Beyond the Bells and Whistles

February 13, 2012 (2 Comments)

Posted by: ASLC


by Diane GallowaySolowan

Where to start! In a publication world that travels at the speed of light, keeping track of digital and print resources could be a full time job for teachers/teacher-librarians. I hope this blog will shed some light on current and emerging K-12 electronic resources that will help keep your finger on this pulsating universe.

But first, here are 4 critical points I hope you will carefully consider when making digital purchasing decisions:

  • Audience
  • Balance
  • Policy
  • Technology

Audience: Simply put, audience/patrons/users whatever term you use are a diverse lot and your bottom line. Although we all seem digitally crazed these days, there remain many students and teachers who prefer print resources. Word is, elementary kids seem more interested in reading digital fiction books but older teens show some resistance. It is important to carefully consider how important this factor may be to your particular situation and how you might prepare to make a budget case for either/or.


Balance: 30 years ago I walked into a college library that had no books. Its collection consisted of hundreds of magazines, newspapers and peer reviewed journals. Databases were only a glimmer in the eyes of school libraries then. Things have changed. Radical thinking about resource collections is more commonplace these days as we look to the e-revolution in publishing. Questions arise such as “Do we really need class sets of print atlases anymore?” Sweeping statements about being able to save space in a school library by only purchasing electronic resources is something I hear quite a bit and I wonder at the wisdom of that simplicity. I think a cautionary note when budgeting for electronic resources is in order: be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater even in 2012.

Policy: Ask yourself if you are purchasing school library resources by the seat of your pants or do you actually have a collection/acquisition policy to guide your decisions? My guess is you might have to dig around in a dusty drawer for that, or you likely may not have one at all. When a ship sets sail, there have to be some strategies in place just in case you encounter stormy weather. Elizabeth Prevost’s article, Collaborative Development of Online Collections in Elementary School Libraries in the ASLC’s journal, Learning, Literacies and Libraries provides a thorough discussion of this idea with an emphasis on electronic resources. You can find an example to guide you in the process of developing such a policy at this link : COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT POLICY GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAMS. The bells and whistles of digital resources are tempting. It is wise to be thinking ahead of the game.

Technology: Alberta schools are lucky! Generally, we have bandwidth and it makes a big difference to the way digital resources perform. But there are vagaries to that too and we had best be aware that our networks, browsers, etc. can handle the delivery of digital content seamlessly. Can your students and staff access the full range of functionality of amazing new electronic resources, for example interactivity with Web 2.0 applications? When you know your system well, you can be more confident in pushing the envelope.



I believe the overall crux of the matter lies in framing a guiding question to inform our purchase decisions. As we move closer to guided inquiry and project based learning in our daily practice I encourage you to try this one suggested by Jamie McKenzie: “Will this (digital/print resource) genuinely enhance my ability (and that of my students) to live at the upper end of Bloom’s Taxonomy?” 


Your comments/suggestions are welcome in this discussion. Perhaps you already have a guiding question of your own that is driving your purchase decisions. If you do, then please share. I look forward to hearing about what you are doing in your school.


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Read Comments

Diane, I think your four points are essential to TLs and administrators. Balance is one that strikes home to me. We so often seem to get on bandwagons and merrily pursue one path, forgetting to connect with our history and our varied needs.
I am so guilty of the ‘collection policy in the back drawer’. You have reminded me to dig it out and dust it off. I quite liked your last guiding question “Will this (digital/print resource) genuinely enhance my ability (and that of my students) to live at the upper end of Bloom’s Taxonomy?” much so that I think I would like to use it to reframe my collection policy!
(is that Jamie McKenzie from the Educational Technology Journal? )

By Lissa on Sun, February 19, 2012 - 5:31:46

Yes, Lissa it is Jamie McKenzie from Educational Technology Journal. His web site is Good luck with the policy review!

By Diane GallowaySolowan on Thu, February 23, 2012 - 12:54:27

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