In a 2010 blog post, Joyce Valenza listed 20 things she wished that school librarians would “un-learn”. #5 on that list: “That having a web presence, no–that having a really good and really useful web presence–is optional.” Even though that post is 5 years old now, it’s still such relevant advice!
Most school libraries have some sort of web site or at least an information page, often as part of the school district’s web site. Unfortunately, that could mean that library staff doesn’t have much control over what information they can offer through the site. And it might even mean they can’t update the site directly at all, instead having to send all updates and changes to the school’s webmaster. While it’s understandable that an organization might want to maintain a certain look and feel for all the pages on their official site, it doesn’t give library staff much flexibility for quickly updating and adding content as student and staff needs require.
Fortunately, there are any number of great (and often free!) web services that will let do what you want, when you want. That’s what you’ll have a chance to explore in this lesson.
Note: Many school systems are moving to content management systems that allow staff to maintain their own sections of the school website. If your school is doing this and you have access to the system, you might want to use this lesson as a chance to learn more about the features of your schools system. Of course, you can choose to do any of the other activities here too.
Student and Professional Portfolios
If you’re already happy with your library’s website, then how about giving your own professional presence a bit of a boost. Or look into tools to help students create portfolios of their own work, an increasingly important skill for them to learn. The tools listed below can help with these projects also
Keep in mind that most of these tools have additional features available for a fee. If you find a tool that works well for your purposes, then it might be worth a few dollars for additional features. Check for special educator discounts as well.
TOOLS TO EXPLORE
Web Site & Blogging Tools
- News Posts: Use just as a simple blog to post news and updates.
- Web Site: In addition to using the blogging features for news updates, add resource pages too and you’ll have a complete web site for your library
- Collaborations: Posts news items, ideas, questions, book reviews, etc. Invite students to use the comments feature to share ideas, their own reviews, etc.
- Student writing: Students can use these tools for writing and reflecting.
- Portfolios: Create a professional resume & portfolio by creating pages that focus on different aspects of your experience and skills. Students can use them for portfolios too.
Examples & Resources:
- Castellejo School Library (WordPress)
- Plymouth Regional High School Library (WordPress)
- Milipitas High School Library (Blogger)
- Springston School Library Blog – This library has also built a web resources guide using google sites. (Blogger)
- Ventura High School Library (Weebly)
- Senior Project Demo Site (Weebly)
- Collins Hill High School Media Center (Weebly)
Google Sites has grown into a useful tool for building all sorts of web projects. It could be used to build a very functional library web site, to create pathfinders, resource sites for specific classes, student portfolios and more. And of course since it’s Google, lots of Google services can be embedded in the sites. Templates make it easy to get a site started in a hurry. They come with multiple pages and lots of features already included. Handy when you don’t want to start from scratch. If your school is a Google Apps for Education school, you’ll have access to Google Sites integrated with all your other Google services.
Examples & resources:
- Google Sites Help
- Holliston High School – School whole site is done with Google Sites.
- Staples Library Learning Commons
- Knowledge Building Center – David Loertscher’s model for a collaborative learning space. The template can be copied and used to start your own project site.
- Van Meter Library Voice – Secondary school library site done on Google Sites. Link to Elementary site also.
- School Libraries using Google Sites – The list is a little out of date, so a few links don’t work anymore.
- Survive and Thrive! An Advocacy Toolkit for School Librarians Example of a great resource site that was built using Google Sites.
LibGuides from Springshare is a very popular and easy to use content management system for creating guides to resources and can serve as your library web presence as well. Though it’s not free, many libraries are already using it. Check with your SLS administrator to see if you have access to it through them. My only quibble with LibGuides is that many pages end up looking confusing and overly “boxy”. I don’t think this is a fault of the tool itself, but of how we use it. Try to create pages that are organized and easy to use. Admittedly, that’s a challenge with any website, including Cool Tools!
Some handy features of LibGuides include:
- Mobile friendly responsive design – no worries about what your pages will look like on a smartphone or tablet.
- Reuse content on multiple pages – If you’ve created some great content for one page, you can easily reuse it on other pages without having to recreate it.
- Browser addon – Easily add content to your LibGuides from your browser.
- LibGuides Community – access to reusable content from over 400,000 guides created by librarians around the world.
Examples & resources (Just a few from NYS)
- Pine Grove Middle School – Shows lots of features, embedded calendars, handy list of all their guides on main page, embedded search boxes and more. By Sue Kowalski, Syracuse.
- LREI High School – Nicely organized and includes an attractive widget of new books.
- Empire State Information Fluency Continuum – Provides support resources to SLS Directors integrating the use of the ESIFC and Common Core Learning Standards.
- CapRegion BOCES SLS – Home page, newsletters, links to resources
- The Industrial Revolution – Nice example of a resource guide for a particular class. By Diane Mahoney, Rochester.
- MORE! – there are 106 K12 libraries listed for NYS alone.
- Margaret Janavicius
- A. Brockman GSLIS Portfolio
- Kelly Duewel’s SLMP e-Portfolio
- Kristen Wilson
- Maureen Hall Squier
- School Librarians search with portfiolios on about.me
- Sean Neal
- Jessica Old
- Caitlin Beirne
- (source: http://www.21things4students.net/21/15-career-prep/q5-create-portfolio/)
And a few more tools…
- Smore – Smore is easy to use, free and has many options for colors and layout. Use it to create an attractive, single page website, e-newsletter, special events page and more. Some examples: Brighton High School Library, Sweet Peaches. And lots of great Smore ideas and tips from Shannon McClintock Miller
- About.me – Great place to setup a simple professional profile for yourself. Describe your work, list activities, contacts, links to social media and more. Check out these school librarians.
- Creating Blogs & Websites – Tutorials on using a variety of tools, including the ones mentioned in this lesson.
Tips for any website
- Just because you can add lots of content to your site, don’t! Carefully curate what you add. Your website is not a kitchen junk drawer! 🙂
- Organize your content logically – again, avoid that disorganized junk drawer model. Keep it simple and organized.
- Keep it fresh – add news and new content, while reviewing and deleting out of date content.
- 7 Best Practices for Creating a User Friendly Library Website
- Some handy tips from Developing your Library Website.
Pick whatever tool (or tools!) you’d like to explore and pick a project. Some suggested projects are listed below, but if you have another idea, go with it. The projects don’t have to be particularly complex, just make sure you explore a variety of features of the tool you’ve chosen.
- Create a draft web site for your school library. If you don’t have an easily updated website, explore options for creating one.
- Examine your current web site: what needs to change? Look at other school library websites and get ideas. Create a plan for moving to your dream site!
- Create a professional portfolio for yourself.
- Set up a student portfolio template that you can share with your students.
- Create a template/model of a student research project site.
- Have another idea for a project? Do it!
Your Blog Post
- For your Thing 15 blog post, share which tools you explored, pros and cons, links to your work and other thoughts about why your library needs a web presence and why you might need a professional portfolio.
Don’t forget to log your blog post when you’re done! When you finish this lesson by fill out the log form. You’ll need the URL of your first blog post to complete the form.