A WebQuest About School Library Websites

For other resources: New tools workshop wiki
(Note: Please recommend other examples to include in these lists! Please feel free to use other examples in this activity.)


Your library Web page is your second front door. It meets your students where they live, and play, and work, with 24/7, just-in-time, just-for-me support and intervention. It creates online signage for students and staff. It projects the image of the librarian as a 21st century teacher and information professional. The effective library Web page pulls together, in one unified interface, all of a library's resources--print and electronic.

The library website represents the library program. It offers guidance and instruction while it fosters independent learning. It models careful selection. It offers valuable public service and can redefine “community.” The site supports reading, learning, and the building of knowledge.

A good library Web page, whether in traditional HTML, or blog, or wiki format, offers implicit instruction.

Together, let's explore the possibilities for effective 21st century school library practice!

Note: This wiki is a work in progress. Please feel free to suggest improvements, especially as this exciting landscape continues to shift!


Building a virtual library takes a lot of careful planning. But why reinvent the wheel? Examples of effective practice already exist.
  • You will be working in age-level groups to examine a selection of library websites. You will divide into two groups within the grade level you choose and you will analyze the sample sites for their included features and characteristics.
  • Within the two groups--features/content and characteristics--you may divide into smaller criteria groups to examine sites more closely.
  • Following your group investigations, you will be sharing your analysis with the larger group. As you explore, be on the lookout for features that would serve your own learning community.
  • You will each be responsible for completing an organizer, focusing on the perspective you assume within your group.

Examples of Effective Practice:

(Note: Please recommend other examples to include in these lists! Please feel free to use other examples in this activity.)


  • Your group will evaluate library websites in the elementary, middle, or high school categories.
  • Each group will first decide on a grade range.
  • Each group will then divide in half to examine either the features or the characteristics of the website(s). See the taxonomies below!
  • Select the sites (depending on time, between one and three sites) you are going to examine. Note: One site of substantial size may prove challenging to examine in a short time.
  • Each group should complete an organizer through the perspective (features or characteristics) they are have chosen. It might be useful to take a peek at the Common Core Features discovered in the study.
  • Examine each site and record any relevant information in the comments column of the organizer.
  • Each group member should consider the features and characteristics he or she might want to include on his or her own site. This will be dependent on the most critical needs of the particular learning community. Be prepared to discuss these critical needs with the large group.
  • Each group should select a presenter/recorder to take notes on group discussion and share findings with the large group.
    • Among the questions you should address are:
      • Based on the content you find, what is the focus of this site?
      • Can you reach any conclusions about the audience the site serves?
      • Can you hear the voice of the librarian as you examine the site?
      • Does the site appear to support a hybrid learning experience?
  • Each group should be prepared to share the websites they examined and the group's findings with the larger group.
  • Each participant should be prepared to share notions of the features and characteristics that are most important to his or her community.

Group 1 Taxonomy of features or content

Does the site represent library services comprehensively?

Does the content represent the total library program:

1. Information access and delivery
  • Library specific search tools:
    • School library OPAC—online library catalog
    • Links to other libraries / OPACS
    • Other schools in district/system
    • Local university
    • Public Library
    • Interlibrary loan database (may be state, regional, etc.)
    • Pathfinders (customized library-created guides for specific projects, classes, information formats, etc.)
    • Federated search tools (Tools that search across databases, OPAC, Web)
    • Ask-a-librarian, online e-mail reference, help, chat reference links
      • Originating from school library media specialist
      • Link to remote reference services (state, regional, etc.)
  • Subscription databases:
    • State or regionally purchased—links to
    • Library/school district purchased
    • Journals, magazines, newspapers
    • Subscription e-book collections
    • Subscription digital audio book collections
    • Subscription video collections
    • Instructions for remote access—passwords
  • Journal / Periodical List (for online and offline holdings)
  • Links to school information / homepage
  • Link to district information /homepages
  • Links to teacher Web pages/sites
  • Links to free (age-appropriate) Web search tools
    • Annotated--What does each do?
    • Information on setting up RSS feeds
    • Links to Web sources and subject portals
    • Tools for:
      • finding blogs
      • finding wikibooks
      • finding e-books and audio books
      • curricular materials
      • video search
      • image search
  • Links to Web reference sources and portals (free Web, subscription, e-book)
    • Links to online dictionaries
    • Links to online encyclopedia
    • Links to almanacs
    • Links to biographical reference
    • Links to online atlases, maps, geographical tools
    • Links to other online reference tools or portals
  • Links to news sources (in all media formats--print, audio, video)
    • RSS feeds (relevant news sources automatically pushed to site by subscription)
    • Local news
    • National news
    • International news, news in multiple languages
  • College planning information (for high school)
  • Career planning information (for high school)
  • Access to personal help information to meet developmental needs of teens: dieting; sexual harassment; health and beauty tips; safety tips and tutorials. (for high school)
  • Links to copyright-friendly media
  • Links to open source resources

