Thursday, September 17, 2009

School Library Websites

Topic 6 of ETL501 is concerned with the provision of information services to the school community through the school library website. There are many benefits to developing a school library website. In short:
  • A school library website provides access to the catalogue and online reference sources from anywhere within the school and from outside the school.
  • A website provides a venue for improved communication between the library and the school community.
  • A website provides an opportunity for easy access to a variety of learning tools including pathfinders and scaffolds.
  • A website can act as a virtual filing cabinet for teaching and learning materials and can be used to showcase student work.

Silvennoinen, A. (2005). Virtual St Mary's: A journey to cyberspace. Access 19(3), 19-22.

Silvennoinen says that the greatest benefit of having a school library website is that it is a library without walls or constraints, extending the use of the library to 24 hours a day every day of the year. She also notes the encouragement of computer and information literacy skills, and the appeal to the modern technology-oriented teenager. And the fact that the website is a great marketing tool for the library's services!

A WebQuest About School Library Websites by Joyce Valenza is a fabulous resource for evaluating school library websites, or to use when designing your own. It is extremely thorough, considering both content and design aspects of the website. I won't even try to summarise it here - you just have to go and see it for yourself!

Best practices in school library website design by David Walbert also provides some very good practical help for librarians venturing into website design. He recommends focusing on what your clients need, and how to best serve them, while keeping the actual website uncomplicated. According to Walbert, accessibility is number one, and every effort should be made to ensure maximum accessibility by using images sparingly, always providing alternate (text) content, and making sure that the font and font size are readable. He also recommends making sure that your website functions as expected, and that navigation is clearly labelled so that it is clear which links are internal and which are external to the library website. Keeping design and navigation consistent across all web pages also helps avoid confusion. Considering the intended audience of the website is also important. All in all, content is king, design should be clean and simple, and everything should be ORGANISED!

Walbert recommends using a blog for your school library website! The blog and hosting are free, the design is already done for you, and site navigation and contents are created automatically for you. You can post and edit content, and there are plenty of opportunities for customising and creating labels etc. Keeping a blog also helps you to learn some basic HTML, which you could use later to build your own website.

I must say, reading all this has caused me to think about my blog as a website, and to consider whether or not it is effectively doing what I want it to do.

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