There is something about colorful visuals that excites me. Show me a list of books, and I’ll read it with interest. But provide me with a graphic display of those book covers and my heart races in anticipation. Every morning, as I sit at my computer and scroll through e-mails, I marvel at how many educators are sharing innovative library and classroom resources. From Google Sheets of online links, to free access for e-books and databases, the offerings during these trying weeks of quarantine are vast. The majority of the material is valuable, but I gravitate toward the pages that are presented with color and simplicity. Because of this, I have begun to tailor the digital tools I send out to my own library community, adding as much color and visual interest as I can.
As stated in the Forum Guide to Data Visualization: A Resource for Education Agencies, “effective data visualization incorporates the science of visual cues in a way that promotes efficient and accurate understanding and communication.” Though this fascinating guide is strictly focused on the interpretation of data, its insights can apply to any online communication in which we engage. In order to create aesthetically pleasing guides, it’s important to focus on the images that draw people in. As books are naturally a large part of a librarian’s subject matter, portraits of book covers successfully add interest to resources that include book lists. Other images may include those portraying YouTube Channels or helpful apps. Adding these types of images to your own lessons or guides is generally considered fair use under copyright laws, and authors and other creators of educational content almost always appreciate having their work made public. It’s important, though, to remain on top of fair use practices. Watch this Hank Green video about copyright or read this Stanford University Fair Use Guide to learn more about the nuances of copyright laws.
This unexpected quarantine has forced me to evaluate the ways I distribute information to my staff and students. During the first week of distance learning, as I began curating resources and consolidating information into neat, one-page guides, I realized this practice is something I should be doing more often even when school is physically in session. Over the past several weeks, I have created guides for educational YouTube channels, digital reading options, and academic search engine use to name a few; I’ve continued putting out my monthly newsletter, making sure to provide active links so that staff members can easily find helpful tools and content; and I’ve answered numerous individual questions from teachers, students, and parents, attempting to create a visual path as I give them the information they seek.
At the end of this pandemic-fueled isolation, I will be grateful if I come out the other side with some positive additions to my library reserves. At this uncertain time, most of us are overwhelmed with the overload of information, responsibilities, and changing landscapes of our lives. Even when we are lucky enough to get back to our usual routines, attention spans will remain tentative. Displaying important information in an attractive way will help keep everyone focused and excited about learning.
National Forum on Education Statistics. 2016. Forum Guide to Data Visualization: A Resource for Education Agencies. NFES 2017-016. U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Author: Karin Greenberg
Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.