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Starting Points

girl tabletIn many school and public libraries, electronic materials are now as common as books and other materials. A primary role of the librarian is to provide access to the best quality informational resources for the patrons.

With books, quality control is achieved by carefully pre-selecting books to purchase. The same care should be taken in selecting electronic materials. While it's easy to follow this idea of "pre-selection" with purchased material such as computer software, mobile apps, and subscriptions to electronic databases, this kind of control isn't available over Internet materials.

A number of groups in the American Library Association are compiles "best" lists. Spend some time mining these websites for quality apps and websites.

readTry It!
Spend some time exploring the four "best of" websites.
Create your own list of favorites.

With billions of resources now on the Internet, it's impossible to review all materials that might be appropriate for children and young adults. In order to provide high quality Internet resources for these patrons, the librarian must make use of a wide range of existing tools and resources. These resources including portals, search tools, and other starting points.

Portals, Search Tools, and Starting Points

Think of a portal as your "starting point" for use of the Web. It's a gateway providing access to useful web resources. Along with content area interests, it might provide directories, search tools, news, weather, maps, phonebooks and other services. Google is probably the best known portal.

Read Gobs of Google. This resource provides lots of ideas for helping youth learn about Google. Keep in mind that these tools are constantly evolving.
Also, go to Google's InsideSearch for lots of ideas on how to make a search more effective.
Also, check out Google Advanced Search.
Also, Google search has an option for reading level on the left side of the screen choose MORE SEARCH TOOLS. This is valuable when working with youth.

For some people, their portal is simply the default page that appears when they open their web browser such as Apple or Yahoo.

firstgovFor others, it's the page they've set as their default home page such as their library page or the school website. is the portal for United States government resources. The is specifically designed for young people. Resources are organized by grade level.

videoWatch a public service announcement for on YouTube called For the People. Go to the US Government Channel in YouTube. This is an example of a Video Portal for accessing US government video programs.

Thinkfinity is a popular portal for educators. It provides a gateway to many of the most popular educational organization websites including National Geographic EducationScience NetLinks, EconEdLinkReadWriteThinkArtsEdgeSmithsonian's History Explore, IlluminationsEDSITEment, and Wonderopis.


webmdSome schools subscribe to a service such as netTrekker that pre-selects quality websites. The portal helps young people choose quality resources at their reading level.

Increasingly, young people are using mobile apps on their handheld devices. Use services such as iTunes Apps Store to access these mobile apps. For instance, WebMD Mobile is a popular app for information about health and fitness (see image on right).

Many librarians have created their own web page containing their favorite links. Others use social bookmarking tools to organize resources. This has become their personal portal. Some libraries have a way to personalize their website to include favorite resources.

Search Engines

The Internet is like a huge flea market with wonderful gems of information scattered among piles of junk. Search tools are intended to help you find the information you need. Each search tool takes a slightly different approach. Google is the most popular search engine, however also consider other tools such as Yahoo Search, Bing and Ask for different results. Metaengines like Dogpile are popular because they search multiple search engines like Google and Yahoo at the same time.

Go to instagrok. Notice the visual elements.

Sweet Search for Students is a search engine containing websites that have been evaluated. This website has categories including search tools for emerging learners, biographies, and social studies.

Use online tools to practice searches:

Read Purcell, Kristen, Brenner, Joanna, and Rainie Lee (March 9, 2012). Search Engine Use. PewInternet. Think about your use of search engines and how youth use them.

Starting Points for Youth

The following websites are designed for youth seeking information.

Educational Starting Points

The following websites are designed for adults seeking resources related to youth learning and educational topics:

Topical Starting Points

When looking for information in a specific subject area, think about content-area tools. WolframAlpha is the place to start for information about math and science.

Library Websites for Youth

Websites continue to be an important resource for youth. Increasingly, youth are accessing library websites using mobile devices, so it's important to test your website using iPhones, iPads, and other mobile technology.

Public Libraries

Many libraries provide special online areas for kids and teens. Explore the following examples:

School Libraries

Many schools have library websites for their students. Explore the following examples:

Looking for more ideas? Explore the following lists of school and library websites:

Facebook Presence

While Facebook isn’t as popular as it once was with teens, most young people continue to maintain accounts. Because it’s an easy way for friends and families to maintain contact, many teens have slimmed back their “friends” list to include only those that they check in on regularly. If your library can get on that list, it’s likely that teens will see your postings.

Rather than thinking of Facebook as a replacement for your school library website, think of it was a companion. Keep in mind that you don’t need to use Facebook for everything. You can connect the images you post at Flickr and the videos you publish at YouTube to your Facebook page through the use of status updates.

