Planning your school library's online presence

Plan your library's online presence.
Your online presence can be a virtual hub that gives learners, teachers, parents, and whānau 24/7 access to your library's digital resources and services. Use this guide to help you plan and develop an online platform that suits your school community.

Why your online presence is important

Your library's online presence is part of the school’s eLearning environment. It connects the library to your school community by providing access to information, resources and tools to support learning and foster the enjoyment of reading.

Much of our information-seeking and many everyday interactions happen online. So communicating and interacting online with the community is essential now, for schools and for school libraries. And library collections need to include digital content that your community can access online.

Your online presence should be your school library portal

It's important that your library users can find out through your online presence what your library offers and how the library can help them. Your online presence should be a portal to your school library.

Increasingly, the distinction between services provided by libraries and the technologies of companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, are blurring or disappearing entirely. For users there is no distinction. The expectations of students using library services are measured against the services they receive from these corporate providers.
— JISC News

The Pew Research Center investigated what people do when they use library websites. The results make it clear that library users want to:

  • search the library catalogue to find out what books and resources are available
  • find basic information about your library such as opening hours
  • manage their own borrowing including reserving items, checking and renewing loans
  • access eBooks or any digital resources your library provides online
  • get help with homework or research
  • get book recommendations
  • find out about library events.

The student experience and the future of libraries — JISC News.

Library services in the digital age — Pew Research Center.

Online platform options

There are many options for your library’s online presence. You could use:

  • your Integrated Library System (ILS) with its own home page as a portal for promoting services, resources and events — this is sometimes referred to as a 'web OPAC'
  • your school's Learning Management System (LMS) as a central hub for teaching and learning activities
  • the school's website, intranet, or mobile app with the library’s web presence integrated into this
  • a standalone school library website that links to and from the school’s website
  • social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other similar communication tools
  • curated digital content on platforms such as Wakelet, Pinterest, or Pearltrees.

Some schools use a combination of online tools. For example, you might build a website and embed content from other platforms into it. This can enable interaction between students, teachers, parents or whānau and the library team.

Excellence in practice: Library service transcends library space — Raroa Intermediate (YouTube video, 5:11)

Creating a virtual school library — how to make your services, digital collections, and other resources available online.

Social media and the school library — helps you decide how to connect and interact with your community in less formal ways.

Making a plan

Before diving in to building a website or using social media for your library, take some time to plan first. As a starting point, we’ve identified key steps for planning the development of your online presence. Record each of these in your plan and keep the information with your library documentation.

  1. Agree your goals and objectives first.
    • Who do you want to reach or help through your online presence, and why is it important?
    • What is the key information you need to share with your community? This might be curriculum-related, news and information about the library, or things that you share just for fun.
  2. Form a planning team
    • Identify key stakeholders and agree on roles and responsibilities.
    • Include who will contribute to, and take long-term responsibility for, your online presence.
  3. Align your online presence with the school’s policies.
  4. Select the online platform(s) you’ll begin with — ILS, LMS, website, social media, or curated content.
    • Consider your content — some platforms are better suited to different types of content than others.
    • Think about meeting your users where they are — what platforms do they already use that your library could use too?
    • Think about the intended benefits and possible risks of choosing one platform or another. Many social media platforms have an age limit for creating an account (often 13 years of age).
  5. Plan for ongoing management of your online presence. This includes any resources you'll need.
    • How much time will you need to invest in keeping your content up-to-date and engaging?
    • Will you and your team need to learn new technical skills to keep your online presence running?
    • Who can help you with technical support? Who can help create and manage content?
    • Are there any ongoing costs for maintaining your online presence?
  6. Establish how you'll develop, launch, promote, evaluate, and report on the success of your online presence.

As Joyce Valenza from Rutgers University School of Communication and Information says:

Students who collaborate and participate in building spaces, both physical and virtual, are likely to be more comfortable living in them.
Virtual Libraries — Slideshare presentation, slide 14.