wbA discussion that regularly crops up within the school library fraternity, particularly at this time of the year when budgets are on our minds, is the debate around whether to update our print encyclopaedias.  Over the past few years, the perception has grown that print editions are becoming obsolete with the increasing access to quality online versions.

I remain convinced that for the near future there is still a place for a current set of encyclopaedias in school libraries. Some would argue our students aren’t using them, but when we prompt this use, the encyclopaedias on the shelves come into their own and students are reminded of the ease of finding and using information in print form.

I acknowledge the growing trend to default to electronic resources for research, but when considering the development of information literacy skills, there is an enormous benefit to quick and easy access to quality print material, alongside offering access to quality, online material.

There are several factors to consider when contemplating deselecting print encyclopaedias.


Even with the roll-out of Ultra-Fast Broadband to schools across the country, there are still significant numbers who remain unable to access or take advantage of this. Many do not have a framework in place to incorporate BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) into the school, and others do not have sufficient numbers of computers for student use when researching in the library.

Another barrier can be school networks unable to cope with the sheer volume of students attempting to access it at any one time, which slows down productivity and raises both staff and student frustration.

cycle-arrowsInformation Literacy

Without deliberate, consistent and planned teaching of information literacy skills, it can be difficult for many of our students to find, select and then use appropriate, credible sources they find online.

There is then the issue of using the information selected to develop new knowledge, consider it in the context of prior knowledge and then cement it into personal learning.

Annotating information is a crucial part in the process of understanding and creating new knowledge, and this continues to remain far easier in print form than in online alternatives.  Motivation and engagement are key factors, and while many of our students may appear more motivated and willing when using technology, they can also quickly become distracted, off-task and lost in the glut of information choices.

Annotated notes also give teachers the ability to assess the progress being made by their students, the comprehension of what they’re reading and the thought processes used to develop the final result.

I am no luddite!  Quite the opposite, as I eagerly embrace the use of new technology, but my anecdotal observations of watching students’ information-seeking behaviour, lead me to consider the purchase of a new set of 2017 encyclopaedias to ensure we are able to fully support the learning needs of all our students.

For further discussion and to consider the wider implications, this is an interesting article published on Mindshift by Holly Korbey.