saudixpat’s Weblog

October 20, 2008

Virtual Libraries

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 9:42 pm

This week brings me to the topic of Virtual Libraries. “What is a virtual library?” was my first question. So I began to do my research. A Google search for What is a virtual library revealed the first hit to be a link for Web Definitions for Virtual Library which revealed a variety of definitions depending on the site vewpoint. The very first reference is actually from a chemoinformatics website, but very appropriate.

“A library which has no physical existence, being constructed solely in electronic form or on paper. The building blocks required for such a library may not exist, and the chemical steps for such a library may not have been tested. These libraries are used in the design and evaluation of possible libraries.”

So a virtual library is to traditional libraries what is to traditional bookstores. It uses electronic information management systems to provide clients with the information required, easily and quickly.

To begin, I looked for videos on virtual libraries in schools. YouTube was a bit of a bust, as I found virtual tours of actual libraries, but then on Teachertube I found an analysis of a school’s virtual library site. This gave me a starting point to see what I might want to be looking for in a virtual library. Again, as this is a TeacherTube video, I would have had to download and install software onto the blog site, which I am not permitted to do as far as I can tell.

Moving on to actual reseach of online school libraries, I came across the Avis Elementary School Library website. This site is what I would call a “shell” site. The outside framework has been built, but the inside is empty. Looking at the page capture you can see what I mean.

Main Page of the Avis Library

Main Page of the Avis Library

The funny thing is that if you go to the district page and click the Avis Elementary Library link under the Libraries tab, you get a totally different page with information and a link to their Destiny database! My comments are addressed to the page within the actual school site. As you can see, the site is filled with white space and no information. Students who make it to this page likely won’t come back again.

Since this search didn’t go so well, I thought I would look for an international school’s virtual library. That’s how I came across the International School of Nagoya’s library website. Once more, I was disappointed. The entire site consisted of three pages: the first one with some background information and hours; the second one with information about the Sakura Medal reading contest and the top ten most-borrowed books; and the third page with a list of recommended and new books. Again, there is nothing on this site that would pull traffic to it, which I what I believe a good virtual library site (or any site for that matter) shoud do.

Determined to find a “good” online virtual library, I wondered what my old high school’s site looked like. After browsing, I must say I was impressed with the North Delta Secondary School library website. It is similar to the Bessie Chin Virtual Library website, but not as busy and not as text-based. Just as students have gotten into graphic novels, virtual libraries should have graphics to draw the users to the site.

North Delta Secondary Library Site

North Delta Secondary Library Site

The school site has a nice link bar on the left side, but also graphic based links on the right. It carries stories from CBC, The Globe and Mail, and TSN. It has a link to its Destiny OPAC as well as links to reseach and resource websites that might prove useful for school work. One feature I especially loved was the newstand which links to newpapers in ever province, the USA, and internationally. I was impressed. They even have Destiny OPAC walkthroughs!

The site I really really loved, though, was the Springfield High School Virtual Library. It is vibrant, colourful, well-arranged and takes you through what you need. Its impact on me has changed the way I do things. Currently, or library page on our school intranet is run by me in consultation with the librarians and their needs. At present it serves as a link portal to Brainpop, Tumblebooks,, and other sites. After seeing Springfield’s page, I have shown our head librarian their site, discussed with our IB Art teacher about developing a project involving the graphic design of a new front page reflecting our elementary library and MS/HS library that would have hot spots to click on and take you to Destiny, Brainpop, EBSCO host and a variety of other places which are educationally sound and important.

What have I gotten out of researching virtual libraries? I now have a much beter understanding of what a virtual library is. It needs to function much as a real library does and be a focal point for browsing books and other resources and sharing them with others. At this point our virtual school library isn’t too heavy on the virtual, but hopefully in a month or two it will be there.



  1. I like your comparison that “a virtual library is to traditional libraries what is to traditional bookstores”. I never quite thought about it that way, and I totally agree! I don’t think they take away from the reading/researching experience, but add to it. Looking forward to the rest of your entry – ’til then, have a good rest!

    Comment by Carol — October 20, 2008 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Bruce,

    I like your analogy about amazon and bookstores–it’s a good way to describe a virtual school library. The North Delta High School Library site that you found reminds me of the Esquimalt High School Library site that was created by a current TLDL student, Geoff Orme. The layout is similar and I too like the clean look. I think the Bessie Chin Library example is a good one in some ways–it has lots of good content but the layout and design isn’t as good as some. As a teacher, rather than a teacher-librarian, what do you see as the major benefits of having a virtual school library? What kinds of websites do international school libraries have…I know you gave us one example, but from your experience what kinds of things are international school libraries doing to provide their students with this kind of access to information? Who is responsible in your school (or other international schools) for creating and maintaining VSLs? How do you make use of this kind of site with your own classes? Sorry–lots of questions that I am thinking about given your international school experience.

    Comment by Joanne de Groot — October 22, 2008 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

  3. One of the major benefits as a teacher of having a virtual library is the 24/7 access to its resources. Using Destiny (we just replaced our OPAC with Destiny), you can create organized resource lists, put books on hold, review books, and examine top ten lists automatically compiled by the software. This opens up new avenues for teachers and students, such as really focusing on student literature reviews of library resources which are then available for other students to use as a guide to library materials. It also has the possibility of limiting the amount of time wasted by students due to the ability of the system to generate a book list based on specific criteria which can be saved and shared. If you select public access for the book list, students can see the bookset relating to the topic. In our training last Sunday, the librarian showed us a book list of 150 books relating to endangered species and the conditions impacting them.

    Some international schools are simply doing the same old library with no online exposure or access. Others are modernizing rapidly. Our school is among the latter group. We are putting money into software and hardware, into library materials, and into support programs which go with them. Because Destiny doesn’t support AR (Accelerated Reader I believe), we are dropping its use from our Middle School program. However, Destiny has a similar add-on package called (I believe) Lexile, which is similar to accelerated reader. It offers teaching resources and testing for a wide variety of books. Our librarian hinted that acquiring Lexile was in the works.

    Our VSL, once it is done, will be created and maintained by me as the school intranet webmsster. At this point it will be internal only. However, once it is developed, we will look at creating a mirror site on our external server with password protection to prevent non-student access. I have been in talks with our librarian, our IB Art teacher, and our Technical Director about creating a VSL interface which is fun, comprehensive and informative. They all are onboard with it, so I am hoping to have it done by January for rollout when students return.

    Don’t worry about all the questions. They keep me thinking about what a VSL site should look like and contain!

    Comment by sibertiger — October 24, 2008 @ 6:31 am | Reply

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