I totally switched off in the last school holidays and disconnected from most forms of social media. I read instead. I forgot to switch off Twitter! Luckily so, as I became part of a conversation that I would have regretted missing. It centred around the question; What is the role of the 21st Century Librarian? I was flattered that people thought that I would know the answer! And I didn’t even hesitiate when answering such a big question.
It hasn’t changed! The role of the 21st Century Librarian is absolutely no different to a librarian in the 20th, 19th or 18th centuries. We are there to provide the very best information for our customers. Of course there is far more to it. We predict what our customers need and intuitively know, fairly often, what type of information they are looking for based around careful questioning when they appear at our desks asking for help. Sometimes this can be a simple problem – they are looking for a good book to read – but they want you to find it. Sometimes it is a little more complex – they are searching for the latest information on the human genome project or whether genetically modified meat is safe to eat. (That one is hard – really hard, as I found out recently whilst assuring boys that we would find information.)
So the role of the librarian is still that of providing information to people in whatever shape or form they are after it in. This is where the role has changed. It is the delivery of the information and how we can now deliver it, that is so exciting. This is where content curation comes in. Once again, this is not new – think back to the vertical files that most school libraries had – great big imposing metal drawers full of articles cut from papers and magazines. I love online content curation and get quite excited when a department at school approaches me to create a new board for them. (Partly because online curation is so attractive and neat and tidy.)
I have been very lucky that the Science department, in particular, Chemisty, have jumped at the chance of having content curated. This is because they wanted information that is verified for validity, sourced reliable websites and relevant to the topic. This stops the students from aimlessly sifting for hours through the internet looking for information – looking like they are working, but in reality becoming increasingly distracted by whatever else they come across on their ‘search.’
My preferred sites are Scoop.it and Learni.st. There are so many of them, that you just have to pick a ‘look’ that suits your school and go with it.
I use them for different types of projects. So for science based courses, I prefer Scoop.it simply because it looks modern and fresh. It allows to students to scroll quickly through the content and have a brief read and then decide for themselves which links they will investigate further. I have found it is better for topics that change quickly such as genetics. Scoop.it allows me to quickly delete old articles, and with its suggested content, I can update it just as quickly. My most successful curation on this site has been on genetics. I originally made it for classes in English studying Frankenstein and Never Let Me Go, but then some biology students discovered it and showed their teacher and now they also use it in Year 13! This has been a delightful but unintended outcome – cross curricular learning of a fashion.
I use Learni.st for arts and social science subjects – where the students tend to follow a course more or need to use all the links to direct their own learning. From this point of view it supports flipped learning beautifully. My most successful board has been one that I created for Classical Studies on Roman Social Life. It has 27 links that you scoll through. The best thing about Learni.st is that it allows you to add comprehensive notes next to a visual image. This means you can add activities and instructions for your students.
Content curation is a win win situation.
- It stops students from just ‘googleing it.’
- It promotes reliability of sources of information.
- It introduces the idea of validity and relevance of information.
- It can be used for flipped learning.
- It is a great collaborative tool.
- In the long run, it saves time for students.
- It can be updated easily to keep it relevant.
My next step os to collaborate with staff to create boards of their classes – maybe next year.
Lastly, it is worth bearing in mind;
Content is king. Without content you have an art project!
Teacher Librarian at Christ’s College