A targeted goal for our library this school year was to create a fresh look for our main library web page and to streamline navigation and functionality for our users. The process aligned well with Design Thinking, so I created an infographic to sum up the process. Many thanks to AISL librarians who shared insights and links to their “public facing” library web pages. These library web pages provided great inspiration for the brainstorming phase of the process. I am also grateful for the AOS library team, faculty peers, and students that provided feedback for the rough prototypes. Our school communication department and the consulting staff at Springshare streamlined the process for this updated library webpage. View the new AOS library webpage.
A January email to the AISL listserv posted by Dave Wee sparked my interest. In it, he asked several questions relating to students and database use and if you’re interested in how some of your peer schools answered, be sure to check the Google Sheet linked in his email. As part of the process of thinking about teaching students how to identify and find the information they need, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can help them discover and access that information in our databases. Many of us lament our students’ reliance on Google—their aversion to using databases for research unless required by their teacher is almost like a religion for them. “You can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink” comes to mind. Dave’s question, “How do you organize your databases on your library page to get kids eyeballs on the right databases?” begs another question: can our students even find our databases when we aren’t specifically leading them there?
Correction: Thanks to Dave Wee for pointing me toward the original questions posed on the listserv. I seemed to have lost the original thread, but picked up Part 2 in April 2021, when Matt Ball posed questions and received some terrific suggestions from AISL librarians as to how they’ve organized their databases. Apologies all around for this omission.
Where Are Your Resources?
Let’s face it—most databases are expensive and in an effort to get the most from our budget, we spend a lot of time evaluating specific ones, implementing trials, and encouraging our faculty colleagues to help us choose ones that meet the needs of our students and support our school’s curricula. From a return-on-investment perspective, when budget time rolls around, usage statistics often help us make data-driven decisions. But what do those stats really tell us? Do they pinpoint access pain points that keep our electronic resources out of view? Do they help us re-evaluate our instructional programs, or take into account how we integrate our resources in our learning management systems or LibGuides? Not to mention the impact of COVID-19 on trying to evaluate anything related to how our library programs are going. Before we can dismiss the value of any particular resource based solely on usage stats, first we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make them discoverable. For a start, I’d like to answer how we organize our databases (and other electronic resources) to make it easier for students to find the resources they need.
LibGuides A-Z List to the Rescue
Here at Kent, we use LibGuides CMS and their A-Z Database List makes organizing databases and other electronic resources a breeze. But, and here’s the caveat, unless you have enough time to provide instruction on individual databases so your students know each of them by name (seriously, who has that kind of time?) you’ll need to somehow organize your list. Fortunately, one of the features of the A-Z List is it gives you the option to easily organize your resources by database type, subject, and vendor.
To create database types and vendors, choose Content >> A-Z Database List from your menu on the admin panel of your guides.
From the landing page you can begin to organize your databases by database type and vendor. For inspiration, I find the LibGuides Community site to be invaluable. I spent time exploring other K-12 and Academic libraries using LibGuides to get an idea of the variety of options for this.
Choose Your Types Wisely
When deciding on database types, I thought about how we teach source types here at Kent and the common language of research we use. If there’s one piece of advice I can give at this point, it’s don’t go down library lane and start wading in the weeds, trying to come up with as many types as possible. Keep it simple; we humans have only so much mental space for decisions. You don’t want your students to get hung up on having to sort through so many database types that they’re worn out before having to choose which one of those databases to search.
Remember: the goal is to make finding the right database easier.
For a number of our resources, the source type (primary) and database type are synonymous, but for others, such as our image databases, I needed to decide if I wanted to assign them an additional type aside from primary source. You’ll see above, we decided to create an Image Collections type as our students frequently create presentations and this makes it easier for them to find images that are rights-cleared.
The A-Z List is flexible and allows you to add multiple database types so I applied the Primary Source and Image Collections types to ImageQuest. So whether a student is looking for a primary source map from the Colonial Era or an image of a bee for a science presentation, they will be directed to ImageQuest.