2. Teaching and learning
Information literacy instruction (tools, tutorials, guides helping both teachers and students to be more efficient learners:.handouts, lessons, tutorials, print, video, PowerPoints, PDFs, etc.)
  • Information fluency instruction (including information literacy models)
    • questioning, thesis development
    • searching (selecting best search tools, query development, etc.)
    • evaluation
      • tools for evaluating documents in any formats: blogs, wikis, Web documents, articles, etc.
      • tools for evaluating, reflecting on work as a whole
    • analysis
    • synthesis
    • communication
    • digital citizenship, plagiarism, academic integrity
      • plagiarism prevention tools
      • citation generators
      • school-specific style manual
      • instruction relating to copyright, fair use, copyleft, Creative Commons, etc.)
  • Collaborative content area lessons (WebQuests, etc.)
    • rubrics
    • instructional handouts
  • Instruction relating to technology (how-tos, etc.)
  • Study process guides
  • Test prep (state tests, SAT prep, etc.)
  • Homework help
  • Drop box for student work
  • Student work
  • Orientation (videos, etc.)
  • Samples of student work
  • WebQuests, learning objects, PowerPoints or other presentations, instructional video or slideshows, etc.
  • Links to new tools for student communication. See New Tools Wiki.
  • Instruction for parents
    • How to help with homework
    • How to select books, etc.
    • How to navigate new information resources with learners
  • For teachers
    • Instructional planning tools for collaboration
    • Professional development, school improvement, professional journals and other professional reading
    • Links to learning standards
    • Copyright and fair use information for faculty
    • Opportunities for professional networking (wikis, blogs, Nings, etc.)

3. Books and reading
  • Readers’ advisory
  • Reading lists (summer, class, for particular interests, etc.)
  • New materials
  • Book discussion / Booktalks
  • Book trailers, digital booktalks
  • Reading contests
  • Links to book review / book interest databases (NoveList, Teaching Books, etc.)
  • Support of school-wide reading program
  • Links to reading resources in the community (poetry readings, author events, bookstores, etc.)

4. Program administration
  • General: Contact, hours, mission, welcome, staff, FAQs
  • Library mission, goals
  • Policies (materials selection, loan, acceptable use, academic integrity, etc.)
  • Information relating to library equipment (copier, cameras, scanners, etc.)
  • Expectations for library users
  • Schedule /calendar (static or interactive)
  • Materials relating to library services
  • Newsletter
  • Promotional materials
  • Reports (annual, monthly, etc.)
  • Surveys (satisfaction, reading interests, etc.)
  • Materials suggestion forms
  • Virtual tours, maps of space
  • Volunteer information (students, parents, community)
  • How to donate books (birthday bookclub, Amazon wishlist, etc.)
  • Special library events
  • Library-related clubs
  • Data mining resources
  • Research on school libraries

Note: the content analysis revealed that features incorporated program elements described in Information Power, the national guidelines document.
(AASL & AECT, 1998).

Group 2 Taxonomy of characteristics of websites

1. School/curricular: Is there evidence that the site supports learning and school goals?
  • Is it age and grade appropriate?
  • Is it connected to content area learning?
  • Does it display evidence of collaboration with classroom teachers?
  • Is there evidence of student collaboration?
  • Does it promote reading?

2. Navigation: Does the site facilitate access? Is it clear and logically organized? Intuitive?
  • Is the site readable at student audience level?
  • Is the site legible? Is the font readable and consistent? Do color choices present clear reading?
  • Does the site avoid use of library jargon? See Kupersmith's Library Terms that Users Understand
  • Does the site use embedded explanations--rollovers, pop-ups, simple text, etc., to explain confusing terms and names?
  • Are the links annotated to facilitate student decision making?
  • Is the site logically structured and organized?
  • Is screen real estate used effectively? Is the important stuff "front and center"? How much scrolling must be done on the first page?
  • Are there any errors in spelling or grammar?
  • Do the links on the site work?
  • Do all the design elements (graphics, art, buttons, color etc.) enhance the message of the site? Is there consistency in the basic formats of each page?
  • Do the pages appear clean, uncluttered?
  • Are page titles clear and consistent across the site?
  • Does the site feature a site map or site index?
  • Is download time acceptable?

3. Aesthetics / Appeal for the Audience
  • Is the site attractive, professional looking? Does it reflect the design choices of the audience?
  • Does it use graphics, photos, media to convey message in appealing manner, a non-gratuitous way?
  • Does it include any of the following?
    • Images of students
    • Images of materials
    • Images of library events, activities
    • Original art—photographs, drawings, paintings
    • Effective, attractive clip art
    • Animations, video elements
  • Does the site use an original design?
  • Does the site have personality/presence/friendliness/sense of humor? (Comment on how you can determine this.)

4. Level of Interactivity: Opportunities for collaboration, feedback, involvement
  • Does the site present opportunities for student collaboration, feedback through wikis, blogs, forums?
  • Does the site include elements of student work?
  • Does it include:
    • wikis (browser-based tools for online collaboration model that allow any user to edit content):
    • blogs (weblog, a browser-based regular and chronological publication of posts and comments
    • podcasts (multimedia files—usually audio--distributed over the Web using syndication feeds—often described as a Web radio broadcast.)
    • forums (threaded discussion used for such purposes as book or issue discussion)
    • slideshows (Flickr, PowerPoint presentations) Displays of images and text in sequence, usually for instructional or artistic purposes
    • video presentations or lessons or other multimedia elements
    • interactive forms (feedback forms, suggestion forms, etc.)?
  • Does the site represent an overall Web 2.0 approach? Does site use a content management system (CMS--like Drupal, Wordpress, Moodle), that would allow the librarian/webmaster to add and edit content without need for an HTML editor or knowledge of code?
  • Does the site include opportunities for personalization / opportunities to “push” content? (Push is content that is delivered to a receiver without their explicit request.)

5. Freshness
  • Does the site display regular updates and revisions?
  • Does the site present new content to keep users coming back?
  • Do the links work?
  • Does the site speak the current visual language? Does it resemble a site produced in 1996?

Back to Virtual Library
Last updated July 11, 2007