Content curation

Content curation is the process of selecting, sorting and arranging content on a specific topic or theme, adding value and meaning to what has been curated for your users.


Defining content curation
Why curate content
Partnerships in curating content
Who can benefit from curated content
Further reading

Defining content curation

Beth Kanter defines content curation as “…the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging, and publishing information.” It is about selecting the best quality online resources for your intended audience – especially your students – and organising and displaying them on a curation tool your users can access.

The curator adds value and insights to the selected content. Christopher Lister emphasises the value that well curated content adds to learning:

Strong curation…also involves making decisions about what is and is not useful to deepening understanding of the subject. Curating is a higher-level thinking skill. In order to curate content that is useful for others the content needs to be synthesized, evaluated, and interpreted before being disseminated. Well curated topics and subjects help to inform and allow learning to happen at faster rates.

Content curation is not new to librarians. School librarians have an important role in developing curated content for teachers and students.

Teachers are also undertaking their own content curations, as well as contributing to those set up by the school librarian, and students in many schools are contributing as well. Content curation is no longer just the preserve of libraries. It's a perfect opportunity for teachers and librarians to share subject knowledge, expertise and collaborate for the benefit of students.

Prior to the Information Age, curation of reference materials in libraries took the form of vertical files, encyclopaedias and reference books

It is worth noting that content curation is not limited to digital content (blogs, wikis, podcasts, video, social media, e-books). Physical book resources and expert people can be useful inclusions in curated collections too. However, most of your content will be online.

Why curate content

Curation is not only about presenting other people’s work. The curator's role involves creating a new experience with information they have found. In Bhatt’s words, “...curation is a process of problem solving, re-assembling, re-creating, and stewardship of other people’s writing.”

With a curriculum topic or area of study in mind, and the needs of the end user, your curation will be much more than a list of URLs. The value you add as a curator includes:

  • the high standard of resources you select
  • how you group them
  • the annotations you add to help your users.

Your work will save users time, and add huge value with links to quality resources as a starting point for their research.

As we wrestle with the vast quantity of information available on the internet, content curation is even more important today than in previous years. Curators play an essential role in filtering content that is included in curated collections. According to US teacher librarian, Joyce Valenza it is this human filter that sets curated collections apart from the results available via a quick search on the Internet.

Partnerships in curating content

Librarians as content curators

Joyce Valenza asserts that:

librarians are uniquely qualified to curate...because they understand the curriculum and the specific needs and interests of their own communities…

Curating content enables librarians to position themselves as research experts, keeping the library service relevant and appreciated. However, successful curations depend on a collaborative and consultative relationship between librarian and teachers. Teachers in your school, who have the subject knowledge, may be keen to add resources to your collation as well.

By working collaboratively with a faculty or department, or with subject or syndicate teachers, your librarian can clarify:

  • the inquiry or research need
  • its scope
  • the intended audience.

Generally speaking, teachers are time-poor and would appreciate all the help the library can offer. Find ways to be involved in curriculum planning, and offer to support teaching and inquiry topics with curated collections. You might also choose to offer teachers a ‘just in time’ curation service.

Saskia Hill, Librarian at Cashmere High School Library developed a teacher enquiry form. This allows teachers to state the topic they require content to be curated for, which NCEA standard or curriculum area it aligns with, and note any other particular requirements. This makes it easy for teachers to request assistance without leaving the classroom. While the checklist removes some of the groundwork questioning for the librarian. According to Saskia, the form has been a hit because it makes her curation services easily accessible to busy teachers.

Teachers as content curators

Teachers, whose deep subject knowledge is essential when evaluating resources, can develop expertise in curating content to provide a reliable starting point for students' initial research, guiding them to quality online resources right from the start. By working closely with the school librarian, you can help prevent students becoming overwhelmed by information, and guide the development of their digital literacy skills in the process.

FutureLab reports that young people’s confidence about their use of technology can be misleading. The plethora of information online can be confusing and overwhelming to all but the most sophisticated 21st century student.

We envisage all students becoming independent researchers. However, many require a great deal of scaffolding to learn how to navigate online information successfully. Giving students access to curated content is one level of scaffolding.

Through using these collections students learn to:

  • recognise what constitutes a quality resource
  • choose the best source of information for the job, be it print, digital or a person
  • widen their personal learning networks through accessing resources they may otherwise not have been exposed to.

Teachers can use curated content to encourage parents to become involved in school life by gathering resources to support reading at home, explaining new technologies, and educating parents about topics such as digital citizenship and digital literacy. This is another opportunity to work together with your school librarian to curate relevant information.

Who can benefit from curated content

Content curation can benefit many groups across the wider school community. In addition to support for students, teachers and parents, school leaders and administrators in your school may not be aware of how content curation might benefit them. Offer to curate information that aligns with the school’s strategic plan. For example, if BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is on the horizon, you could help curate research, case studies and practical teaching ideas on this topic. This would be a great opportunity for teachers in ICT leadership roles to work with the school librarian to curate some important timely information .

Do you have a personal strength in information literacy, or another specialist area, that sets you apart? Why not curate content in areas you’re passionate about, and make these collections available to colleagues. By doing so, you position yourself as a thought leader in that area.

Developing a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is an important part of maintaining and developing skills essential to your role. While your curated collections can support others, consider finding resources curated by industry leaders to inspire your own work. Check out the following leaders’ collections:

Further reading

Image: By Christopher Lister Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International