Many hours can be spent researching and carefully building a virtual school library but it is what we do with it after construction that will determine whether or not it is effective. Franklin and Stephens in Creating Webpages for the 21st Century Library Media Center suggest ways to advertise a school library website after it is completed. They provide tips for getting the URL into the hands of students, teachers and parents. They also describe ways to promote the website through library activities to make it a tool that actually gets used by the students, teachers, parents and members of the community.
I like the way teacher-librarian Andrea Langelaar has contests for her students to get them using the Virtual School Library at Latimer Road Elementary.
Joyce Valenza in The Virtual Library, outlines the importance of a virtual library in extending the support and influence of school libraries by assisting students 24/7 in their search for and use of information. In discussing the various aspects of a virtual library, including the incorporation of technology for Web 2.0, Valenza illustrates how virtual libraries can provide instruction and guidance toward resources to support interaction with the library in person.
Fitzgerald and Galloway’s Helping students use virtual libraries effectively offers some useful approaches to teaching students how to use the virtual library. Collaborating with teachers to include resource-based learning in their lessons, using an information search model for students to follow and showing students the features and boundaries of the virtual library are all ways of getting students and teachers to successfully use the Virtual School Library.
Teacher-Librarians will find their Virtual School Libraries are most effective when the school webpage has a direct link to the virtual library and when teaching staff are taught how to make use of the virtual library. Ideally, the use of the OPAC system needs to be included, although this is often a problem due to school district security issues. It is critical that virtual school libraries are constantly updated and re-evaluated to best serve library users. If Web 2.0 tools are incorporated into the design, feedback and participation can be encouraged and updating the virtual school library will be easier.