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About the DL2SL Project

Why Digital Libraries to School Libraries?

Myriad digital library (DL) projects have exemplary collections for elementary and secondary educators and students. The prevalence digital media available in these collections offers new opportunities to diversify school library collections with "open content": downloadable and editable digital video and audio, data sets, interactives, simulations, and hypertext resources.

Many of these projects have offered workshops to enable rich implementation of their resources. Despite these efforts, school use of DL open content remains nascent. Results of prior research devoted to examining the implementation process has suggested that to achieve deep and lasting digital library content integration in schools, support beyond professional development is needed and school-based actors beyond students and classroom teachers must be included. We need to know more about the complications inherent in the process of integrating open content in school library activities.

A key actor not targeted by many digital library projects is the school librarian. School librarians play many roles in schools, but a primary role is building and maintaining a resource base for teaching and learning. School librarians locate and organize materials that support the curriculum and student interest and make them findable through instructional collaboration and the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC), today's card catalog, which is often part of an integrated Library Management System.

Many school librarians do not know how to leverage their resource expertise and collaborative roles to foster engaged learning through open content. Recent studies show that while many students best learn STEM concepts with open content, few teachers infuse it into practice. School librarians are the needed catalyst for teachers and students to engage in innovative learning.

Project Aim

This project's aim is to explore ways in which school librarians can use DL open content to expand and enrich the school library's resource base and instructional support. This project uses the newest web-based technologies to help school librarians identify DL open content, integrate open content metadata into their OPACs, and help use open content for learning.

Guided by the overarching question "How can school libraries support strong STEM achievement with digital library open content?" in this three-year exploratory Early Career Research project, the researcher will investigate a framework for school librarians' promotion of sustainable open content use in schools through the following research questions.

Research Questions

Given the paucity of research in the area of open content and pressing need for action, the DL2SL research design can illuminate the potential of models and tools to revitalize unsteady STEM support in school libraries. The proposed work will explore five main research questions that will yield insight into school libraries' link to STEM learning.

  1. What do school librarians know about open content for STEM learning? To what extent is open content used in their practice? What factors enable or inhibit its use?

  2. To what extent is a school librarians able to integrate physical and digital STEM collection development? Will the enhanced availability of metadata promote integration of open content and physical resources?

  3. How do school library environments influence STEM teacher willingness to use open content? What skills and opportunities do SCHOOL LIBRARIANS see as enabled by open content?

  4. What factors do SCHOOL LIBRARIANS regard as key to ensuring willingness to transfer open content and skills to their teachers?

  5. What models could be promoted to enhance SLMS/STEM teacher collaboration that will further successful open content integration in K-12 schools?

The intent of this project is to examine the SCHOOL LIBRARIANS perspective on open content integration; intentional investigation of STEM teacher perceptions may be part of a subsequent project.

Target Audience

In an effort to increase the integration of digital open content and physical STEM resources, enhance their findability, and promote their use in teaching and learning, this proposal will focus primarily on SLMS, with benefits for additional audiences:

  1. School librarians. School librarians are the immediate beneficiaries of this research. They will share their attitudes regarding open content through a survey; two school librarians will participate in case studies examining their collection development practices enabled by the ability to add records for digital objects to their OPACS; and those school librarians will work closely with STEM teachers and students in their local schools to access the open content and adapt it for classroom use.

  2. Teachers. Teachers will benefit from this proposal by working with the school librarians to integrate open content into teaching.

  3. MLS Students. MLS students will experience greater motivation in learning through the use of open content and its exciting technology-mediated applications.

  4. Digital library developers. Developers will gain access to web-based tool downloading of new MARC content added to the digital library. The first target DL platform is CWIS a project of Internet Scout at the University of Wisconsin.

This project is designed to examine the use of open content in school libraries. Project results will be interpreted to breadth of application, but immediately involving a large number of users is not the intent.

Project Impact and Goals

Though the availability of open content is growing, these questions have not been investigated. The proposed exploratory research will greatly increase the research base for library technical services; school library media program design and administration; professional development; and educator collaboration These benefits will be realized through activities that center on the collections of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL)

This exploratory project will identify issues relating to open content implementation; it is not designed to resolve issues or achieve immediate widespread integration. This project is oriented toward impact in four main areas, as described below:

Increase knowledge about open content in schools

This project's power lies not only in the results of the research undertaken, but also in the effect of the tools and techniques developed and demonstrated through the research and development (R&D) components. The R&D has a symbiotic relationship, with each aspect reinforcing corrective positive effects on project results. Even if the tools and techniques do not achieve widespread use, the research will yield vital knowledge; even if the research does not yield generalizable results, the tools and techniques will still enable important activities.

Improve learning via improved access to open content

This project will increase the number of open content resources available to school librarians and teachers as well as to students through independent discovery. Moreover, it will marry discovery with use and adaptation, thus ensuring sustained effect on learning. The project will develop tools that enhance the ability to locate high quality STEM content within the framework of existing and familiar school library resources.

Traditionally, OPACs have pointed to only physical resources, but they have the technical capacity to include records that point to a range of media. OPACs are thus a building block for greater distribution and increased awareness of open content.

STEM support via digital library content and collaboration

In schools where the school librarians collaborated with STEM teachers, there was a significant, positive relationship with student achievement and research has shown good STEM collections were the key to building relationships with STEM learners. When the STEM teacher and the school librarian give students learning opportunities with open content, students have more chances to master course content and sustain interest in STEM topics.

The more teachers and administrators see school librarians as instructional partners, the more likely their perceptions will change and their expectations will increase, thus improving instruction and student learning.

Streamline school librarians skills in using STEM open content

Many school librarians feel that their lack of access to professional development in STEM topics and technology was a major barrier to closer coordination and collection development. The proposed study's survey, case studies, and dissemination will give school librarians access to tools and skills in open content. As a result of this project, school librarians will have greater abilities to locate records for NSDL open content, feel confident integrating physical and digital resource metadata in their OPACs, improve the quality of their STEM collections, and gain skills to work alongside teachers to find, download, edit, and use open content with students.

Project Design

This three-year exploratory project will proceed with five distinct areas of work. DL2SL includes a development component accompanied by substantial investigative research to understand the efficacy and scalability of the proposed approach school librarian/STEM teacher collaboration. Through a tightly integrated design, survey results will yield groundbreaking information about school librarian attitudes toward STEM and open content; web-based metadata tools will offer unique capabilities to enhance the OPAC's resource provision; case studies will lend important insight into schools' implementation landscapes; and dissemination efforts will share previously-unavailable concepts and techniques with MLS students and others. Evaluation efforts will also increase awareness of open content and related issues.