Monday, April 4, 2011

Organizing Online Resources

The Internet is an incredible resource. It is growing at a dizzying pace and our patrons are fully immersed in it and use it as an alternative if not an outright replacement of the traditional library.  We cannot have our patrons abandon our book collections completely.  We need to demonstrate how to mine the Internet effectively and at the same time make connections to our tradional collections as well. When we facilitate better and more informed access to the Internet we create valuable links to our libraries.  The Internet comes inside the walls of the library and is considered part of it.  At the same time the Internet removes the physical walls of the library and helps create a learning commons that is 24/7 no matter where a patron is.

Libraries should not be in competition with the Internet.  We as librarians cannot say that we are just caretakers of books and periodicals and that students should consult these well considered and well written items before considering the Internet.  If we do so we become irrelevant. We cannot compete with a resource the size of the Internet. If we embrace our role as guides and advisors and organizers of  the Internet we can become the bridge between books and other media.  Information literacy and literature promotion is part of our mandate.  Thus teaching patron how to productively search the Internet is one part of our task but we should also be promoting and highlighting great Internet resources in the same way that we promote great books. This means all libraries need a web presence.

I have to admit that being a web librarian is a bit daunting.  I developed a library website about four or five years ago. I created it so it could assist me in teaching my inquiry learning units. The advantage of this functionality was that students saw the libray website in action many times during the school year.  It is a resource they could revisit and refer to anytime and any place they chose.  I felt pretty good about it.  But as time has marched by and other library responsibilites consumed my time, my site became quite static if not stale.  Part of the reason is that it is not particularly easy to update.  I now spend most of my time using Destiny Library Manager to create public resource lists and put use its home page to post hundreds of links to Internet Resources.  The reason why I have defaulted to this tool is that it is easy to do on the fly.  I can work with the Destiny Library Manager home page anytime and any place there is a computer available.  I can only edit my library website when I am at the one computer that my web editing software is on.  The software requires me to upload items and is fairly technical.

I am still searching for an efficient way of keeping track of all my links and making sure they are still current.  I need to approach my links page the same way as I do weeding of my library collection.  It needs to be done regularly.

I think the greatest challenge for librarians is to set aside time weekly to update their websites and blogs and to stay current on websites and new resources.  This is going to steal some time from other areas but it will be an investment in the survival of libraries. Librarians then need to take advantage of the most convenient Web 2.0 tools available to create sites that are windows/gateways/bridges between traditional library collections and their web-based counter parts.

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