Public Libraries on Facebook

Let's explore some public library examples.

School Libraries on Facebook

Let's explore some school library examples.

Tips for Librarians and Facebook

Although there are many reasons for using Facebook in your library, librarians need to be cautious. Before jumping in, be sure to check your Acceptable Use Policies. In school libraries, consider restrictions on in-school use of smartphones and other student devices.

Get Started. Begin by creating your own Facebook account and spend some time getting to know the system. Explore library Facebook pages for lots of ideas. Do a Google search for “high school library” or "public library" for thousands of examples.

Build Your Page. Create a page for your library. Make an attractive banner and icon for the top of the page. Rather than a photo showing an empty library, be creative. Think about what will attract teens. The J. Frank Dobie High School Library page Facebook banner is literally eye-catching.

Spread the Word. Look for ways to publicize your Facebook page. When doing book-talks or classroom instruction, share the URL. Use random giveaways as an incentive to “like” the page.

Use Facebook Features. Hashtags are the latest addition to Facebook. They are used to turn topics into clickable links in posts on your page. To make a hashtag, write # (the number sign) along with a topic or phrase written as one word. Add this to a post such as Let’s celebrate Banned Book Week! #bannedbookweek. When people click the hashtag, they’ll see posts that share the hashtag.

Be Realistic. Although in some areas practically all youth have their own smartphones, this isn’t the case everywhere. Think about whether your library users have access to the technology necessary to participate.

Avoid Drama. Many teens are annoyed by the personal and social “drama” found on Facebook and feel pressured by the social expectations. Some teens are concerned about managing their reputation. Use the library page as a way to model positive uses of social networks.

Think Location. Many smartphones and tablets have built-in GPS and location tracking features. Recently, location information has become popular with teens through tools like FourSquare. According to Madden (2013), 16% of teens automatically include their location in Facebook posts. Many more signal their locations to friends and parents on individual posts. Turn your library, media center, or learning/information commons into “the” place to hang out by encouraging the use of locations in your library.

Form Teen-Parent-Library Connections. Think about the benefits of involving both teens and their parents on the school library Facebook page. Seven in ten teens are Facebook friends with their parents (Madden, 2013). By seeing the same Facebook postings, it’s possible to double the impact of your online promotions. You may be able to convince parents to talk with their teens about library offerings and activities.

Message Students. Many teens prefer to use Facebook’s messaging system rather than e-mail for communication. In addition to your Facebook status updates, think about focused messages you could send to a particular segment of your audience such as teen book clubs, advisory groups, or teachers.

Share Books. Post a book cover and short review of what you’ve been reading. Keep your remarks to a couple of engaging sentences. Rather than simply posting a book review or trailer, get students to talk about their favorite desserts, their love of dystopian literature, or personal fitness tips. Connect these conversations with cookbooks, new fiction, and works of nonfiction.

Post Pathfinders. Track what students are studying in their classes and post useful pathfinders to assist youth with research. The Newton North High School Library Learning Commons posted a pathfinder for students doing research on Spanish speaking countries. Ask users to recommend other materials that could be added to list of resources. Also, think about out-of-school topics such as pathfinders about finding summer jobs or buying a used car.

Spread Out the Work. Facebook is a great way to involve staff, teachers, parents, and students in spreading the word about the library. It’s possible to add trusted individuals as Facebook page administrators. These people can post status uploads, photos, videos, and other items to draw interest. They can also help keep track of conversations and respond to inquiries. These Facebook helpers can become important advocates for your library.

Identify Student Interest. Facebook isn’t just about talking, it’s also essential to listen. By asking meaningful questions and carefully monitoring students reactions, you can learn a lot about the wants, needs, and desires of your current and potential library users. Use the Facebook page as a place to address complaints and try out new ideas that have been suggested by users. You can even conduct polls and surveys from your Facebook page.

Increase Visibility. By sharing quality content and igniting interesting conversations, you can quickly gain visibility in your school. The more you interact on Facebook, the more your posts will be seen. However before you jump in, think about how you’d like to library to be perceived. Is it a source of information, instructional, and/or inspiration? What kinds of content and conversations will convey this mission?

Upload Video Tutorials. Create very short instructional videos to address common problems such as downloading e-books or using electronic databases. Share these on Facebook as a way to promote the resources as well as provide basic instruction.


Lamb, Annette (2013). Revisit an old "Friend"... A Decade of Facebook. Activate.

Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, Meredith (May 21, 2013). Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. PewResearchCenter. Available:

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