virtual library. Educational Leadership, 63 (4).

Warlick, D. (2005). Building web sites that work for your media center. Knowledge Quest, 33 (3).


Websites of interest:


Regina Public Schools Virtual Resource Centre Homepage 


Darryl’s virtual resource centre


katkin said...

Great post moniker, Darryl! I was interested to read that one of the sites you listed was the Regina Public Schools web site. I included the Regina Public Library in my post this week. The library staff at Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth actually recommend the Regina virtual library site (over our own Winnipeg Public Library site), in terms of easy access to online services! Blasphemous, I know!

Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, Darryl. I think you (and Jillian!) have really hit the nail on the head when you say that even if you think that VSLs are important and providing students and their parents 24/7 access to library services is increasingly necessary, time is a huge factor. Most schools don't have dedicated technicians to help with the development of these kinds of sites, and I don't know if you would want a non t-l to have too much control over the set up and design of a site, anyway. So then how does a t-l make/find time to create a site like Joyce Valenza's? It's a really good question...