Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blog #5

Blog #5
Virtual Libraries

At first this term scared me, as a virtual library seemed to be something that would take the place of our school libraries. Once I explored the concept however I realized that the two could co-exist. A virtual library was just a virtual public or school library. So we still needed the actual building and librarian that was in it…Phew!
I read an article in Topic 3 of our course readings called
“Electronic books versus adult readers: effects on children’s emergent literacy as a function of social class.” As soon as I saw the title I got a bad feeling about the article, just like I did when I saw “virtual library”. However, after reading the article I did begin to see several advantages to electronic books. I read this article during the same time that I was exploring virtual libraries online, they seemed to relate to one another, and this is why I am mentioning it. Now one thing I cannot differentiate is whether or not virtual libraries have electronic books. I will go explore that and come back and let you know. But before I do that I will tell you that the advantages I saw to electronic reading material were in the fact that the kids would definitely be interested in an interactive book than one that they had to read through. I could see students be very interested in learning to read when they were doing it on an interactive website where they could press words and play games with the words on the screen. Now I will go find out if virtual libraries would have electronic reading materials, or just be networking links to several different library sites.

…Ok, Nope…don’t think they have much to do with one another. Initially I believed that virtual libraries were making our school libraries a thing of the past and that virtual libraries along with electronic reading materials were the way of the future. Upon reading and investigating further into the topic I discovered that virtual libraries were actually just networks. As far as I know and have learned they are actually extensions of school libraries…a way to take them other places so others can use their resources.

Virgil Blake is the author of an article that discusses virtual libraries and defines them for those of us who have never come across the idea. He states, “The virtual library is a metaphor for the networked library.” (Blake, 1994) I still questioned what exactly they meant by virtual libraries at first, even after reading this definition. Were they going to take the place of Elementary School’s Library so there was no such thing as a room in the school called the library? Or was a virtual library simply a webpage designed to globally network libraries? The article goes on to suggest that virtual libraries simply make it possible to go to a library’s website and have access to several other libraries as well. For example if you went to the Surrey Public Library’s homepage you could have access to libraries all over the Lower Mainland. After reading this article my mind was changed somewhat. I realized that what they meant by virtual library was not taking the place of the actual library, but rather creating an electronic network of the buildings so that people could have access to them from other places. Now this is not to say that our school libraries will not eventually be virtual, but not yet anyways. Phew!
An article that I came across called “Helping students use virtual libraries effectively” by Mary Ann Fitzgerald and Chad Galloway discusses that Departments of Education across the United States are incorporating virtual libraries into their education systems. Students were able to access a wide variety of information from these virtual libraries for school projects or general reading purposes. When I attended SFU, my local University, I had access to a virtual library. I found it very useful for my University studies and also remember thinking that it would have been great to have it in high school. Now I see that educators are realizing the benefits to virtual libraries and they are becoming more popular. Some of the benefits of virtual libraries in teaching are as follows;
- Virtual libraries are not the same as the internet. So students will learn that internet searches are not the only resources they can use for research purposes.
- Students will have access to resources from different libraries, not just their own.
- Resources from a virtual library will be scholarly articles and they will all be fact checked, unlike Wikipedia articles.
- Teacher-Librarians can use virtual libraries to entice teachers to trust that technology needs to become more a part of the curriculum.
- Virtual libraries are constructed collections of information, not like the internet which has scattered collections. These collections are organized for specific users and designed to meet the direct needs of students and teachers.
- Virtual libraries offer many different types of sources and many different formats as well, including digital formats.
- Virtual libraries provide immediate access to materials.
- Virtual libraries don’t close.
- Virtual libraries can bring information home to those with learning disabilities or physical disabilities.

As great as this is I think virtual libraries are they come along with the same problems as incorporating any other type of technological innovation into schools…the students learning to use it the right way. We would need to teach students to use this virtual technology in order to benefit them. Also another avenue of exploration is whether or not virtual libraries would be as beneficial to primary students. I know that the article on electronic books.
So…after yet another exploration of a technological innovation I am again please and impressed. I would love to see all libraries have some sort of virtual part to them!


Jennifer said...

It is important to include links to a few VSL that you thought were good and those that had features that were interesting to you and that would work for your school and your students and teachers.

Linda Morgan said...

Your comment about elementary school children using virtual libraries caught my attention. I think it's absolutely feasible.....given the right supports and opportunities, I think very young children can be very capable children....overly optomistic? Hmmm...time will tell!

Katie said...

I laughed when I read your initial thoughts about VSLs because I had the same one! I thought they were websites with ebooks and that they would replace a physical library (and librarian!). I did a lot of research for this one and I was also pleased to see that I was wrong! :) Katie