The day the Internet went down – what we learnt!

All was going well on Friday morning as Year 5 had just started their task evaluating a webpage using the 5W’s evaluation guide. However, we quickly realised that the Internet was very slow – then it was down. It happens from time to time for a few minutes so we decided to move onto reading – perfect we were in the library! Then the announcement came ‘the Internet will be down for the next 5-6 hours’ well that was it for the rest of the school day!

Year 5 had just settled with browsing and reading when a group of Year 3 students burst through the library doors full of excitement. They needed books for their animal migration research – they excitedly repeated ‘the Internet is down.’ The library assistant and I jumped into action and we were guiding the students to books about the range of animals of interest when another Year 3 class appeared also needing similar books. It was not long before the 500’s were pulled apart and we felt the limitations of relevant information for a large number of students at once. As recess approached we felt relieved that the students would move on and we could get back to normal.

The experience although somewhat annoying was highly valuable, it became evident that this was a huge learning experience and caused instant reflection on the difficulties encountered. Although it was fantastic that the students were keen to get their hands on books, the limited skills they showed in locating books for their needs caused concern.

Issues of concern:

  1. Library books are underutilised for research purposes
  2. The students had not visited the library to locate books early in their research task
  3. Students lacked skills in locating books for their needs
  4. Students rely on the Internet for a significant amount of information for school research tasks
  5. The library provides a selection of resources for a year group that gets placed in a box and left in the classroom

A fresh start:

Learning from this situation is vital, some ideas follow on how we will approach the new year to increase the use of the library, upskill the students book locating skills, and allow for successful spontaneous library use.

  1. Library books are underutilised for research purposes:
    • Closely monitor all student and teacher learning needs – scan all programs, meet with teachers to update on requirements
    • Revamp the collection, deselect, update, ensure Dewey labels and signage is clear
  2. The students had not visited the library to locate books early in their research tasks:
    • Students require learning experiences to include structured and spontaneous visits to the library to locate books for their research needs – early in the school year provide instruction and hands-on opportunities for students to search and locate books
    • Encourage and support teachers to make time to visit the library with their class as part of their research task
  3. Students lacked skills in locating books for their needs:
    • Ensure students have opportunities to explore, browse and learn how to search the library catalogue and locate books on the shelf – this opens up additional learning opportunities for younger (and some older) students such as how nonfiction books are structured, using the contents and index and so on
    • As pointed out above the library set up needs to be refined to assist and encourage students to feel confident in locating books
  4. Students rely on the Internet for a significant amount of information for school research tasks:
    • Design a library homepage that links to key research websites such as Britannica School, World Book Online and DK Findout! More about these resources can be found at Ignite wide reading with diverse resources at your school library
    • Invest in some nonfiction eBooks such as those from the Macmillan Digital Library
    • Ensure that all students can access the library homepage and provide training on using online resources
    • Train and remind teachers to instruct students to use the library online resources before they search the Internet
    • Provide instruction to students to upskill their Internet search skills and website evaluation
  5. The library provides a selection of resources for a year group that gets placed in a box and left in the classroom:
    • Seek opportunities for students to search for books on their research topics – if the books are located by some students and placed in a purposeful location for classes to share at least the students are having a go and some may be able to suggest to others great books they have found
    • Consider options to display books for a class topic face out in a combined area that classes have access

Such ideas are obvious and easy to fix, however as we rely more and more on the Internet we are limiting students exposure to the pleasure of finding just the right book for research needs and another book of interest by chance. The library shelves may be scoured and knocked about and in need of mending but at least the books are being used.


  1. Nadine Bailey 05/12/2017 at 8:34 pm

    I think there are a more things that can be done. We have a library guide for each unit of inquiry for each grade where we curate the books and online resources suitable for that age group and unit (for example this G4 page: But even more than that, we meet with the teachers of each grade before a unit starts and work out their needs, and often discuss the formative and summative assessments and how we can resource them. So that means that all the books needed would already be in the classroom, plus we would have discussed what type of research in what format would be used – for example at the beginner of the year, G4’s were only allowed to use Britannica, physical books, Brain pop and Epic books because we weren’t teaching them research / internet skills yet, but just basic getting information summarised from reliable sources.
    I don’t think teachers or librarians can teach everything at the same time, so sometimes we have to put the internet on hold because it takes up too much time sifting through things that are not age or topic appropriate at the cost of other skills.


    1. School Library Owl 10/12/2017 at 8:38 am

      Thank you Nadine for your reply and additional ideas. I think your suggestions are superb and I really like the G4 libguides page you shared. I do many of the things as suggested but it is always good to reflect and consider how to refine and extend our practice. It is an interesting idea that you not only directed students (and teachers) to a selection of books and online resources (Britannica, Brain Pop) but you put the Internet aside. I think this is an important point and I am going to advise class teachers to consider this particularily for the start of a research project whether they are in the library or not. I would also like students to be using the library during the research project to search the catalogue and locate resources (checking book contents and indexes) but sometimes we hand over a box of books as time is limited. I apolpgise for my late response, last week we were physically rearranging the shelves and collection on top of lessons and all others things that appear at the end of a school year. Kind regards, Josephine


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