Ernesto Gutierrez Jr, College Library Coordinator at Nagle College in NSW, recently worked with his students to develop a library website. Its content is created for and by the students, and ranges from well-considered reviews to student-produced videos. Ernesto shares how the website came to fruition.
A student seeds the idea
It seems that we teacher librarians never grow old. We are like the Benjamin Button of our school. Well, not necessarily on looks — but the way we think.
Being around students makes me think ‘younger’, keeping my thoughts more dynamic. What’s refreshing about being a teacher librarian is the fact that I get to converse with a lot of students during recess, lunch and after school. Students tell me stuff that usually makes me think and reflect on it. Their topics range from assignments, to politics, to pop culture. Their ideas are countless, and most of them original. Every day is exciting because I get to learn something new from students.
In one of our conversations during lunch, the students and I compared the novel Thirteen Reasons Why to the Netflix TV series version. Ideas poured out like rain. Some students were critical of both texts, some favoured one over the other, and some liked both texts. The discussion was stimulating, as students provided examples to prove their point. It was an intellectually satisfying conversation that made everyone’s day. Towards the end, somebody commented that the discussion was so good it should have been recorded. RECORDED. Now that’s an idea that was conceived, and later on came to fruition.
Starting the website
Students got excited when we started the planning for a library website. The idea was to record their views about books they read, films they watch and songs they listen to. They wanted the website to be hip and informative as well. They wanted a venue where they could voice their thoughts and opinions and, at the same time, educate the website’s readers of all ages.
So the students decided that the website would contain reviews of texts that students are into, with books, films and songs being the main ones. Some of the students were also encouraged to have their own blog entries on the site.
Choosing a platform
The students and I then started to search for a free platform that would carry our content. We wanted a site that was free, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. We tried out several sites for days but we felt that none of them satisfied our needs.
Since our school uses Google for classroom learning, we then decided to try out Google Sites. This platform is free and easy to use. You don’t have to sign up if you already have a Google account. This platform is convenient to use as it loads texts and images quickly — and saves them in a flash! The tools and templates are simple but classy.
We have found that Google Sites is perfect for us! It provides our website with a modern and appealing look and still maintains the colour scheme of our school. We are able to publish our content in a straightforward but attractive manner.
Sustaining the website
One persistent question that popped up during the planning stages of the website was: How are we going to sustain the updates to our website? The students knew what they were going to write about; however, they did not at first have a clear understanding of how frequently they would have to update the site during the course of the school year.
Faced with so much work, the students realised that updating the website daily with new content was unrealistic. They decided that updating twice weekly was more sustainable.
Suddenly, several students got on board because they wanted to be part of something that hadn’t been done before — a website filled with student content! Students knew they would not get any extra credit for contributing to the website. Nevertheless, they were committed to write regularly out of the generosity of their hearts.
The school can promote literacy through the library website. Students are encouraged to express themselves through writing, and to practise critical thinking. In this way, they are not only having an opportunity to share, but also a chance to educate the readers of this wonderful website.
Reception from the school community
When the library website was launched on the 11th of April this year, only a few people knew about it. Since then, the number of students who follow and read the website has been steadily increasing. More students are volunteering to write reviews on a consistent basis. At the moment, we have more than enough articles to publish until the end of term. Students are clearly onboard with the library website and the school community has noticed the students’ efforts. Teachers and staff are anticipating new content bi-weekly.
Finally, our website is reaching out to our community and to the world. We want people to know that Nagle students are amazing writers, thinkers, learners and educators. Go check out the Nagle Library website!
Hopefully this inspires you to set up your own library website at your school. Young people have so much to say and they just need someone to channel their thoughts and opinions. It would also be cool if we share each others’ content as we aim to connect more teenagers and their ideas all over the world. Wouldn’t a worldwide exchange of ideas be exciting?
Ernesto Gutierrez Jr (@EGutierrez1467)
College Library Coordinator
Nagle College, NSW