My role is about to change. After 17 years of being a librarian with a physical library, our library is undergoing a major renovation and we’ll be closing in about two weeks. At that point, we’ll be rooming in with our ninth grade library, and have to navigate a construction zone to work with the grade 10-12 students.
I’ve been thinking this may be a unique opportunity to become a virtual librarian for awhile and explore what that is. Recently we discovered that instead of opening back up in September, as I had anticipated, we won’t be able to open until December. The thought of not having a physical space for a year has been rather daunting, and I know it will offer a lot of challenges for our whole campus.
So I’ve been putting a lot of thought into our virtual services and how I can “take the library to the students” rather than the students coming to me, so that we can still provide good service to our students and staff. Since Cathy Nelson was so very kind enough to comment about this in a recent post, I thought I would expand on some of the ways I hope to do this.
One thing that’s important in virtual learning is a good web presence. We need to make sure things we do are clickable, and that support and help are clickable, so deepening our website is something we’ll be working on. Adding more e-books to our collection, identifying more virtual ways to access information, and building good pathfinders will all help with that. I’m hoping this will also be my chance to take time to really learn html and enhance my web design capabilities (anyone interested in helping me with that project?)
Other than working with classes on research projects or multi-media projects, a tremendous amount of what we do each day is troubleshooting technology needs with students or making book recommendations. So I want to find ways to provide help with that remotely, when I’m not able to reach a class directly.
We’ve been piloting using Skype on our campus, and this may be a perfect opportunity to test its power as a live reference and book recommendation tool. What would it be like to have a open “Skype” line for teachers or students to message us with questions, book requests, etc? Can we use a webcam to humanize our services even when they are from a distance?
The other opportunity I really see here is the chance to teach side by side in the classroom with teachers. Now that our campus has added mobile laptop labs in anticipation of our closing, I’m planning to go to them to work on information literacy lessons, projects, etc. I’m thinking this may really open up some collaborative opportunities to create more of a partnership with our teachers.
I know I’m really going to miss the students in our space, together. Although the 9-12 students can all access the ninth grade library where I”ll be, it’s much smaller, and so I know there will be a limit to the number of students who can be there. Our seniors who are currently in the library every day will be graduating and another class of seniors halfway through before we reopen, and that will feel like something we’ve missed–those familiar faces in our familiar space.
I’ll miss having everything I need at hand–miss having the variety of literary choices we’d normally have, miss all the activities we host in our space like Poetry Cafe and Dylan Day and teacher breakfasts and workshops, miss it being a gathering place for teachers and students alike.
But in the interim, we are going to open an “internet” cafe type of space in our interior courtyard, and be there during lunch periods to provide service, answer questions and issue laptops, as well. So that create times where we’re readily available to students, and running the internet cafe will open up new understandings I’m sure.
And I’m sure we’ll find many ways to take the activities to the students in the classroom while we are without a physical space to host them. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can use web tools, classrooms, and outdoor spaces to provide library services in the interim!
We’ll also really have time to build some professional development opportunities and collaborate with the ninth grade staff, which I’m looking forward to.
So, as Cathy says in her post, wish us well in our virtual journey as our new physical 21st century “Research Center” comes to life.
Library services are changing tremendously. I recently wrote about an article by Bob Hassett in which he eloquently writes that the library is “everywhere,” takes place all the time, and is composed of every student and teacher.
And as the Grinch says about Christmas, maybe libraries come without “ribbons” or “tags,” maybe they come without bookcases or walls–maybe now libraries “mean a little bit more.”