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Curation Situations: Let us count the ways

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Curation is a funny word. When my colleagues and I wrote our Social Media Curation Library Technology Report for ALA, we struggled with a definition. The folks we interviewed across library land curated in several different ways and we used the term curation differently depending on current community needs or where they were in any particular project.

Back in 2014,Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 9.24.39 AM our interviews and surveys led us to a taxonomy of digital curation. The professionals we spoke with described a process in which they began by collecting or gathering; moved to connecting content and resources for specific purposes and audiences; curated by adding value with context and commentary; and contributed by offering the community opportunities for collaboration, learning and growth.  Along the way they experience collateral benefits of developing learning agility, building social capital and demonstrating creativity.

K12 digital curation is about getting our users/students/teachers to the good stuff, pointing them to content and resources they might not themselves discover with their own intuitive strategies. It’s about saving teachers instructional time. But it’s also about telling a story, organizing resources for sense-making, interpreting, presenting choices, palettes, and dashboards. And it’s also about instruction and modeling for learners what it looks like to organize content and tools to manage our digital lives as information citizens.

Curation allows us to scale our practice and reach our community 24/7 at their points of need. Librarians who curate successfully not only build their brands, they contribute to their communities—students, faculty, administrators, and parents—as information professionals.

Social media curation efforts can help us fuel participatory culture as we build and connect communities.

Curating with kids

As students curate, they make decisions about authority and bias. They analyze, synthesize, and potentially present for a real audience. When librarians model and guide curation, they build more independent, agile learners capable of building learning networks, telling powerful stories, and carving out their own information niches.  We may also guide learners as they develop digital portfolios to share their own curated work.

Through our curation efforts, we model potential life skills to our community. In school libraries, digital curation represents a workflow strategy for student inquiry. Teacher librarians also show young people how to curate around their own interests and how to create launchpads to manage their information worlds. By modeling and demonstrating what Harold Jarche calls personal knowledge mastery or management (PKM), we teach all of our stakeholders why to curate and how to do so effectively and thoughtfully.”

Curating OER

Lately I’ve been asked to speak about the librarian’s role in supporting OER (open educational resources) implementation through curation and I realize that in the K12 setting, curating and leveraging OER means very different things to district-level administrators, to principals, to department chairs, to teachers and to librarians.  It often refers to the gathering and contextualizing of OER to replace expensive traditional texts and to include them in learning management systems.

Clearly, curation is not only about OER. For one thing, not all OER are created equally good and not all commercial products are at all bad. We need to figure how OER content might play nice with our existing valued investments to ensure ROI and to present teachers and learners with the most valuable OER options for their needs despite a growing number of impressive portals. This is a serious opportunity to lead and to address issues of access and equity.

The case for librarian as curation point guard

Librarians are uniquely qualified to curate digital assets. Districts who do not leverage their librarians in these activities are in effect benching their point guards. We live to play this game; we live to play this position.  We possess full court vision, with knowledge of both the online and offline instructional landscapes. We study and understand our team members’ talents and we earn their trust. We coach. We are largely unselfish and quick to respond to a challenge with calm leadership. We see opportunities. We anticipate multiple scenarios. We set up plays and make thoughtful passes. And we seek openness. 

Beyond the basketball metaphor . . .

Digital curation is a translation and amplification of our traditional practice. We study the specific needs and interests of our communities. We have always been around to tame the information flow, to facilitate discovery and knowledge building. Curation is a direct translation of collection building, critical evaluation, instructional partnership, sense making, meeting community needs, knowledge building and instruction. With school wide perspective spanning disciplines, grade levels and learners’ abilities, we build collections based on decisions relating to quality, diversity and local relevance. We organize resources for intellectual and physical access and equity and our efforts are portable, collaborative, embeddable, easy to access, customized for their audience and optimized for all platforms.

Of course, it’s easy to see the connection of curation efforts to AASL’s summarized standards: think, create, share and grow.

If you examine the Future Ready Librarians Fact Sheet, it is clear that these gears that address the librarian’s role in the Future Ready Schools Framework and in connecting their practices, programs and spaces to educational innovation in schools.

