I first conceived of the idea of a Virtual Library when I arrived mid-winter of 2010 during an icy February of ongoing snowstorms to replace the retiring librarian at Sharon High School. Having missed the usual back to school orientation process as a new staff member, I was searching for a creative way to connect to staff, students and parents. I had just moved back to Massachusetts after several years in California. It was important to me to create connections that would establish the library as a valuable center of learning at Sharon High School and that would invite students, staff and parents to develop collaborative connections with myself and library staff. I figured there was not much I could do about the re-adjustment to a colder climate, aside from the purchase of thermal underwear and an insulated coat. I could, however, create emotional warmth through a Virtual website that would reflect the collaborative nature of activities happening in the library and throughout the school.
I envisioned the SHS Virtual Library as a high profile communication tool that would allow me to improve and extend the services and mission of the library program to the entire school community by expanding the amount of scholarly resources available as well as promoting the school library as the heart and center of academic and social life at Sharon High School.
During the brainstorming process, I met with my principal and other district librarians, as well as teaching colleagues and parents. Based on their feedback, I formulated the following goals:
*to teach students valuable research skills by incorporating the use of academic databases into instruction in both library and classroom settings
*to create an online, central location for research assistance that reaches across all grade levels and subject areas; thereby encouraging students to gain more confidence in independent, college-preparatory research skills
*to incorporate innovative Web 2.0 and technology “how to’s”, empowering students and staff to celebrate, collaborate and share student work through online galleries
*to improve home/school communication by publicizing school-wide events through collaboration with the video production teacher, MaryAnn Janosko, to post the daily “Eagle News” announcements
Goals of the SHS Virtual Library link with other goals of the Sharon school system, such as development of students’ global and social competencies through collaborative, project-based research projects; integration of technology that addresses the learning needs of all students; and development of respectful partnerships throughout the school community.
By working with the PTSO, sharing budgetary resources with other departments and applying for grants, we have been able to expand the number of research databases available to students.
The addition of video clips about library staff, special events and library related programs adds excitement and brings more students to the website as an information source.
Sharing of technology articles and tips, community resource links and rotating online galleries also help the website to shine by offering transparency about what’s happening in the library department and across the school. Teachers enjoy showcasing project based learning activities in one place.
By placing the Virtual Library prominently on the SHS website under “Eagle Hot Spots” as well as through an “Eagle News” icon, we have been able to attract more visitors to the site. I enjoy looking at my “Revolver Map” to see the range of site visitors and their locations.
The SHS Virtual Library is an indispensable part of the library media program, and expands the scope and reach of the library beyond the library’s physical walls. Students appreciate having community and research resources, from book reviews to career and college information available on a 24/7 basis, and parents and staff enjoy being able to access the daily news announcements, new fiction and/or professional development titles, local and international newspapers, tech tips and more from one central, online location.