School libraries: developing an online presence

Digital resources, tools and mobile technologies have revolutionised curriculum delivery. Your school library can become a central virtual hub within your school’s e-learning environment. It can provide your learners, teachers and parents/whānau with 24/7 access to a far wider range of quality resources to support their learning.


Your library online - supporting learners and educators
Planning for the library’s online presence
Online tools for the library
Keeping current: professional networking
Templates and checklist

Your library online - supporting learners and educators

Swiftly evolving digital technologies have seen libraries all over the world reinvent themselves to support learners and different learning styles.

By providing easy access to digitised resources you'll create an accessible virtual library that extends beyond your library's physical space into your school community.

Our increasingly networked world presents complexities for learning unknown just a few years ago, but at the same time offers fresh opportunities. Canadian Library Association 2014

Expectations of learners

Taking a student-centred approach to designing your library services, your first question might be: “What do our students want, expect and need?” Ask any student (and their parents/whānau), and the response is likely to include:

  • using a blend of print and online resources to find information
  • ask questions and
  • access library services.

Through their library websites, librarians can apply and translate their traditional skills for instruction, professional development, reference, collection development, and administration in powerful new ways, in engaging new landscapes. They can offer 24/7 accessibility and ‘just-in-time’, ‘just-for-me’ learning opportunities. Joyce Valenza

Government initiatives require digital environments

The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa set out a vision for all of our young people to become confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners. The information and resources on the Ministry of Education’s Enabling e-Learning website show how e-learning supports this vision, with a focus on priority learner groups – Mäori, Pasifika, students from low socioeconomic areas and learners with special education needs – as identified by ERO's 2012 report, Evaluation at a glance: priority learners in New Zealand schools.

DSC000763 by Barret.Discovery, on Flickr
Students enjoying discovery project

Image by Barrett.Discovery

The main purpose of each school’s digital environment (or Managed Learning Environment-MLE or Online Learning Environment -OLE), is to engage and support learners in a collaborative learning environment.

Each school’s MLE provides a collection of interoperable software tools and digital content to support learning and teaching.

Your online Library Management System (LMS) provides access to a wide range of quality resources. It gives your users a central meeting point for enriching learning experiences. The library team can play a leadership role in working with teachers and parents/whānau to help students become competent in filtering and making sense of the information available.

The library’s online presence models the digital literacy and digital citizenship skills vital for all students. Skills that enable them to be successful e-learners and to increase their understanding of themselves and their world.

Becoming a modern library learning environment

The concept of Modern Library Learning Environments (MLLE) places equal importance on physical and online library space. In addition, classroom modern learning environments have given rise to new pedagogy such as the flipped classroom and blended teaching. These rely on having an online space to work in. The library must also have its own online space if it wants to meet the needs of these learners and educators.

What makes the library different from any other classroom is the range and diversity of resources that it provides. The library program is about curiosity, exploration and sense making in a resource-rich environment. Anita Brooks-Kirkland, The virtual library as a learning hub

Children using a tablet
Children using a tablet

Image by Laurie Sullivan

By working together, library staff and teachers can weave the library’s virtual and physical learning experiences together in ways that make sense to your students.

If your library is designed with flexible spaces, inclusive of the cultures in your school, you can use physical and online library spaces with flair and imagination to create readers, develop critical thinkers, and exchange ideas.

Your students can use digital devices, including handheld and mobile technologies, to access and create online content and connect with others.Your school may be a BYOD school (Bring Your Own Device) where students are encouraged to use their own mobile devices at school. Having resources and information on your library’s online presence will continue to inform, educate and inspire, long after you’ve shut the doors for the day.

In the following video staff at Amesbury School, Wellington, talk about their school library’s learning spaces and use of technologies to support readers and inquiry learning.

Planning for your library’s online presence

By using a team approach you will be able to produce a plan linked to student learning outcomes. Your plan can show ways the library can develop inclusive online learning spaces, which that are an integral and continuing part of your school’s Managed Learning Environment.

Decide who will be your most valuable collaborators for planning, design and technical support. By talking with your students and their families/whānau you'll be able to find out their views on the proposed online presence.

“Students who collaborate and participate in building spaces, both physical and virtual, are likely to be more comfortable living in them." Joyce Valenza: Virtual Libraries (Slideshare presentation, Slide 14)

Why iPad (and tablets in general) will succeed
Why iPad (and tablets in general) will succeed

Image by Yan Chi Vinci Chow

As a starting point, we’ve identified 7 key planning steps:

  1. Agree your goals and objectives first. This fundamental step will give you the framework for the rest of your planning.
  2. Form your planning team – identify key stakeholders and agree on roles and responsibilities. Include who will contribute to, and take long-term responsibility for your online presence.
  3. Understand your learners and learning focus – the reason for developing an online presence.
  4. Align your online presence with the school’s Internet policy and integrate it with your existing online environment for ease of student access. Be sure to address the intended benefits and possible risks for your students.
  5. Select the online tools you’ll begin with, along with content and approach – according to learning needs and learning styles.
  6. Plan for ongoing management including resources your school will need to ensure sustainability.
  7. Establish how you will trial, launch, promote, evaluate and report on the uptake and success of your online presence.

The guides and templates available for download below are designed to help your planning team capture thoughts and ideas for each stage of developing your library’s online presence.

Online tools for the library

There are a number of online tools for creating your library’s online presence. All offer opportunities for increased accessibility, usability and student engagement. Here are a number of options being widely used by school libraries:

  • Integrated Library System or Library Management System, with its own home page as a portal for promoting services, resources and events.
  • Learning Management System (LMS) which is used as a central hub for your school’s teaching and learning activities.
  • School website and/or school intranet to include a link on its home page to the library’s home page, and vice versa.
  • Social media such as blogs, wiki, Facebook, Twitter or other similar communication tools

Examples of great online libraries

You can compare and contrast each platform/tool used by the following examples of online libraries:

Primary/ Intermediate


Keeping current: professional networking

Developments in technologies, such as BYOD/mobile devices, apps, e-books, gaming and social media, are moving quickly.

There are several ways your school library staff and team of collaborators can keep up their knowledge and skills in this area. This will help them contribute to your school library’s online presence and play an active role in keeping it current.

Use your professional networks - such as those you forged if your school was part of an ICT cluster.

The Ministry of Education’s Enabling e-Learning section on TKI provides links to professional learning networks, information and resources. These include:

Services to Schools social media includes:

  • L2_S2S Our Services to Schools page on - a curation tool - provides links through RSS feeds to the latest articles on the following themes: School Libraries and learning and Creating Readers.
  • Twitter: Libraries & Learning @L2_S2S
  • Blogs: L2 Libraries and Learning blog includes information and inspirational ideas about school libraries and learning in New Zealand and overseas, including digital initiatives

Templates and checklist