Best Bets and Popular
Think carefully about checking the Best Bets and Popular boxes when adding or editing databases. Too many Best Bets, and the ID loses its meaning—aim for 3 at the most for each subject—same with designating a database as popular. Best Bet databases will appear in a highlighted box at the top when filtering by Subject on the A-Z Database List and popular resources will display on the sidebar with a heading of the same name.
Finishing Up the A-Z List
Next, I added our vendors. This filter mostly serves to help us as we review our databases, but I occasionally show this to the student who is interested in strengthening their research muscle and want to understand the inner workings of our guides.
To create subject headings, choose Admin >> Metadata & URLs from your menu on the admin panel of your guides. You apply these subject headings to your guides as well as your database assets.
Finally, a link to the A-Z Database List was added to the Research column on our library website Quick Links menu. You’ll see I also added several direct links to other databases: Source Reference, JSTOR, and the A-Z List sorted for Primary Sources as students are frequently looking for background information, journals, or primary sources.
Next Time . . .
Another of Dave’s questions was on instruction: “Do you teach kids to use different databases at different points in their research or do you pretty much just recommend databases based on the topic?” Although our A-Z Database page has gotten over 950 views this year, most of our databases are accessed through the LibGuides we create to support research in specific classes as well as our EDS searchbox. But that’s a topic for another post. Until then, happy searching.
Some of you may know that I’m a potter by avocation. I’ve been making pottery longer than I’ve done anything else in my life, including my 20+ years as a librarian. While I occasionally hand-build—my real passion is throwing on the wheel. There is something soothing and Zen-like about turning a lump of clay into functional pieces for everyday use. Throwing on the wheel requires me to be present with the clay and the wheel and the tools. No matter how much effort I put into throwing a pot, if I don’t center the clay to begin with, there’s little chance I’ll end up with a finished piece I want to keep. The act of being focused on what I’m doing has a restorative effect in and of itself on my well-being, and in these trying times, I find I need that now more than ever.
Librarian vs. Entropy
Every year at this time I’m happy to be back at school with students after Winter Break. This year, however, I’m back but our students and faculty aren’t. Even though we did have a long Winter Break, somehow I feel more drained and less rested than before it started. I’m sure the fact that it’s lonely without our students, who won’t return to campus until the first week in February, doesn’t help. So my return to a mostly empty campus amid the more contagious variant of COVID-19 and the violent insurgence at our nation’s Capitol and the aftermath has made it difficult to focus on projects generally reserved for those times when students aren’t on campus. I’ll be spending the next month completing behind-the-scenes work necessary for the smooth running of any K-12 library—weeding, checking digital resources for currency and accuracy, reviewing lesson plans, and developing new instructional material for research classes. Necessary yes, but restorative? I’m not so sure. From my point of view, a majority of our time and energy as librarians is spent trying to counteract the effects of entropy—the tendency of systems to devolve into randomness and disorder. Take your eye off any part of your library for too long and things quickly fall apart.
The first thing I tackled was checking and updating my guides with new information (when relevant). I just finished working with two of our APUSH classes on their long form research paper, so that guide is in good shape for the next classes I’ll work with during the remaining weeks of our Winter term. We have a new Black American Studies class so I’ve been working to add as many resources as possible to a new LibGuide to support the curriculum. Once I’ve finished that, I’ll check for broken links. Broken links can undermine a user’s confidence in the usefulness of your guides, so every few months I run a report through the Link Checker function. There are frequently a large percentage of false positives, but I don’t mind checking each link as it gives me a chance to review it for relevancy to the guide it’s on. This can be a time-consuming task so this is a good time to work through them. The most recent report had roughly100 broken links, the majority of those checked so far being false positives, so the guides will be in good shape once they’ve all been resolved.
