Web Sites and Digital Services in Israeli School Libraries: How Is a Digital Environment Changing How School Libraries Work?

Article excerpt

The Internet Age can lead to three possible scenarios for school libraries: status quo, change, or obsolescence. This study examines the ramifications of school library Web sites for the work done by Israeli school libraries and the services they provide. It is based on an analysis of the Internet sites of 78 school libraries in Israel, in-depth interviews with nine librarians in Israel, questionnaires completed by 22 librarians in the United States and other countries, and a review of literature on the subject. The findings of the study suggest that school libraries in Israel are in the status quo phase; however, there is a slight move toward the change scenario in which the library will continue to exist but will offer a different mix of services.

Background

Gunn (2002) states that school libraries can exist in a physical space or in a virtual space or can maintain a hybrid space that is both physical and virtual. In recent years, more school libraries have found themselves unable to ignore the digital Internet environment and have begun to build Internet sites that give expression to their activities. These Internet sites gradually allow the addition of a range of digital services.

D'elia, Jorgensen, Woelfel, and Rodger (2002) claim that the Internet Age can lead to three possible scenarios for libraries. The first is a continuation of the status quo in which the Internet resources complement the library's own resources, meaning that two suppliers of information exist concurrently (just as there is an industry for movies shown in theaters and a home video industry). Second is the possibility of change, in which libraries continue to exist, but with a revised mission and offering a different mix of services (just as radio changed so that it could continue to exist alongside television). The third scenario is obsolescence. The Internet might diminish the need for libraries to the extent that they disappear (just as horse-drawn coaches did when automobiles became popular).

The construction of Web sites and their proliferation and accessibility was the subject of the study reported here, because one of the most prominent characteristics of change in the information world is the provision of digital services. We asked about the current situation of school libraries and how the digital environment is changing how school libraries work.

The importance of the digital services provided by the school library Web sites is increasing, because many students prefer using Internet resources for their studies. In a survey conducted in 2001 in the United States, 94% of students aged 12-17 who had access to the Internet reported that they used it for school research (Baumbach, Brewer, & Renfroe, 2004). The Pew Internet & American Life Project study (Lenhart, Madden, & Hitlin, 2005) reported that in 2005 nearly 90% of all teenagers in the US were Internet users and that half had broadband connections. In 2007 almost 28% of the online teenagers in the US had created their own blogs (Lenhart, Madden, Macgill, & Smith, 2008), and approximately 55% of them had a profile on one of the online social networks.

Literature Review

Content and Services of School Library Web Sites

The establishment of school library Web sites opens many possibilities for school libraries. In addition to providing information about the library and its activities, Web sites make it possible to establish digital libraries. However, there is no agreedon definition of what a digital library should contain. The simplest digital libraries are collections of links to sources of information in a particular field. More complex digital libraries house information sources (generally on a specific subject or directed toward a particular group of patrons) that have been digitized, along with the addition of tools to facilitate access. An additional stage in the development of digital libraries is to consider them not merely a storehouse of information, but also as a tool that can aid users with the processes of asking questions, gathering information, organizing information, analyzing information, and answering questions (Borgman et. …