Can a school library be totally virtual?

Recently Carolyn Foote, a friend who is honestly a friend in the virtual sense, as I only know her from Twitter, blogging, webcasts, and Ustream forums, has challenged my thinking about the library. She works in a large public suburban high school in Austin, Texas (Westlake High School). She is in the process of packing up her entire library book by book for a renovation project. Earlier this week she was informed that the renovation could take as long as a year. My comment to Carolyn was “Wow, you will be a virtual librarian in every sense of the word.”
As I reflect on my joking quip, I realize it is true. Will her job end until the renovation is done? Will she have anything to do while the renovation happens? How can a staff member with no physical “home” in the building continue to work and serve the school without any books or tables, a checkout counter, or a reference section, especially in a high school?

I know the answer to my questions. Carolyn will be in need and in high demand right through the whole project. She will probably work harder than any other staff member in the entire building, as she strives to provide the same level of service and instruction as before when there were the typical tables, chairs, books, and more. How?

Just as I jokingly called her a “virtual” librarian, she will become just that. Research projects will be just as effectively completed as they were before. She will continue to teach information literacy and using online resources effectively. Students will have access to necessary resources. Book talks and author visits will continue to happen, even if she has to use Skype. You see, Carolyn is a 21st century teacher librarian, who has adopted and uses instructional technology to “complete” the job. She uses the tools to compliment instruction, and I would wager she is so good at this already, this vehicle called web 2.0 will drive her services until she can park her self back in a physical space called a library. Carolyn already uses wikis, blogs, and more to supplement instruction. She is using Skype to pull in authors for literature appreciation and book analysis. And students as well as teachers know she can assist in just about any kind of project she is challenged with. Carolyn Foote is a 21st Century Librarian, and I am so glad to know her, at least in the virtual sense.

Be sure to wish her luck as she tackles the project of library renovation. I know the end result will be a 21st Century Library to compliment her, the student body, faculty & staff, and community. I am looking forward to a face to face meeting with you in San Antonio this summer at Iste’s NECC.

Carolyn’s Blog Not So Distant Future

Carolyn’s Wiki Web 2.0 in Education

Image Attribution:

Image: ‘packing_boxes

Image: ‘Carolyn_Foote_007

PS–my 17yo is looking at Austin, TX for college.

7 thoughts on “Can a school library be totally virtual?

  1. A few years ago, our district combined two separate small libraries, one K-6, the other 7-12.

    We now have one large LMC with the collections divided by a partial “wall” of bookshelves.

    It’s not a perfect space, but it’s certainly an improvement on what we had before.

    Most of the construction took place over summer vacation, and the new facility opened to students the following November.

    When we (my two aides and I) packed our collection of approximately 16,000 volumes, we kept a skeleton reference section available for use while the library was being built. Not much technology in place then (not much more now).

    I agree with Cathy that Carolyn will deal with her challenge in a 21st century spirit of adventure and ingenuity.

    Perhaps she’ll decide, once her new library is completed, that she prefers being an itinerant librarian!

    Carolyn, keep a journal of all you do during this time of opportunity. It might come in handy in the future, as a chronicle of how the modern “library without walls” actually works.

    Good luck! (and see you both in San Antonio)

  2. This makes me think – what will happen to libraries if eReaders, like the new Kindle, grow in popularity as fast as the iPod?

    Will the Kindle support a library lending out an electronic version of a book that would expire after a certain amount of time?

  3. Pingback: Not So Distant Future » Going virtual

  4. To answer your question in the title: if anyone can answer it, Carolyn can. I have had the great pleasure of working with Carolyn for the past 5 years! This will be the second library renovation I will be privy to during my time at Westlake.

    Carolyn isn’t just a 21st century librarian. She is a 21st century mentor, teacher, media-specialist, innovator, staff development coordinator, technologist, friend, and support system for many students and teachers beyond just Westlake High School.

    The new library will be an extraordinary achievement for the campus but it cannot come together without Carolyn and her library assistants.

    Great blog discussion topic!

  5. Cathy,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence and the kind words! Joel, thanks to you as well!

    It is going to be an adventure. I think Diane’s suggestion to keep a record of the process is excellent–I’m thinking this would be a great research opportunity.

    What does it look like when library services are virtual? What do we miss out on? What works well? How do we take the library “to the classroom?” effectively.

    It’s been interesting defining the key services we provide and envisioning what we can do virtually, and I will keep you posted along the way!

    Thanks again 🙂 Carolyn

  6. This is truly a test of whether we can survive (mostly) paper free. I’m sure Carolyn will do a fantastic job. But what about the teachers? Will they just assume that the library is temporarily out of order? Will they grump to themselves, “Ugh, if only I had the library like I used to…”

    It sounds like Carolyn and her staff and even others around her are already used to using her beyond the “bricks and mortar” of her library. I’m not sure that would be the case in other places I’m more familiar with.

  7. I am a teacher at Westlake High School. Carolyn Foote makes me a better teacher almost every week. She is always available to brainstorm solutions to problems or strategies for teaching a lesson. Carolyn has helped me set up a blog for current events discussions and a wiki for collaborative cross class research. Last week, she was the technical director for a movie another teacher and I created for teacher inservice. Her creativity and support are priceless!!!

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