Weeding is one of my least favorite tasks: it’s just so final. Before I started work on our reference collection, I reviewed the CREW manual from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
This manual was clearly written by working professionals and is full of helpful and down-to-earth advice to help you organize your thoughts and prioritize your goals for weeding. Your print reference collection may be similar to ours—taking up prime shelf space yet rarely, if ever, used. A decision was made to interfile these titles with the circulating collection, making this the ideal time to weed. Ultimately I used the following criteria as a guideline and eventually found I was able to get into the “weeding zone” where I wasn’t so stressed about what I was getting rid of, but instead focused on what remained and the value it added to our collection:
1. Age and condition of book
2. Is it relevant to the curriculum or our community?
3. Is it unique in any way?
4. Does it add to the diversity of the circulating collection?
5. Do we have other books on this topic/ subject area?
6. Do we have databases that provide tertiary/ reference information similar to this title?
This ultimately meant that a number of our general and subject-specific encyclopedias were removed from the collection and will find new homes if the information isn’t currently inaccurate (think science) or dated (think current history topics and the language of older publications). Since many of our faculty only allow the use of tertiary sources for background information when writing research papers and much of the general information provided in these sources can be found freely online or in our databases, these titles were easy to cull. You know when your Oxford Companion to (insert random topic here) was published 30 years ago but has an unbroken spine, it’s time for it to go. We are, however, going to keep a small ready reference collection at the front desk, although that’s more for our benefit than our students who rarely, if ever, consult handbooks, dictionaries, and almanacs in print.
In the next week, I will be turning my attention to our Professional Development section, one area I am looking forward to weeding and possibly organizing by topic in more of a bookstore format. I would really like to move the collection to an area with a bit of privacy and a comfy chair where faculty could put their feet up, relax, and browse a while. We’ll see how the weeding goes first, though.
Although I’m not sure I experience the same sense of Zen when working on these tasks that I experience when throwing on the wheel, I do feel that same sense of calm when I look at a well-organized shelf or visually pleasing LibGuide—the feeling of accomplishment for a job well-done. These are a few of the things that I hold onto in turbulent times and hope they’ll make a difference in some small way.
Yesterday, my Sched app reminded me that I’d be presenting “Not Just Bells and Whistles: Ed Tech Tools that Really Work” at the AISL annual conference in Houston. I was saddened because connecting with everyone in person has become an important part for me of belonging to the AISL community. As busy as I was preparing for AISL—I was mostly looking forward to making connections with friends and colleagues with a shared passion for the field of librarianship.
When I think about what it means to be a librarian, I see our work as a series of small connections that we make every day: connections with our students, our coworkers, our faculty. We connect our students with a source they need for their paper, connect them with a good book, or provide them with a quiet place to work. We connect with colleagues, with books we love and want to share, with changes in our field. Most of these things we do quietly as we go about our day, small action upon small action that forms the foundation of our work. But what happens when things change almost overnight, as is the case with our current situation? Over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by our ability as a profession to maintain and strengthen our connections to each other and our school communities. In the midst of these sweeping changes, I see people I admire and respect keep adapting to change and making changes, however small, that add up to our ability to address the real-world problem facing school libraries and librarians everywhere—how to support our communities as we transition to online learning.
Communication is Key
These past few weeks, it’s become increasingly clear that an effective communication channel is key when you can no longer answer a colleague’s question over lunch or help them when they drop by the library to run an idea by you. I’ve been asked questions as varied as who to contact for help with copyright questions or how to find an online version of a text being used. The library is often the informational hub of the school, so what can we do to let our community know that we’re still there for them aside from sending another email to an already overburdened account? Emails and newsletters are great for quickly getting the word out, but how often have you scrolled through your own email searching for a needed link that’s gotten buried in your inbox? Adopting a “show don’t tell” approach to school-wide communication can be that one small change we offer on our resources.
