Best Practices in Curation

The Key Commitment of school librarians within the AASL Shared Foundation of Curate is defined in the AASL Standards as “making meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance” (AASL, 2018, p. 94).

I have been working on unpacking the Curate Shared Foundation during the first semester of the school year, reflecting on what the AASL Standards bring up as curation best practices, and on the Domains, Competencies, and alignments the standards hold up for us to achieve. For many of us, getting started is the hard part, so I have come up with a few ideas and resources for taking the first steps toward making these best practices part of your everyday work.

Here are the best practices from the Curate Shared Foundation from p. 101-102 of the National School Library Standards book and a few ideas for implementation:

Establish an advisory board of learners, parents, classroom educators, and administrators to provide input on collection-development priorities.

The September/October 2013 issue of Knowledge Quest has a whole host of great advice on how to get this done. Reach out to your most active students, involved parents, and enthusiastic colleagues–you’ll be surprised how many would love to become more formally involved in the school library.Create and frequently revise a collection policy that addresses selection and retention criteria for all formats. Include a section about handling material challenges. Be sure your administrators and school board review and sign the policy and know where it is located.

Linda Bertland (retired) has a website with school library policy resources. Take a leadership role in crafting, drafting, and revising the policies that guide your work in the school library. Your newly created advisory board is perfect for the work of creating and/or revising library policies.

Frequently review the collection’s contents for scope, age, and condition. Remove physical items that are out of date, infrequently used, and excessively worn. Be sure that links to digital items are still valid and that the content is still factually valid.

I have used the CREW Manual from the Texas State Library and Archive Commission as a weeding guide for years. Be sure to create and share communication around why weeding the library is beneficial, because there will be questions from those who see it as “throwing books away” and don’t understand why librarians would ever do such a thing.

Create mechanisms for your collection’s users to provide suggestions for new materials and provide feedback on existing materials.

In addition to the surveys that I sent out periodically, I also had a suggestion box on my circulation desk, and I often informally visited with my learners and educators to ask about what they’d like to see added to our library. Create collaborative wish lists for resources and share the links so others can add to it.

Ensure that your public online access catalog and collection of digital resources are available 24-7 so that users can identify and suggest needed sources, engage with digital content, and request further assistance.

Linking to an OPAC is good, and it is only the first step. Your school library website should also provide links to curated collections of other digital resources as well as methods for users to reach out to you, such as your Twitter handle, a Google form for questions and suggestions, or a link to email you. Some academic and public libraries also have live chat boxes enabled on their website for 24/7 chat access to a librarian.

Provide classroom educators and learners with frequent updates about school library resources and their potential uses.

Newsletters and emails can work here, and so can creativity; consider posting updates where you have a captive audience, like inside bathroom stalls. Create displays about the library and its resources, and leave kitschy holiday-themed displays similar to department store displays. Consider themes for displays that are timely, such as Banned Books Week, Dot Day, International Women’s Day, and many more!

Create and share self-guided user supports for independent research skills and other information-seeking activities.

Posters, one-page quick-start guides, video tutorials, and other guides can all help users independently access your resources and use them without your in-person assistance. Link these to your library website, and place physical copies in educators’ mailboxes for them to post in their classrooms.

Expose learners to a variety of digital tools to describe and organize websites, digital videos, images, and other media.

I recommend the AASL Best Websites and Apps as a good place to learn about a variety of digital tools. Be sure to check out past years’ best apps and websites, too. Share with learners and educators the tools you use to accomplish your work.

Encourage learners to select and integrate citation recording and formatting software into their writing processes.

A great way to do this is to work with educators to ensure citations are part of their assessment of learners’ work, and that you have opportunities to teach how to use citation generators. Offer to help your educators assess learners’ citations!

Bring learners’ attention to and demonstrate collection-creation and citation tools built into periodical databases.

Integrate the instruction of database tools into existing orientation activities, and especially in just-in-time research instruction. Simply teaching how to access and search databases barely scratches the surface of their capabilities. Take advantage of the guides and webinars produced by database publishers to learn about their full range of capabilities. You’ll find them in the help or educators’ sections of your databases.

What other tips would you add for school librarians to start working towards these best practices in the area of curation, and just as importantly, share their work with learners, educators, administrators, and the school community?

Comment below or tweet your ideas using the #AASLStandards hashtag!

Work Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association.

Author: Len Bryan

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

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