CONTENT features which are important for exemplary virtual school library web sites include:
1. library home page
A school library home page should act as a launching pad for the user and provide a picture of the on-line environment for the user. From a school library home page, users should be able to access search engines, databases, references and general library and school information.
2. information about the library
Basic information about the school library should be present on the school library web site: the names of the library staff; library contact information; hours of use; and library policies are a few examples.
3. active links
It is important that the content provided by the web site in the form of hyperlinks be checked to make sure they are viable.
4. search options
Age-appropriate toolkits grouped according to subject-specific search tools, subject portals, and databases should be available to facilitate inquiries which go beyond the use of Google. Users should know how the varieties of search options available to them are useful for meeting different kinds of information needs. Links to search engines should be annotated so the user knows what to expect.
The school library web site should offer quality databases such as: peer-reviewed journal articles; magazines; reference materials; and primary sources which may not be found with only commercial search engines.
6. guides for ethical use of information
Information literacy and the ethical use of information should be modeled or demonstrated on the school library web site. The web site should contain: tutorials for research methods, search strategies, citation advice, writing assistance, use of presentation software, examples of ways to demonstrate learning, and samples of assessment tools. Users who can find support in how to properly cite and reference information will be less frustrated and more likely to maintain academic integrity with information.
7. archives for sharing information
Sharing information through archives (such as wikis) for teachers and students has many benefits for teaching and learning collaborations.
8. help features
Help links, or a place to email a question to the librarian is important to make sure students have their questions answered. Instructional blogs which are regularly updated can explain the library’s services or help users answer their most frequently asked questions.
The presence of pathfinders for teachers and students will help users more readily access information related to specific topics. These could be grouped according to grade levels, or subject areas.
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