The Rhode Island Information Network For Kids is "... a cooperative effort by Rhode Island school libraries to share their resources through an interactive, web-based catalog of library materials." RILINK serves more than 70% of the K-12 students in Rhode Island as it has 35 of the 36 school districts in the state as members. Their literature expands upon this saying,
Currently, more than 200 school libraries working together form RILINK, sharing their books, audiovisual materials and expertise to provide better service to their 110,000 students and teachers.Through RILINK and its online web-based union catalog, these students and teachers have access to more than two million books and audiovisual items and more than 100,000 subject-based web links that are K-12 appropriate, chosen for their relevance to curriculum subjects.
We talked to Sharon Webster, the Professional Development & Technology Support Specialist at RILINK who recalls that they were first introduced to Springshare tools because they needed a platform for their organizational site that didn't require coding knowledge. Sharon and her colleague, Zach Berger, the Member Services Librarian, were not fluent in HTML but they were
looking for a way to promote our organization and a way for our members to promote the good work they do.
In 2011, supported by their Executive Director, Dorothy Frechette, RILINK came on board with LibGuides and then six months later upgraded to LibGuides CMS. Besides website use, Sharon said,
RILINK uses LibGuides for Staff Meeting and Admin guides related to the different platforms we use with our members.
Within the year, RILINK decided this was a tool the school libraries had to have. They began the process of acquiring use for some then eventually all of the member schools in their family. They have also since added LibWizard.
School districts benefit from sharing one LibGuides CMS system. Can the same be true for a mammoth system like RILINK's? Yes, especially if you have incredible people at the helm! What Sharon, Zach and the RILINK team are doing is outstanding and unique.
In thinking about the early days, Sharon shared her recollection.
When we were first starting, we required attendance at initial workshop sessions to get them going. This helped us and them get our/their feet on the ground and understand the quirks of having so many users in one site. We followed up the required face to face sessions with required virtual sessions.
The number one factor is the enthusiasm of the librarian. The most “vibrant” and update to date sites are managed/created by librarians who have totally embraced LibGuides as the platform for them.
Another factor is comfort taking risks and making what you do public. Confident librarians relish the chance to publish what they do. Empowering them to see what they have to offer is key.
-- Sharon Webster
Professional Development &
Technology Support Specialist
Today, after much learning and experience gained, they work with their school libraries in well-planned steps. Sharon shared the details:
The support and instruction RILINK provides for their member school libraries is an excellent example of next-level customer service. To promote LibGuides to those who have yet to take advantage of the system as part of their RILINK membership, she said,
I am a “cheerleader.” We highlight sites in our newsletter. I email every new librarian with a welcome to RILINK Schools and the offer to help them get started. We are just now offering a “kick start” session for those who haven’t joined in. We provide support on a daily basis for those who have questions. We always tell them if they have an idea and don’t see how to do it, just ask. Usually there is a way.
LibGuides CMS is being used by school libraries in the same ways that it's being used by academic libraries around the world. You can build subject guides, course specific guides, or guides on topics everyone needs like plagiarism or citation. You can even use it as your library website. Sharon explained,
Our participating school libraries range the K-12 spectrum. The level of participation of teachers and parents ranges from school to school. Most middle and high school libraries see teacher use.
...the library sites have become a vehicle to communicate with the teachers and parents to communicate what the library has to offer.
When asked about how the RILINK member libraries have jumped in with the shared LibGuides CMS system, Sharon emphasized,
Our members use it for library websites. While we have encouraged other possibilities, time restricts what they have time to accomplish. Cranston Public Schools has very successfully used LibGuides to promote summer reading, garnering more than 20,000 hits. We have a member, Lincoln Middle School, that has created a Guide just for parents. The West Warwick Schools used it to create a presentation for a conference. We encourage our members to use the platform for ways to communicate and promote the work they do. Time is the limiting factor.
Cranston High School East was one of RILINK's early adopters of LibGuides CMS and has really excelled. Sharon announced that "...last year The AASL president visited Cranston High as part of a nation wide tour and their LibGuides site was one of the reasons it was recognized."
Right now guides are essentially built by librarians. They have been encouraged to add teachers as Editors to guides. RILINK Policy limits the ownership of guides to the media specialists in order to reinforce the crucial role of the SLMS as content creators and curriculum specialists. Collaboration is encouraged through the Editor option.
Feedback doesn't always translate into a dreaded to do list. When you get positive feedback, it helps you continue your efforts when you're already stretched thin, as many school librarians are. It acts as a motivator and pushes people to new heights. Sharon provided us with some comments from their members.
Teachers have said that they are very impressed and wowed. They have said that having the webpage as a resource is a welcome change from last year and they have asked me to make LibGuides for specific courses, which I did, and which I taught the students to use. - Camille Nixon, Tolman High School
Students have said that they look at the Tweets regularly and that they use the LibGuide that I set up for their class.
The Vice-Principal said that she was amazed and delighted about the webpage. They put a direct link to the page from our school's page. - Camille Nixon, Tolman High School
From elementary schools to high schools, Librarians have plenty to say about using their LibGuides CMS system to make their own groups and pages.
Teachers are impressed that the LibGuide can be updated quickly for their class projects. - Ellen Basso, Stadium & Woodridge Elementary Schools
Principal loved it and said she thought it was ‘valuable.’ Use it with teachers and classes; one teacher said, "This is so awesome, I can't believe all the work you did."- Sharyn Farley, Shea High School
I have received a lot of really positive feedback from both students and faculty on my LibGuide. They love the organization of it, the ease of use, the fact that I create custom-made pages for specific classes, so all of their research requirements are in one place for easy access, the teacher resources and the constant updating of resources. I just had to show my page at a presentation I did, and numerous teachers came to me afterward to compliment me on it :) - Marianne Mirando, Westerly High School
I just shared the library’s Women’s History Month LibGuides page with the Principal and she said it was “Amazing”. She is not easily amazed. Also, when discussing goals for next year, we decided to keep working on building and promoting the library’s site as a major step in integrating technology in what might be our first year as a one to one school. - Deb 0’Hara, Tiverton Middle School
Sharon Webster, Zach Berger and the RILINK team should be energized by the work that's being generated at their member libraries. This work helps students learn and contributes to their successes. Sharon stressed that,
We provide this as a member benefit because we strongly believe in the important work of school librarians and libraries in preparing students to meet the demands of today’s world. We wanted them to have a platform to collaborate, communicate, and promote the work they do.
We have seen great success in meeting this goal with many of our members. We continue to support and encourage and try to bring more into the fold.
My bottom-line… those who embrace LibGuides love it.