In 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.
- Best Apps for Teaching and Learning (AASL)
- Best Apps (Common Sense)
- Best Websites for Teaching and Learning (AASL)
- Best Websites (Common Sense)
- Great Websites for Kids (ALSC)
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.
Watch a public service announcement for USA.gov 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 Education, Science NetLinks, EconEdLink, ReadWriteThink, ArtsEdge, Smithsonian's History Explore, Illuminations, EDSITEment, and Wonderopis.
Some 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.
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.
- General Search Tools
- Ask. This tool is question-based, so it's effective for specific questions.
- Bing. Microsoft's search tool.
- Dogpile. A metaengine that searches popular search tools like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- DuckDuckGo. Like Google, but with fewer ads.
- FamHoo. Locates "safe" sites with a family friendly search engine.
- Kartoo. Provides a nice overview and images.
- KwMap. Provides a great visual showing relationships among words and a keywords list.
- Quintura and Quintura for Kids. Provides a nice word cloud.
- Search Credible. Searches many well-known websites. Good for student projects.
- Sweet Search. Designed for students.
- Twurdy. Provides search results by reading level.
- Yahoo. A longtime favorite.
- Yippy. Formerly Clusty, it's a good tool for unusual requests.
- Visual Search Tools
- Behold. Shows you images you can use in your own projects.
- Oolone. Provides a screen shot of each result. Search for a topic such as wind energy.
- Qwiki. Provides an overview, images, and audio. Search for a topic such as lizard.
- Spacetime. Shows results as full screens.
- Yometa. Provides results from Google, Yahoo, and Bing
- Deep Web Tools
- Complete Planet. Search tool for the deep web.
- Internet Archive. Explores public domain and open source resources. I was able to find The Care of Books from 1901. I can also find textbooks from the 1800s.
- RefSeek. Returns more academic results than Google.
- SimilarSite Search. Provides websites that are similar to one you already use.
Use online tools to practice searches:
- Boolean Machine. Shows a simple animation of Boolean logic.
- Boolify Project. This tool helps students learn search strategies. Students practice developing strategies and see the search results at the bottom of the screen.
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:
- BBC Learning
- Discovery Education
- The Gateway
- Library of Congress Teachers
- PBS LearningMedia
- Scholastic Librarians
- Thirteen Online
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.
Many libraries provide special online areas for kids and teens. Explore the following examples:
- Allen County Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Bettendorf Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Brooklyn Public Library - First5, Kids and Teens
- Central Rappahannock Regional Library - Kids and Teens
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Library - Kids and Teens
- Chicago Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Cincinnati Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Indianapolis Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Los Angeles Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Multnomah County Library - Homework Center
- New York Public Library - Kids
- Newport News - Teen Space
- Washington Centerville Public Library - Kids and Teens
- Waukesha Public Library - Kids and Teens
Many schools have library websites for their students. Explore the following examples:
- Brenda Brown Library
- Canadaigua Academy Library Online
- Carthage High School Media Center
- Chico High School Library
- David Casey Copley Library
- Kennett Middle School Library Media Center
- Naples High School Library Media Center
- National Cathedral
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Library
- Oxnard High School Library Information Center
- Paideia School
- Roger Ludlowe Middle School
- University Laboratory High School Library
- Walter Reed Middle School Library
Looking for more ideas? Explore the following lists of school and library websites:
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.
- Anne Arundel County Public Library Teen Page
- Glendale Public Library Teen Services
- Teens Space @Naperville
- NYPL Teens
- Oakland Public Library TeenZone
- Springfield City Library Teens
- Queens for Teens
School Libraries on Facebook
Let's explore some school library examples.
- Ateneo High School Library
- Avon Middle/High School Library
- Ballou Library Media Center
- Fleming County High School Library Media Center
- Gunn High School Library
- The Heath High School Library
- Mira Costa High School Library
- Montclair High School Library
- Moreau Catholic High School Library
- New Canaan High School Library
- New Providence Elementary School Learning Commons
- New Trier High School Library
- Oak Park and River Forest High School Library
- West Brook High School Library
- West Liberty High School and Middle School Library
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 site:facebook.com “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: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teens-Social-Media-And-Privacy.aspx