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On LibGuides, subject guides, course guides, instruction and more

[In de hoop op ook wat buitenlandse reacties voor een keertje in het Engels]

The Internet Librarian 2011 conference got me thinking about the role and format of disciplinary pages (e.g. biology), subject pages (e.g. climate change) and course pages (e.g. “BA1132 philosophy and gaming”) as well as more generic but at the same time specific search pages (e.g. patent search)  or infoliteracy pages (e.g honesty and citation) on library websites. Here in the Netherlands it is not that common to have very specific course guides made by libraries, as it is in the US and some other countries. But we do have people with the knowledge to build and manage them (librarians). We are struggling to get all that expert knowledge out of the heads of our subject and referencence librarians into the open, at the same time trying to limit the burden of maintenance of complex web pages.
There are a few choices we have to make:
1) Which of the types mentioned do make the most difference to our patrons’ daily work
2) To what extent is it possible to make hybrids of the page types mentioned
3) What should be the main content and design elements of these pages?
4) Is is possible to use these pages as full instructional modules, including assignments etc.?
5) What are the most important requirements for the CMS to be used?
The latter question is becoming a pressing one. We have come up with
– possibility to embed all kinds of content, widgets etc
– ease of use for editors
– a way to customise general pages for use by specific groups, with targeted examples and assignments After initial slection we now have WordPress, Drupal and LibGuides on our shortlist. On the axis of flexibility, customisability and extensibility it is probably first Drupal, then, WordPress, then LibGuides. With ease of use for editors and ease configuration it is the other way around. This is in line with the results of the Drupal vs. WordPress vs. Joomla smackdown by Blake Carver and Kendra Levine, presented at the conference.
LibGuides especially is worth a look. Although it is not free as Drupal and WordPress, it seems extremely easy to use and has the option to import content and/or templates of one of the 125,000 LibGuides available  worldwide and adapt that for your own use to have a really quick start. In the Netherlands there are only LibGuides at the library of Groningen University. There and  at universities abroad you can find examples of all of the aforementioned types of pages made with LibGuides:
Disciplinary pages: e.g. Physics and Astronomy at Washington University Libraries
Subject pages: e.g. Japan Earthquake and  Tsunami by COM Library
Course pages: e.g. COMM233 Media, Culture & Society class by DePauw University Libraries
Specific Search pages: e.g. Company information at Boston College
Infoliteracy pages: e.g. Research strategy by Johnson & Wales University

Many more examples the LibGuides site and even more examples in the Best of section.

Is this the way to go? Are there any drawbacks of using LibGuides? Any other thoughts?

6 reacties to “On LibGuides, subject guides, course guides, instruction and more”

  1. Jeroen Bosman

    No, I do not think that personal literature management is the goal of LibGuides. The way LibGuides are used worldwide is as a channel for libraries and librarians to guide users in finding and using specific types of information. Have a look at the Japan Earthquake and Research Strategy guides linked at the bottom of the post to get an idea.

  2. Jan de Boer

    I can see why Stephanie mentions Personal Library. It has the potential to present different resources (journals, databases, web pages, literature) on a subject. The difference is that in PL it’s the student or researcher who builts this page for his own use, not the librarian.
    But more in general: do we librarians really have the knowledge and resources to built these guides? In the Humanities we have had several guides: on art history, english literature for instance. But also guides to Internet Resources for all subjects within the Humanities. Not becouase we thought these guides were bad, of juis because there was no need for these guides. It is mainly because we don’t have the time to make these guides and keep them up to date. And, as a subject librarian on Dutch, English, and German literature, the Celtic languages and Cultures, Theatre, Film and Television Studies and also New Media, being a specialist is really difficult. Working together with the faculty staff on these guides seems to be the only way.

  3. Jeroen Bosman

    Hi Jan,

    Fully agree that you must think very well before you start using LibGuides as subject or course pages, although the global sharing system behind LibGuides make this very easy. BTW you’re also quite right that if you do this, tapping into the knowledge of faculty, better even cooperate with them, is essential.
    But actually I am pondering the use of LibGuides for the fourth and fifth type of pages: generic search pages (e.g. maps, statistics, patents, company info, biographies, images, video etc) and infoliteracy pages (search strategy, citation, literature management, academic honesty etc.). Those are domains where librarians’ value added is quite clear. Don’t you think this latter type of guides could be of tremendous value for library tuition and infoliteracy programmes?

    • Jan de Boer

      For generic search pages I agree with you. We could help a large number of researchers and students in the Humanities with information on finding and using historical newspapers for instance. And we have the knowledge and skills to do that. But finding time for making and updating these guides will remain a problem, no matter how usefull a guide may be.
      Of course, it’s al about priorities. What should we stop doing to make time for these guides.

  4. Menno

    If we want to see PL as the best place to manage the links (to website, databases, and more) we want to provide to our users, we could use PL to do this. We would then need a place to present this information in the right way and in the right place (for example blackboard). But this is exactly what we want to make in 2012.


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