  • Designs Collaborative Spaces
  • Builds Instructional Partnerships
  • Empowers Students as Creators
  • Curates Digital Resources and Tools
  • Facilitates Professional Learning
  • Ensures Equitable Digital Access
  • Invests Strategically in Digital Resources
  • Cultivates Community Partnerships
  • Leads Beyond the Library

Curation Situations

Now let’s count some of the many ways librarians are curating in digital landscapes:

  • Collections for broad, open discovery: Traditional library catalogs now expand to point to OER, free web content and digital tools, as well as community-developed content, including instruction and smaller curation efforts co-created by the librarian and the classroom teachers.  
  • For specific school- or department-wide curricula (and replacing texts): Working in collaboration with district curriculum developers and teachers on special assignment, librarians thoughtfully gather digital nonfiction text sets and design media-rich, interactive textbooks to meet focused learner needs.  These curations may be included in your OPAC. In fact, that activity is about to get far easier.  Keep an eye open for Follett’s new Collections by Destiny, debuting this week, which

creates new, collaborative ways for librarians, teachers and students to share free or purchased resources across the district, school or with other users. Students and teachers can access district resources in Destiny Discover and add them to any Collection. Each collection can include web pages, images, documents, eBooks, and more! Collections can also be shared publicly or kept private. With Collections, teachers can quickly pair content to instruction, and students can collect and curate resources for assignments, projects and tasks.

