Library Website Updates

In lieu of an in-person professional development workshop I had scheduled for early August, I was lucky enough to be able to build out some self-paced professional development for librarians as they begin navigating the uncertain 2020-2021 school year in the midst of a global pandemic. I was able to reflect a lot on what I feel will be important for us as school librarians in terms of focus and energy. No matter how our schools are kicking off this new year, it is more important than ever to be sure that our library resources are easily accessible in a digital format.

When I moved to my current school in for the 2016-2017 school year, one of my first big initiatives was to organize our databases and other resources to build a new library website. This website has served us well, but I felt like this year was time to make some improvements. I reached out on Twitter to see what others were doing in their digital spaces, and I was quite inspired by what was shared! I’ve collected the shared spaces on this Wakelet:

I decided to use Genially, one of my favorite design tools, to create our interactive database collection. I found that my students were struggling the most with deciding which database to use by the provided buttons. Even though I broke down each resource with a description on different content area pages, that was hidden behind an extra click that they rarely used. Genially allowed me to add scroll-over tool tips that provide a short blurb about each resource. I also divided resources into three categories: General/News, Humanities, and STEM. I wanted some division without too many options, so I am hopefully that this will work well for students.

I am planning to launch the new design next week. I did a demo with some of our fellows (juniors and seniors) in the Writing Center, and they were very excited about the new design.

I’m also working on shifting gears a bit for my middle school students. They don’t use or really need access to the wide variety of databases that our high school students use, so I am planning to use Destiny Discover to design a landing page that is more geared towards their needs. Our middle school students are 1:1 on school issued iPads. Although I didn’t love the Destiny Discover app, I am able to add the direct Destiny Discover button with Safari to their home screen.

I love that I can add “Learning Links” to include the library resources they most frequently use. I’m using Destiny Collections to gather lists for students and teachers, and that displays nicely on the page, too.

I’m using Google Forms for book check-out requests, and it’s working well so far for us. I’m using some pre-formulated email replies (Quick Parts in Outlook) to communicate with students about holds and books on order. I know that Destiny can do lots of automation with holds and all, but at this point we feel like we need more of a pulse on whats happening and more direct control.

I’m also loving the form I have created for Book Recommendations. Although this is a time consuming process, it’s working well as a substitution for typical in-person readers’ advisory.

I’m also using Quick Parts here to send emails with recommendations. I’m sending three book recommendations (including title, author, and a brief description from Destiny or Goodreads) for each submission. It’s been rewarding to then fill book requests for some of my recommendations!

I know these are weird times for all of us. I know that none of us feel like we are rocking, rolling, and doing our best work. Supporting teachers right now is hard. Taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally while still managing our work responsibilities is hard. This is a year where we need to lean on each other and give plenty of grace. Be sure that you are regularly extending that grace to yourself.

12 thoughts on “Library Website Updates

  1. Hello Tiffany,
    I really enjoy reading your blog post on your new and improved library website and book request/recommendations forum. I have been following your blog for some time now and wanted to say that I think it is so useful to have a place where students can still feel that they have access to their school libraries. Making an accessible place such as this is really beneficial to kids who still want books but are unsure where to start. The amount of detail and organization you have put into your websites and forums will serve as an amazing resource for all the families at your school. Your book recommendation forum gave me some ideas for my future if I am ever in need of creating a reccomendation forum. I can imagine it is somewhat time consuming to send the recommendations, but it is so beneficial for those who are in need of a book and do not know where to start. During these unprecidented times, I imagine there are many insearch of their next new “escape” novel.

    Thanks again.

  2. Hi Tiffany,
    This is a great blog! I’m currently taking teacher-librarian courses, and all the information you’ve shared on creating and rebuilding your website is very appreciated. I especially liked reading why you chose to implement specific apps etc. Very informative!
    Thanks for sharing your findings,

  3. Hi Tiffany!
    I just discovered your blog tonight and wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the incredible work that you are doing. Not only are you finding and sharing these resources, you are taking so many risks learning new technologies that will support your colleagues and students during these challenging times.

    You sent me down a major rabbit hole as I explored your wakelet. I especially enjoyed discovering the google slide templates that have been created for remote learning… here are a few of my favourites… 1. Simple Weekly Planner
    2. Daily Activities or Choice Board
    3. Welcome to Class with Breakout Rooms
    4. File Cabinets
    5. Weekly Planner for Distance Learning
    6. Cinema Choice Board
    (sorry I couldn´t hyperlink anything here).

