For sure, over the past two years, when planning learning activities with teachers, I’m putting much less emphasis into instructional strategies for accessing information in print resources, and more on introducing and providing opportunities for students develop knowledge and skills associated with online information sources, including online databases and Internet sites. What stays the same is that these learning activities remain embedded in project activities, and are not separate or isolated “library lessons”.
Secondly, the school library collection reflects changes in the way it is being developed. Many topics students include in research and inquiry projects are truly better researched online. Topics as diverse as Canadian politics and legislation, cultural and demographic information, health topics, natural disasters and the pine beetle epidemic are examples that can best be searched via the Internet and online databases. It’s neither practical nor effective to try to develop those parts of the nonfiction collection that require constant weeding and updating. Many magazines, journals and newspapers are available online and through online databases. Websites like Stats Canada and various almanacs make print sources obsolete and impractical for most school libraries. That doesn’t mean the book collection is neglected- it simply takes on a different makeup because of the access our students have to online resources. For instance, the areas such as social justice and controversial topics in the 300’s are maintained for currency and balance, whereas careers section has been weeded and has few titles. The science and math areas – the 500’s- are continually managed to reflect broad and specific topic areas that support and expand upon the curriculum content areas. Literature in the 800’s require the same type of attention as the 500’s, but I think this and the history section are good investments when weighing the value of books versus online. Online and print resources on historical topics support and supplement each other.
There is still value in a school library collection for some almanacs, atlases and other works of ready reference, as well as general and specific nonfiction areas. Access to some information is quicker than online (believe it…we test this often!). I’m also convinced that being familiar with works of reference and nonfiction in a concrete format leads to a better understanding of how certain kinds of information are categorized and organized for access, and this understanding should be solid in a student’s mind. To understand that topics move from general and broad, to specific and narrow, and to be adept at generating alternative search terms, are easily demonstrated and reinforced when using print resources. But, they are also necessary skills for searching online library catalogues, and when those skills and understandings transfer to students’ online searches, I believe they become more skillful searchers and consumers of online information.