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Learning Library Blog Global Focus: Digital library helps students become responsible, autonomous learners
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Global Focus: Digital library helps students become responsible, autonomous learners

By Lisa Nash
December 24, 2019
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Today, students’ access to information is made possible by their connection to devices both at home and at school. As the digital learning and library services officer for the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta in Australia, it’s my job to support teacher librarians and other teaching and library staff in developing students’ critical information, digital literacy and knowledge-creation skills. 

Our diocese uses an inquiry-based learning model and sees teachers as guides who cultivate deep student-driven learning. Many of our schools have 1:1 BYOD device access or a device ratio of one device for every two students.

To navigate the plethora of digital content, tools, shifting information boundaries, new learning modes and robust access to information, we knew we had to think about the best ways to instill digital literacy skills. 

Based on research on the importance of digital libraries as meaningful spaces for creating knowledge, we developed a digital library platform that’s a dynamic extension of each school library’s physical collections and that supports the development of information and digital literacies for all users. 

We started by looking at how we could provide equitable, simple access to high-quality digital content that might be out of reach financially for individual schools. We were able to provide access across our 81 schools by purchasing selected databases, ebooks and video platforms that all schools can use. 

We also formed consortiums with other dioceses to provide even more benefits to our users, like access to more resources from using pooled budgets and shared support learning materials to use the resources. For example, we have an ebook consortium with Overdrive that increased access to a variety of resources. 
With widened access to high-quality authoritative resources, students can easily connect to books that meet their personal learning needs. They can search and access this material from anywhere, anytime and via any device to suit their just-in-time information needs. And features like digital note-taking, highlighting, built-in definitions, text to speech and zoom options help support the diverse learning needs of our students.

Along the way, we implemented an enterprise digital library platform for each school that can be customized to meet each school’s particular focus and needs. The platform is networked so users can search across all school libraries, giving all educators access to a wider set of resources. Each platform has a simple-to-use integrated Google Slide set that can be customized to provide information pertinent for each school’s students and promote their own school library resources and services.  

We continue to work with our teacher librarians, library staff and teachers to be sure they  understand our digital library platform tools and can develop suitable digital literacy scaffolds and supports for students to become autonomous learners.  

We’re currently clarifying the key skills of our teacher librarians so we can provide a consistent set of guidelines for their work. The crosswalk between the Future Ready Librarians framework and the ISTE Standards for Educators has helped guide our work, and we created a help website to support staff as they develop these skills (   

These are just a few of the thoughtful but replicable ways we’re supporting teacher librarians, library staff and students to learn and teach in a digital world.