Wednesday, January 11, 2012

First Friday Recap: Alabama Virtual Library

Last week I and several others from our district attended January First Friday session, sponsored by the State Department of Education. The presenter was Deloris Carlito, and her topic was the Alabama Virtual Library.

The AVL is a resource cherished by every one of us, and we have several blog posts written here about ways to maximize the databases in our schools. Though we may have extensive experience using this great storehouse of information, there is always room for us to grow and add to our knowledge about the various databases.

One of Mrs. Carlito's points of emphasis that resonated with me were the three cornerstones of the Alabama Virtual Library:

  • Equity
  • Economy
  • Excellence

There remains enormous variety in the social, economic, and ethnic diversity of our schools, both in the district and around the state. The AVL levels the playing field by providing 24 hour, free access to high quality information resources. It is obviously to our economic advantage to support use of the AVL, as we are not charged any fees as schools or individual users whatsoever to gain access. The resources included are top quality, highly recommended sources of information; over and again they prove their worth as solid, reliable, multifaceted sources to use with and recommend to our students and their families.

Suggestions she made for school librarians for promoting the AVL include:

  1. Set the AVL as your library/computer lab home page. 
  2. Create guides for teacher and student use.
  3. Provide teacher PD on the Alabama Virtual Library.
  4. Encourage teachers not to accept assignments unless the references list includes databases from the AVL. 

We must remember that we have to USE the AVL or we LOSE the AVL. Any opportunity we can take to thank our legislators for their continued support of the Alabama Virtual Library (or let our students share their thanks as well) will go a long way in securing this resource for our students.

Another point of interest Mrs. Carlito mentioned was the Helpdesk on the AVL site. If a user has any issues whatsoever accessing the resources or if a librarian needs training materials, use the Helpdesk to request materials (mouse pads, bookmarks, etc.) or assistance.

One of my most valued take-aways from this First Friday session was learning how to sort topic/keyword searches by Lexile level to ensure all students are reading the same topic on their individual grade level. For example, if you are working with a 5th grade class and they are researching American presidents, tailor each child's advanced search to their Lexile level, and boom! Everyone is reading material on their independent level yet also meeting their needs. Not too hard, not too easy, but "Juuust right!" (Elementary folks who do the Goldisocks lesson will totally get this.)

Okay, so maybe you're like me and have no frame of reference for Lexile levels. After all, many schools utilize the Renaissance Learning products to assess student's individual reading levels. Here is a link that can provide more information about Lexile levels and their grade level equivalent. It's not all inclusive, but it's a good start.

Who else attended the session? What were your take-aways from this presentation?

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