One of my research questions asked, “How are school library sites evolving? How do the features and services offered by exemplary sites in the 2006/2007 school year differ from the state-of-the-art of the randomly selected sites last studied by Clyde in 2002?”

Clyde’s (2004) longitudinal content analysis described the state-of-the-art relating to school library website practice in 2002, 1999, and 1996. Though her sample was larger, randomly selected, and crossed grade levels, a comparison with my sample of 10 secondary exemplary is nevertheless interesting.

Since Clyde’s last study, several features–guestbooks, lists of CD-ROMs, and general Internet tutorials–appear obsolete. Basic features, like e-mail links and name of school seem hardly worth counting in a 2007 content analysis.

Clyde noted the growing importance of online subscription databases in transforming sites into “electronic information gateways” (p. 166). These databases now appear ubiquitous among effective school library websites. In fact, the sample sites appear to be expanding their database holdings into new media formats—video and e-books. It was surprising that these exemplary sites do not yet offer students and faculty access to subscription databases of audiobooks.

Some features Clyde noticed in her two later studies, appear as site staples in this small sample. OPACs, links to the OPACs of other libraries, and links to reference sources are present in all sites in the smaller sample. Site search engines, new to Clyde’s 2002 list, are present in six of the 10 sample sites.

The popularity of some features appears slow to grow based on practice demonstrated by this sample. Clyde noticed suggestion forms as new features in 2002. This interactive feature is present on fewer than half of the 10 sample sites. The easy availability of interactive forms, online survey tools, and simple blogging strategies for soliciting user suggestions and feedback makes this absence surprising.

Clyde found that none of the sites in her larger sample offered chat-based reference. This is also true of the smaller sample, where in fact fewer than half of the sites link directly to available live reference services hosted by remote institutions.

If the sites of this sample provide any major evidence of change since Clyde’s last study, they reveal that sites are evolving to include 2.0 tools. While Clyde was surprised to note that no site in her sample included what she called a “weblog,” most of the sites in the smaller study featured some type of blog presence. One site also currently includes wikis for faculty collaboration and student writing projects. The general growth of the blogosphere (Sifry, 2006), combined with students’ own facility with 2.0 tools (Lenhart & Madden, 2005), and the ease with which users can use these tools to post Web content points to even further growth in this area in the coming years.

Clyde saw major differences in her sample sites relating to size and mission. “The school library Web sites as a whole remain a diverse collection in terms of intended audience, apparent aims, content, and resources made available through them” (Clyde, p. 166). Clyde compared one-page billboard type sites with sites of “more than 40 pages of information and many features designed to meet the needs of users” (p. 164).

Though all sites in this highly selective sample present a relatively comprehensive approach, they too vary dramatically from each other in terms of size and depth of service. Several are on the small size, with approximately 20 pages representing all of their online services. Others offer far more comprehensive services with content equaling nearly 200 pages.

Clyde noted her sample’s lack of purpose, as evidenced in the absence of mission statements in 34 sites of the original 50 sites. The sites in this study appear have clearer notions of their audience. Nearly all the sites in this exemplary sample present statements of their missions and goals. These statements—most often promoting information literacy, inquiry, and reading–are largely supported by site content.

In addition to demonstrating overall gains in size, the use of Web 2.0 strategies, and greater sharing mission and goals, the smaller sample includes a number of features and characteristics not documented in any of Clyde’s studies. Among the most popular features since Clyde’s studies are pathfinders, e-book databases, online password lists to facilitate remote access to subscription databases, WebQuests and other online collaborative lessons, school-specific style manuals, and online book discussions.

Most of the new features identified in this study cluster in the category of Learning and Teaching. In terms of characteristics, this smaller sample includes a number of site strategies not noticed by Clyde. These characteristics include the use of student work, images of students, and images of library events. Other new characteristics, such as embedded explanations and annotated links, relate to improving user access.

For those of you who want a closer look at the comparisons with Clyde’s findings, I’ve included three charts.




Clyde, L. A. (2004). School library Web sites: 1996-2002. The Electronic Library, 22(2), 158-167.
Lenhart, A. & Madden, M. (2007). Social networking websites and teens: An overview. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved February 11, 2007 from
Lenhart, A. & Madden, M. (2005). Teen content creators and consumers. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved February 12, 2007 from
Sifry, D. (2006). State of the blogosphere, August 2006. Sifry’s Alerts. Retrieved December 10, 2006, from