How Do We Choose?

Sketch by Carl Richards, CFP

Theme 3 provided us with a large amount of reference resources, both print and digital – the deep web, indexes, databases, encyclopedias, bibliographies, directories, dictionaries, almanacs, yearbooks, maps, and atlases.  How do we decide what to use?  In our effort to find the most reliable resource, we spend hours searching and reading.  What do we achieve?  Perhaps the resource is useful, but the following week, we find another resource on Twitter.  We receive catalogues and e-mails from a variety of vendors encouraging us to preview their product.   Though Carl Richards’ sketch was referring to the plethora of financial choices available, his sketch can easily apply to a number of topics.  In our case, the more reference choices we have, the more time we spend searching, and the less likely we are to find something reliable to share with our staff and students.  This has been one of my challenges in my first year as a Teacher-Librarian, how do we narrow down our choices?  I will attempt to answer this question by using the Big 3 Questions from Spirals of Inquiry: For Equity and Quality by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.

What are you learning?

Theme 3 provided 63 links to online resources, some require subscriptions, but the majority are free.  Many more resources are listed by Ann Riedling in Reference Skills for School Librarians, and we also encounter new resources on a daily basis, especially if we use social media.  In an effort to wade through all of this information, I’m learning how to evaluate these resources, and decide whether the tool is useful.  Riedling provides checklists for evaluation and selection of a variety of sources, but the checklist I created in Assignment 1,  is an amalgamation of these checklists.

Since creating this checklist for Assignment 1, I have added a section for authority.  This is because a large majority of the reference resources provided in Theme 3 are online, and require a higher level of critical thinking regarding reliability.  Subscription paid databases and online encyclopedias such as ERIC, World Book Online, Gale, and Encyclopedia Brittanica have an established reputation for authorityy, but should still be evaluated using the checklist to determine their currency, relevancy, purpose and curricular connections.

How is it going?

I’ve discovered a variety of sources of information that might be useful for staff and students.  The difficulty is determining which ones are useful for an elementary school, but even if the resource is too advanced for the students, some staff members may find it useful for expanding their background knowledge.  This raises questions of how to determine relevance, but if I feel the staff might benefit, I will share it through FirstClass and provide a link.  Teachers have the option of exploring the link,  or ignoring the e-mail.

The discussion boards were helpful during Theme 3 as I learned about different resources, and the various ways the resources were used in my classmates’ libraries, and by the teachers in their schools.  Collaboration with other Teacher-Librarians, and Classroom Teachers, is helpful in determining relevance and usefulness of reference resources.

Where to next?

As a first year Teacher-Librarian, I am learning about the importance of the reference resources in my library, and the best ways to assist my colleagues and students in finding information.  “The problem is finding ways to discover the optimal information from among the heaps of data (Riedling, 109). It is vital to know when to turn to print resources, when to use the Web, and when to avoid them all in favour of consulting an expert in the field (Riedling, 113).”

My next steps include using my evaluation checklist to create a Symbaloo of resources on my library website.  This is a job that I plan to undertake soon, and it will continue to evolve and change throughout the school year, especially as new resources emerge.

Assignment 3 will outline my next steps for reference services in my library.


Halbert J., & Kaser, L. Spirals of  Inquiry: For equity and quality.  BCPVPA.

Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.



2 thoughts on “How Do We Choose?

  1. A good overview of the “big picture” of what we are doing and why. Good references to our explorations earlier in the course and how they have assisted you in new evaluations and goals. Your connections to key points, take-aways and highlights was very useful. A good discussion piece that guides the way forward.


  2. I am appreciative of your sentiments that it is difficult to sift through the vast amounts of information, and then be in a position to help others to do critically and thoughtfully. You have identified some key learnings and plans in moving forward, and in discovering the which resources best meet the needs of learners and colleagues.


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