    I love that they can be used to create learning opportunities in which students have a lot of choice in what and how they learn.

    I created something similar for the students in our district in the Spring when we were all learning remotely, and then hybridly. If you are interested, I called it Choose Your Own Nature Adventure

    I really appreciate that you take the time to write this blog to make your thinking visible and look forward to learning more from you. Make sure to take your own advice and give yourself plenty of grace! You are amazing!

    Marnie Birkeland
    Teacher Consultant in British Columbia, Canada

  4. Hi Tiffany,

    I am a new Teacher Librarian and trying to put my own stamp on the school library and love the the idea of a website! The find a book form is definitely something I would like to create for my students, there are quite a few who say they cant find anything to read. I will definitely be taking a look at your wakelet for more ideas as I plan my school library website. Thank you for the inspiration.

  5. Hi Tiffany,

    I really liked your book recommendation forms! That is a great idea. I am super impressed with your virtual Learning Commons, and how you took the time to understand the needs of your students, and how those needs changed during the Pandemic. The “hover” feature to see what the link does, in order to reduce extra “clicks” is brilliant! It really can be something as simple as too many clicks to deter a student from accessing a resource. Your post made me realize that sometimes you need to take a step back and thoughtfully think about what is necessary and accessible for all students.

  6. Hi Tiffany! I am currently taking the teacher librarian course and all of the information you shared is very helpful. I love the idea of using Google forms for book requests and book recommendations. This system keeps it so organized and easy for kids/parents. I also love the idea of curating book lists for the students and teachers using an online platform. I am curious what else destiny collections can be used for.

  7. Hi Tiffany,
    Thank you taking the time to research and share what you have learned about building a Learning Commons website. I started thinking about creating one when we had to move to online learning last year, but I didn’t really know where to start. I have done a little research for it, but was thankful to see the variety of websites you included in your blog that I could refer to as well. You also gave me a few more ideas to think about and explore for my website such as layout and online forms. Creating a website seems like such a daunting task, but I can see how valuable they are for the school. I’m just wondering though how much time it takes to manage the website on a day-to-day basis after the initial time it takes to create it?

  8. Hello Tiffany,

    I wanted to say thank you for sharing your insights as a librarian. I have enjoyed reading your posts and learning from you. I have worked in a few libraries and my experience with their digital space is that they were not user-friendly, and especially not kid-friendly! I anticipate that in future library jobs I will potentially have to do a major website revamp and it was very valuable to see what you’ve done. This year has been a unique one and your strategies of having book recommendations through Google forms and digital collections so the middle grades can find books they may be interested in were some of my favourites. Thank you as well for linking all of those other amazing library websites! I will definitely be referencing back when the time comes I need to update a library database.

  9. Hi Tiffany,
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful resources for us. I am a new teacher librarian and appreciate the helpful tools in creating a library website, something I’m sure I will need to do in the near future as I start this new career path. I particularly like your idea for the Google Form for students to fill out for you to help find them book recommendations. Now that it has been about a year since this post, I wonder if you have any reflections on the tools you implemented? What has been working well, and what do you want to change? Any insight on this would be wonderful! Thanks!

  10. Hi Tiffany !

    I love that you have provided a lot of intel as of how to build a library website and why some choices were made. I really think your idea about book recommendation was interesting in the pandemic context but I still can see how useful it must be for teachers to promote reading for high school students who don’t really have time to walk and browse for books. Coming to the library to simply come, pick up and enjoy the recommendations based on the form they completed might be a huge help and relieve also for students who are just starting to be familiar with the library as it can sometimes be overwhelming for the students.

    Thank you also for all the amazing resources shared on this post. I will definitely link some to the teachers as I can see a lot of possibilities for them to use those tools.

  11. Hi Tiffany,

    I came across your blog and have loved reading through it. I am an aspiring teacher librarian and this post especially is extremely valuable. I loved hearing your process for revamping your school’s library website – I think you did a great job with it. I too love using Google Forms in my teaching practice and I really enjoyed seeing your “Help Me Find a Book” form – it’s brilliant! Keep up the great work 🙂


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