Saturday, January 7, 2006

Child Friendly Integrated Systems

This morning, in my MA class, I pointed out the scarcity of Integrated Systems that are designed for children's use. Let me rephrase that. I am actually in search of an Integrated System that is child friendly - one that children can actually use independently. This ellicited some response from the class that got me thinking until after we're dismissed.

One of my classmates pointed out that an Integrated System (IS) is made up of several modules (as if I do know) and that, if there is one module that children are concerned with using, it is the OPAC. It is therefore important that children are instructed on how to use it. This well meaning classmate of mine went into explaining the need for library orientation and library skills instruction. All good points. Clap, clap, clap.

If you are a school librarian, however, the librray services you provide and the programs you manage must be centered on children's needs, learning behavior, reading habits and interests. The services and programs that you offer the child-client must meet their developmental and curricular needs. This is what children's library service is all about. How can a school librarian teach the use of OPAC to kids when the librarian used a very academic approach (vocabulary control, included) in cataloging? One IS may be very good, but its interface is not child friendly. There can be an IS running on a sophisticated platform, but its infrastructure and design may not be suitable for young learners.

If such is the case, only the library staff benefit from available and commercial IS used by most Philippine school libraries. Now this is just my hypothesis. It would be interesting to do a research and find out how child friendly the IS that automated school libraries subscribe to. The Internet is another Frankenstien to contend with. My answer to that is Information Literacy Skills Instruction.

As for library instruction, it does not end with library orientation. It is best integrated with a content area as children go up the grades. They learn skills and concepts in the different subjects and they apply these learning outside the four walls of the classroom. The library is one place where they can extend their learning, aside from the fact that in using libraries, they make their own choices, construct their own meanings and make sense of their knowledge through the resources, print, AV and online, available in the library. The library is where students can become lifelong learners (ha! I got it right this time Anansi Girl!)and independent seekers of information.

Library instruction or Information Literacy Skills instruction begins as early as Nursery and carried on until high school. By college, they are ready for life.

Now, some of what I postulated are happening and are possible. Most are not. My concerns are valid (as attested by my professor), but I think, it is about time to develop readings and literature on children's library services in the Philippines. For systems designers, I give you this challenge: design an Integrated Systems that children can use. Because you see, children are capable of learning on their own.

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