With the release of AASL’s newest version of the standards, curation has been on my mind quite a bit this school year. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself as much of a curator. I’m a fantastic explorer and gatherer. But the extent of my curating usually involves mass deleting of links and articles after my bookmarks and favorites become too difficult to navigate and I can no longer remember why I even saved them in the first place. I am very much the sushi example in the Cult of Pedagogy blog post, Are You a Curator or Dumper? I think part of the problem is that when teachers ask for suggestions I want to be able to help them right then and there. I don’t want to miss this opportunity to show them I do have valuable information and skills to offer them. I also want to respect their busy schedules by getting them the resources they need quickly. But then, like in the sushi example, I realize after they left they I forgot about this resource and that resource so I try to get them in their hands (or at least their sphere of awareness) but, just like in the sushi example, they’ve usually decided to just go with what I gave them first and are not interested in anything new or are already done with what they needed the resource for to begin with (“maybe next year”). After reading the Cult of Pedagogy post and exploring the resources, I have a two-part plan to help me try to break my dumper habit and transition to the curator role.
Step 1: Give Myself Time to Be a Curator
The first step will require a mindset shift on my part. I need to give myself permission not to immediately “solve” teachers resource requests. I need to get comfortable saying things like, “I’m sure we have lots of great resources on that topic. Let me pull some options for you to look at. When would do you need them by?”. Not feeling the need to have an immediate answer will be tough to overcome but it will also give me time to remember all the really great resources we have and only pass along those stellar options.
Step 2: Plan Ahead for the Procrastinators
Giving myself permission not to have an immediate answer so I can be a thoughtful curator and not a haphazard dumper only works when the people who need the resources also have the ability to give me time to be thoughtful in my curating. Anyone who has worked in a school library for more than five minutes knows that inevitably, the answer to the question “When do you need them by?” will be, if you’re lucky, “tomorrow” but more likely will be something like, “by next period” or “in about 20 minutes”. So in order to still help those people but not fall back into the random resource dumping trap, I need to have some curated lists for commonly inquired about topics prepared ahead of time. This plan was not something new to me before I started this Cool Tools topic but finding the best platform with which to accomplish it had been eluding me. I wanted something that was easy to use, looked good, and could be embedded into my library website. Having experimented with a few of the tools on the list in the past, I knew they weren’t able to meet my requirements. Then, as it happened, I briefly saw elink.io in action first hand during one of my sessions at NYLA/SSL a few weekends ago and I knew I’d finally found my platform! Easy to use? Check. Looks good? Check. Can be embedded into Google Sites? Check. I’m sticking to the free basic version for now but I also like that with a paid version I could embed my elink.io creations right into Mailchimp since that’s the platform I use for my monthly teacher newsletter. So far, I’ve only used it to make a practice resource list for the Erie Canal (side note: I recently attended a PD session at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse and it was sooooo good. If you have the opportunity to go to one I highly recommend it) but I really liked it! Once I had some websites and library books in mind, it really was as simple as copying and pasting the links into the elink.io search box and waiting for it to find what sites I was linking to. It imported a picture and even grabbed a description from the page itself but if you prefer, you can import your own image and make your own description. I did have a few odd issues when trying to add links to books from my catalog but they were easy enough to solve. The biggest problem being that the image elink.io was automatically grabbing wasn’t the actual picture of the cover that was on the catalog page for that book. I was able to fix that by downloading the cover image from the catalog and uploading it to elink.io myself. Other than that, it came together quickly and looked really sharp. After I made a Resource List page on the library website and added my Erie Canal example, I decided to also create a Google Form and embedded it on the main Resource List page so teachers can suggest other topics for which they’d like to see research lists curated. I’ve started a list of topics I commonly get asked to provide books or other resources for and I’ll be slowly working on adding them to the new Resource List page on the website but it’ll also be nice to have a quick way for teachers to suggest more topics I might not even know there’s an interest/need.
To see my curated Erie Canal resources lists you can click here to view the elink.io or click here to see it in action on my library website.