  • For supporting flipped and hybrid instruction: Librarians curate instructional videos, tutorials, posters and other resources they create, as well as those created by faculty partners & others for logical, point-of-need access. Co-curation and collaborative design with faculty and students and embeddedness, ensure the use of this instruction. See Michelle Luhltala’s New Canaan High School YouTube archive.
  • For supporting the inquiry and workflow needs of a specific learner group for an assessment/product: Informed by wide curricular knowledge, school librarians partner with classroom teachers to support the inquiry and workflow needs of specific learner groups for inquiry-based assessments or creative knowledge products. School librarians create topic-specific guides support regular inquiry projects. Among my most popular guides were my current events guides for national and global news and news analysis.  A guide for AP US History supported work around document-based questions or DBQs. It included our teachers’ instructional materials, organized lists of primary source portals, embedded ebook anthologies, document analysis tools, tools for organizing writing, documentation and remixing, On that guide also was a Google Custom Search Engine I created for searching across the most important of those portals. My students expected me to co-create a LibGuide with their teachers for every major inquiry project. 
  • For building individual lessons/instruction: A number of tools scaffold the creation of technology-rich lessons by prompting us to curate resources into instructional design. Check out Common Sense Media’s Lesson Plans–models of innovative lesson plans that thoughtfully integrate digital tools with solid practice, as well as Hyperdocs templates for inspiration.
  • For supporting 1:1 environments: By creating cross-device palettes or dashboards, librarians ensure apps, instructional materials and all digital assets are available at learners’ fingertips across devices. Curating dashboards of apps and digital tool options for various tasks–image editing, storyboarding, comic book making, digital storytelling–supports student individual choice and creativity.  Symbaloo webmixes work well for ensuring that all the tools for a complex project are gathered and handy.
  • For professional development: Your school’s PD efforts don’t need to go poof.  Librarians can archive events they lead, as well as the efforts of their colleagues to continue to support professional learning. I gathered all my lunch & learn events and the PD efforts of my colleagues on a LibGuide. You might choose tools like Livebinders or Pearltrees or LessonPaths. While that guide is not long active, check out my Copyright Friendly Smore, my Pearltrees of CC0 resources.
  • For current awareness:  Librarians can curate news, tweets, feeds, posts and resources shared on social media for teachers’, administrators’ and students’ areas of interest. This is often done using online newsletter curation tools like or or Storify or RSS readers like Feedly. You may choose to embed and monitor hashtag searches for specific needs, for instance the #GoOpen initiative. Curating and embedding Twitter and RSS feeds relevant to breaking news for social studies and science classes presents an opportunity to gather together a variety of political lenses and global perspectives. You may decide to create a Storify to gather social meeting coverage around a school or current event.
  • For organizing/sequencing learning playlists: School librarians can work with teachers or curate learning playlists, conveniently sequencing texts/readings/resources and by adding questions and contextual notes and polls, using tools like LessonPaths,, and TES Blendspace, Nearpod and PearDeck.  Tutorials may be first staged on archives YouTube, SlideShare, Flickr and later added to their playlists.
  • For supporting student interests: School librarians listen to their communities to curate resources and digital tools to fuel their interests. This might include promoting a steam punk collection on a Pinterest connected to GoodReads reviews or embedding a Symbaloo of resources to encourage coding and making on the library website.
  • For corkboard sharing: Social media corkboards point to events, connect community groups and highlight community news, achievements, and voices. This could be easily done using Padlet or Pinterest or Instagram. Invite trusted high school student volunteers to function as community archivists by pinning news and events.
  • For promoting reading, highlighting titles, organizing text sets: Pinterest boards are fabulous vehicles for sharing new acquisitions or for digital genrefication and face-out shelving of both print and digital titles. Digital curation allows for the easy organization of text sets in multiple formats. Check out Pinterest. Check out Kim Beeman’s Padlet: 100 Picture Books to Read and Share (Ages 3 to 7) and Alida Hanson’s many Pinterest boards of suggested readings for Weston High School or the Squalicum High School (WA) Library Pinterest boards.
  • For local archives: Using a bounty of new curation tools as flexible and virtually limitless containers. librarians can lead in creating local archives of images and videos of community interest. By curating tweets and social media, we create tangible evidence and lasting memories of such events as poetry slams, football games, art exhibits, science fairs, History Day, one-book-one-community celebrations and wax museum biography shares. A few years back our seniors collected oral histories from community elders, and from our veterans. We combined those interviews with newly scanned old community documents and maps and hosted our archive in a Ning.
  • For modeling a critical information practice: In teach a man to fish style, rather than continuing to push resources to our students, we can transfer responsibility and engage them as curators of their research-in-progress and their other original works and encourage them to curate the tools they need for workflow. As they research students develop critical skills in selecting, organizing, making meaning and sharing .Curation is a connected learning activity and a life strategy that encourages young curators participate in their areas of interest. For older students’ major projects, tools like and Flipboard might work nicely.
  • For portfolio building and creating galleries of student work: Librarians can lead by helping faculty and students select, curate and reflect on their work. Including student work in other curation efforts, including instruction, validates and celebrates their efforts. Encourage learners to curate their own work, and include text and video reflection, using portfolio platforms such as Seesaw and EasyPortfolio. Display projects on tools like Pinterest or Instagram.
  • For personal knowledge management/mastery:  Show students and colleagues how to informally manage personal staging areas or in-baskets keeping discoveries handy when anticipated situations for sharing arise. (Check out Harold Jarche’s Seek/Sense/Share framework.) Some effective tools for the staging process are Evernote, Google Keep, Diigo and
  • Creative nesting/embedding: Once you begin curating, you discover that your efforts become part of a larger network. One of your activities might easily be embedded in another. They all play nice together. Your Symbaloo tiles are not just links; they link to other Symbaloos and are are daisy-chained to each other. You embed your learning playlists in your LibGuides. Your LibGuides become part of your OPAC.  You get to select appropriate platforms and creatively apply your skills of organization to create strategies that appear seamless to the user.
  • For telling your story: Curation is a strategy for telling our stories through the choices we make and the context we create around those choices. When we carefully select, sequence, analyze and organize media–images and quotes and video, as well as our original content and critical narrative, we synthesize unique stories that make meaning of our topics for an audience.
  • Evidence/Advocacy: Or building and amplifying your professional/institutional brand: Let your efforts show and share the work of those around you. Archive and display anchor charts, displays, lessons, curations, student creations, reports and feedback. Use your camera roll and share to Instagram, Facebook and Flickr. People both inside and outside your own learning community are likely to discover your impact, appreciate your work, trust you as a guide and model and build on your efforts. As that happens, your impact reflects on your school and enhances your own social capital

(Check out my poster of this list on Piktochart.)

Some other resources:

Curation Tools and Platforms Pearltrees

OER Portals Pearltrees

Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “Curation.” School Library Monthly 29.1 (2012)

Valenza, Joyce Kasman, Brenda L. Boyer, and Della Curtis. “Curation in School Libraries.” Library Technology Reports 50.7 (2014): 27-36.

From this blog: 

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Joyce, what a wonderful summary of how beneficial curation can be inside school settings and how many are the applications that librarians can put to good use when exploring this new universe of possibilities.

    You article is densely packed of quality ideas and information, that I had to sip through it over the course of multiple sessions. Like a good wine or a good film or book, it needs to be sipped and tasted with attention to the details.

    I guess I will have to go through it a few more times.

    Thank you so much for sharing it.


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