Social Classification and the Secondary School Library


A Shelfari shelf sampleI love sharing books with friends and family, but as all book lenders alike have certainly experienced, sometimes my lovely books are not returned.  One way for me to share the literary treasures that I discover with friends, family, and other book lovers is to engage in a social classification system / social media website.  As a Library Media Specialist major, social media websites are of particular interest, especially how they could be utilized in a school setting.  A social classification scheme would be an engaging, innovative way to bring students and literature together, both in the school media center and at home.  After much research, Shelfari seems to be an informative, aesthetically pleasing, and easy-to-use website to facilitate a literary community.

Shelfari is a social classification system for literature that asks information about readers’ experiences each time they click on a book to add it to their Shelfari shelves.  Using these prompts, Shelfari gathers the opinions of thousands of readers on almost any book, including textbooks.  The key to this social classification system is the freedom for users to add information to a book’s record, from subjects to Dewey and Library of Congress classification numbers.  The personal benefits of social classification are numerous, but how would social classification be applicable in a secondary school library?  How would high school students use a classification scheme like Shelfari?

A social classification scheme would facilitate a more friendly, interactive library learning environment.  With the right advertisement, demonstration, and enthusiasm, a librarian could create an invaluable online literary community of student readers.  After creating an account, students may personalize their bookshelves, add friends, join groups, and begin discovering new books and resources, as well as add books previously read and record these learning experiences.  In the process of building up their shelves, students can write book reviews and recommend them to friends.  The personalized metadata through social tagging and reviews truly make a bookshelf one’s own; similarly, chat / discussion forums allow students and friends or like-minded people to discuss their favorite books, enabling networking and a more personalized encounter with literature.  Likewise, if the librarian and fellow teachers are friends with students on the social classification scheme, they can follow students’ progress with their personal collection development and literary discussions, enabling librarians and teachers to learn about students’ interests and which genres they enjoy.  Social classification websites encourage independent reading, and friends / teachers / librarians on the scheme can promote independent reading projects.  Moreover, social classification allows for literary interaction outside of the classroom, where students are generally unreachable; students can stay connected to the educational / literary community from anywhere in the world.

Shelfari’s capacity for individuality and its aesthetically pleasing website would be appealing for high school students who prefer a personal connection to learning and / or tend to become overwhelmed by too much text on a page.  The colorful widgets and folksonomy clouds are fun and user-friendly for almost any person’s level of comfort with technology, although using Shelfari would be easier if the librarian gave a demonstration or tour of the website and its benefits before implementing the system in a school.  There are clearly defined tabs and menus for distinct navigation around the website, as well as a search bar always visible and available at the top of each page.  Students who love to read can create a book club group on the website and easily share and discuss their findings with one another.

Depending on the popularity of the book in question, Shelfari’s records will include a thorough amount of metadata about the book, in addition to allowing members to add to the record.  For instance, I chose to peruse Shelfari’s record for Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones because of its overwhelming popularity in secondary schools, assuming that Shelfari would have plenty of information on the book.  The website holds a permanent search bar in the top center of every page for usability; after typing the title, a list of works by Alice Sebold presents itself.  There is a long list of images of various editions of The Lovely Bones, from which users choose a default.  I am redirected to a page beneath the tab “Details,” laden with information about Sebold’s book: a cover, ratings, information about my having read the book, a lengthy description, a short synopsis, a summary, a cast of characters (with links to character pages bearing memorable quotes by them), popular covers, memorable quotes, setting and important places, organizations, the first sentence of the book, the table of contents, a glossary, themes and symbolism, authors and contributors, bibliographic information about the first edition (including ISBN), awards, LOC and DDC call numbers, notes for parents (reading level, red flags), subjects, community lists, popular tags, links to supplemental material, movie connections, and book recommendations.  This does not include the additional tabs for users to click, such as “Readers & Reviews,” “Discussions,” and “Editions.”  This comprehensive list of information is almost everything a voracious reader could want, except for the book itself.

Shelfari would make a good fit as a social classification scheme in conjunction with a high school library’s OPAC.  A classification scheme would unite the student body in an online literary community focused on independent reading, sharing of metadata, and collective analyses.  The Shelfari website is attention-grabbing as well as intellectually advanced, a perfect combination for the high school student population.  Each book’s page on Shelfari includes essential information about the book itself and its contents: summaries, characters, classification numbers, social tags, booklists, etc.  Shelfari is just one example of social classification and how it can collide with school libraries; if librarians, teachers, and students alike were willing to investigate social media websites and how they could fit into the learning environment, the potential educational benefits would be innumerable.

References

Shelfari. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.shelfari.com.

Shelfari. (2010). The Lovely Bones. Retrieved from http://www.shelfari.com/books/11215/The-Lovely-Bones.

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3 thoughts on “Social Classification and the Secondary School Library”

  1. Great article! It would also be a great forum for extracurricular book groups or homework discussions. It could also be a great way to find out what the constituency is reading, so you could take it into account in your collection management. Cool stuff, I’m gonna go set up an account!

  2. Do it! I love Shelfari. I’m trying to use it more often! Yes I agree about the book groups and homework, I actually have another version of this article that incorporates those a bit more. This is actually the version I submitted for that scholarship / grant for London.

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