Highlight Your Most Valuable Resources
If you have LibGuides CMS, then your library website is probably on that platform. Our library team took a close look at our website to see what small changes we might make to support our newly-online learning community. Since finding out we would be moving our classes online, we created two LibGuides specifically for online learning: the first was structured with tutorials around the tools faculty would need to get started such as PowerSchool, Zoom, and Screencastify, while the second organized ed-tech tools by specific tasks. We wanted those guides and the one for our Academic Resource Center easily accessed, so we placed them front and center in our tabbed box. Although I’m a proponent of flat design, I used a drop shadow to make their appearance pop, along with a prompt to “Click” for each guide, again something not normally included—but these are not normal times. Prior to COVID-19 social distancing directives, educators had the option to use technology, or not. Now, there is no option; so our job as librarians, as I see it, is to do everything possible to make our resources user-friendly for every level of user. Since March 9th, the three featured guides have gotten a total of just under 3,000 hits. Small changes, big results.
Add Help at the Point of Need
If you’re like us, I imagine your community will be spending most of their time accessing content for courses through your school’s LMS, library website, and LibGuides. Common sense—and usability studies—tell us that help, like information, should be offered when and where it’s needed, in the format that’s most helpful to the user. Both of our new guides provide our teachers with the tools and information they need to create content and teach in ways that may be foreign or difficult. This transition is stressful enough; offering help on the three guides featured on the library website, in addition to the website itself, was another small change we could make that just made sense.
Enter LibWizard Lite, a LibGuides module that comes free with LibGuides CMS. Although it’s not as robust as the subscription level LibWizard Full, it allows you to create forms and surveys, which are a perfect way to increase your visibility and make it easy for your users to contact you at their point of need. Although I have been a LibGuides enthusiast for close to 15 years, I have never fully explored or mastered LibWizard. At a time when we are asking everyone to move out of their comfort zone and try something new, it made sense for me to do the same. So I watched a few tutorials, made a few test forms, and finally came up with a help desk tab that was added to both of the new online teaching guides, in addition to our library website and course guides with current research projects. The tab was styled bright red with all caps reading HELP DESK. We tried different wording but ultimately felt everyone was familiar with that term. When clicked, the pop-up window contained information on who to reach out to for specific questions and included links to our Calendly pages for scheduling appointments and email for simpler questions. Again, help was there where it was needed.
Small Changes, Big Results
I absolutely love this one small change we made to our guides which made a big difference for our users. The tab is anchored, visible on each page of the guide, and moves as the user scrolls. Excuse me while I geek out—but what is not to love about my new favorite tech tool? Below you can see some of the ways we customized the help desk pop-up depending on the purpose and audience for the guide.
Like LibGuides, the LibWizard module is pretty user-friendly on the backend. There are drag and drop options with fields that allow you to customize your form, as well as a question bank to save and reuse common fields. You’re able to gather the information that will allow you to better meet the need of your user. Simple to use, easy to duplicate, multi-use functions make using LibWizard a winning situation for our users and for us. Now excuse me while I find another guide that could use a help desk tab.
Hello again from Tampa Bay! It was wonderful to see so many of you at AISL this month. Many of you kindly asked me about my method for getting resources inside LibGuides to authenticate without resorting to something like EZProxy. A couple of you were interested enough to come on up to my room and watch while I demonstrated on my laptop with a nice cool lemonade to keep us perking along. For those of you who missed that demo, I bring you this very detailed explanation with screenshots and red arrows. It’s a lot more how-to than my usual musings, and I’m glad to be able to share this practical guide.
I realize this method won’t work for all of you – not everyone’s school website is configured to allow it. But if your circumstances will permit, give it a try and save some time and aggravation. The short version is that I’ve asked my library product vendors, primarily Gale and EBSCO, to use a referring URL to authenticate and it makes the experience more like a single sign-on environment for the user. Deep breaths, here goes, with screen shots that are a bit small but still illustrative (I hope):
The Out-of-Door Academy currently uses Finalsite to run its website and act as its Learning Management System (LMS.) We are transitioning to Canvas, but my spectacular officemate and bestie is working with me to ensure the same setup for next year. Here’s a shot of our front page.
So, this is our welcome page that any visitor sees. The red arrow points to a link where students can click to log in with their individual user names and passwords. These are purged when students change schools or graduate, so the user pool is limited only to current students.
