For students at the K-12 or university level, the school library can be the most important stop on a research journey, whether it's the first destination or the last. In order to keep up with modern challenges, some of the most innovative campus media centers in the U.S. are looking for ways to use technology to make the learning process smoother—both in person and remotely.
Here are a few of their best ideas and what their tech is doing to impact the research experience:
1. INSTANT MESSAGING
Phone and e-mail are no longer the sole means that students can use to contact librarians. Some libraries now enable students to instant message or text librarians with research questions during specific hours. The American University library, for example, allows students to get in touch with librarians via AIM, MSN, Google Talk, and Yahoo messenger, as well as their own IM service.
2. MOBILE DEVICES
In an effort to “meet students where they are,” Boston College High School’s library is now allowing mobile phones in the facility for research purposes and showcasing more of their resources for mobile access. The American Library Association honored the library for cutting-edge technology in library services.
3. WYSIWYG TUTORIAL-MAKERS FOR LIBRARIANS
The sheer number of digital resources offered at most school libraries can be daunting, each with their own special quirks and shortcuts. Librarians need smarter resources to teach how to use these tools, such as the Guide on the Side software that emphasizes active learning and is made specifically for librarians.
4. MATERIAL CROWD-SOURCING FOR RURAL SCHOOLS
While some school libraries struggle to find space for all their books, rural schools may struggle to provide enough material. The Genesee Valley library system in N.Y. developed the WEBOOKS program, which allows individual facilities to crowd-source digital library materials across 22 school districts. The result is a common pool of usable material much larger than any one district could provide its users.
5. CUSTOM APPS
Some libraries are developing their own apps to provide targeted information to their patrons. For example, North Carolina State University’s app allows students to do a virtual tour. The possibilities of library-specific apps are endless – users could use location services to navigate huge library buildings or even check out materials on their phone using a barcode scanner.
EndNote. LexisNexis. JSTOR. For students that do online research, before they read their first article, they must first learn how to use these programs, shortcuts and all. Librarians, such as those at Virginia Tech University, can use screencasts to show users how to navigate new resources.
7. CLOUD-BASED STORAGE
Collaborative work has never been easier with schools, such as The Ohio State University, offering their own cloud-based storage services. Similar to Dropbox, students can use such software to free up hardware space.
8. PORTABLE ENERGY METERS
Some schools now offer “portable energy meters” for rent, allowing students to track the amount of energy they consume while doing research. Perfect for the wired student looking to reduce her environmental impact.
iTunesU is an app that aims to bring the classroom experience to smart devices. The goal of iTunesU is twofold: to share material with a specific course’s students and to share material with the world. For students, the app can access class material in one place, including articles, quizzes and instructional videos. For everyone else, iTunesU can be a way to view lectures and presentations from professors around the world who upload them. Libraries, such as the American University library, often sponsor iTunesU at their respective schools and advertise the service
10. E-READERS AND E-BOOKS
In an effort to lighten up students’ loads, some schools, such as Duke University, rent out e-readers and offer a plethora of e-books. Besides the added convenience, with e-books, libraries can increase users’ access to titles that are in high demand.
11. AVAILABILITY ALERTS
Virginia Tech offers a comprehensive alert service that informs students and faculty when authors or subjects they care about show up in tables of content, citations, or full academic journals.
12. BETTER RESOURCES FOR DISTANCE LEARNERS
Virginia Tech offers a librarian who specifically deals with “distance learners” who can answer questions about research or library resources. The librarian interacts with students via videoconference at a time that works for them, including evenings and weekends.
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