Once logged in, students land on a page that lists all of their current courses. Faculty create their own course pages in the portal and enroll students themselves, so I created an Upper School library “course” with my array of resources and one for Middle School, and then I enrolled users accordingly. “Sue Student” is enrolled in both Upper and Middle School Library, so she can choose either one for library resources.
After Sue clicks on Upper School Library, she is taken to this friendly-looking page of library offerings. I have databases and the catalog set up under the home button, and under resources I have a series of tutorial videos to refresh users on how to access their Questia accounts or interpret an EBSCO results page. Sometimes I even manage to update the blog . . . (that’s my Rory, by the way, with a “Librarians Rule” temporary tattoo.) The LibGuides are all parked, here, and that’s the key to the whole business. All the LibGuides I have created exist as live links in that box to the lower right, on a variety of subjects and arranged in alphabetical order, because that is the library way, ahem. Within the LibGuides are an assortment of things: suggested titles from the physical collection for print books & DVDs, database search widgets, etc. but also live links to Gale ebooks and even links to selected articles from EBSCO Discovery Service. These authenticate on or off-campus automatically with no need for something like EZProxy or additional student logins because the databases authenticate via referring URL. The referring URL is the Finalsite page into which I insert the links to the LibGuides, so, because the LibGuides are accessed via that referring URL, all I had to do was call Gale and EBSCO and tell them that’s how I wanted to authenticate. And boom – done!
Thus, when a user chooses a LibGuide, such as the Book Thief guide, I’m showing here, he or she is able to click on those links I have provided within and go directly there without being asked for another password. (Feel free to ask me how I set up the DVD, too, if you like.) I’ve noticed that the setup on the Gale books sometimes asks for a general password and sometimes doesn’t, so I provided it just above them at left. Again, because all of these LibGuides are behind a wall limited to users only, providing that password is still acceptable as only authorized users will see it, and I can change it periodically as students graduate or move on.
I’m including some shots of other LibGuides here if you’re curious about my general technique. I try to maintain a balance between not doing too much for the researchers, because they need to learn how to do it for themselves; and showing them that we do have rich resources right here – no need to Google in most cases. In the case of Shakespeare, we have very deep print holdings, too many to list in the LibGuide itself, so I made them into PDF bibliography and simply posted the bib instead. For Greek mythology, I thought it was important to include some other goodies, like the Perseus Project, that students could really benefit from but which they otherwise might have overlooked.
If you’ve got remaining questions, or would like to see this in action yourself using the dummy account I give to vendors so they can test my security, please get in touch at amandel@oda dot edu.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: every library school in the country should require its students to take at least one marketing course. We are all trying to convince our communities of our utility. It’s even more challenging to convince colleagues to work with you when you’re new to a community. I posted earlier this year about my primary strategy in my freshman year, the Information Audit, but I think I found an even greater success at the very…last…moment. Let me share.
With about 3 weeks to go before our final faculty meeting, I learned that I would be given an hour and a half to present on library resources. We were all exhausted. I half-way joked that I didn’t want to be this guy going “Databases? Databases? Anyone?” right there at the end. I knew that this had to go well if I was to start year 2 with positive momentum…the heat was on.
After over-thinking the thing for about 2.5 weeks, I dove in and came up with this:
*Note, Uncle Sam is from Troy, NY. I acquired the retired Emma themed Sam this year for the library, my mascot in the first slide. 🙂
If the to-do list beside me is any indication, the presentation was a success. A highlight, I believe, was the research quiz I gave the faculty. I printed out sheets with the questions on them. I prefaced it with something to the effect of, “These are just a few the things that we expect our students to know, but how many of these questions can YOU answer?”. I gave them 10-15 minutes to complete the quiz and then went through the questions and answers. It generated some amazing conversation.
I went to a few key teacher’s Schoology sites (key in that they are doing really cool things with their students, but they didn’t use me at all this year) and grabbed some assignments to create Libguides for. I demoed them as well as my favorite databases that I’d purchased for the school this year, and explained how we can guide students to the best resources via the Libguides. I created a screen cast to demo flipping a library lesson and offered to do this at any time, for teachers to add to their Schoology page for say, advanced search features of a key database or a Web 2.0 tool, etc. I mentioned some success stories and those teachers jumped in unprompted to explain to the group how the assignment changed, how learning was enhanced, by working with me.
I wanted to leave time for departments to meet individually at the end of the meeting to fill out an index card of ideas for working in or with the library, but I ran out of time.
What I ended with was a line of faculty asking questions, placing Libguide requests, and setting appointments to meet before they left campus for the summer to discuss collaboration next year. I also received an invitation from the Dean of Academics to continue the conversation by presenting periodically at faculty meetings next year and to continue to showcase collaborative success stories. Not only will it draw attention to library services, it also highlights innovative teaching throughout the school, something every teacher needs. I love a good win/win situation and I love the library being tied into a morale boosting movement on campus (more on that in a future post).
Starting over has not been easy. I have learned so much about myself this year. A hard truth that I am reluctant to admit is that I am impatient. I want to be there yesterday, wherever there is. In this case, building rapport with new colleagues, streamlining processes, purchasing and then marketing resources, establishing lines of communication…it’s taken a while, but the timing of it seems to be paying off.
Are you already presenting at faculty meetings? If so, what has worked well for you? What are your ideas?
If you are already using Libguides (per Springshare, pronouned lib (as in bib)-guides), then you know how helpful they are in streamlining the research process and integrating information literacy instruction. I find them particularly helpful in shepherding students towards the most appropriate databases, web resources, weaving in source evaluation checklists/instruction, embedding videos, promoting print and ebook collections…I could go on and on. I’m not ashamed, I’ll just say it:
I heart Libguides.
For those of you considering purchase, check out the features. They are reasonably priced and worth every dollar you spend, in my opinion, for the platform they provide for library instruction and integration into existing curriculum. Many university libraries are using them as well, so if you’re a college prep school, exposing your upper school students to them becomes an even more valuable experience.
One of my favorite attributes is the community directory, searchable by keyword, institution type, or my favorite, best of . Inspiration overload!!! In true librarian fashion, you can ask permission, then borrow parts or entire guides that make sense for your school, attributing where the information came from.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a Libguide expert. In my first 12 month position, I plan to become much more savvy this summer and I also plan to build up a good repository from which to draw next year (hopefully creating them poolside with WiFi…hey, it’s work, right?!). So, not an expert, but having started the program from scratch at two schools now, I would share the following advice:
Spend more time on the front end designing a consistent look/feel/flow of your guides so that your students are trained in how to read them. Customize your color scheme/logo to fit with your school’s site. I design my tabs to go left to right through the research process, from assignment home page to book tab, databases, web resource/evaluation, and then citation (or perhaps an avoiding plagiarism tab for good measure?). These things are not just useful for research, though! When my last school announced that they were instituting an iPad program in the middle school, I shared Berkeley Prep’s awesome iPad Initiative guide, tweaking it to fit our school/program. My colleagues were appropriately wowed (thanks CD!). Other schools, like The Overlake School have used a Libguide as their homepage. I like this too!
I will say that when I start with Libguides, I spend days setting up a good admin guide that goes unpublished. In it, I create as many boxes as possible that I think I might link to later: a Destiny catalog search box, Gale Virtual Reference Library ebook search widget, research tips, citation information and online style guides, that sort of thing. Once this is in place, you can take an assignment and just whip up a guide, linking to those boxes without having to recreate the wheel. Need to make a change? Just do it within the admin guide and the change will be reflected in every guide you’ve linked to that particular box. I have stopped creating database widgets, honestly, because it is typically a basic search and I am trying to train my girls to choose the advanced search option every time to build in Boolean, look for full text, document type, pub date, and just basically create the most sophisticated search that they can do right off the bat.
So now I ask you seasoned Libguide creators: Can you share any lessons learned OR give us the link to some of your guides that you’re particularly proud of?
Newbies: have any questions that others might answer in the comments below?
The Libguides 2.0 platform is being launched now. Here are my notes from the Hot Topics session in Dallas. Have you had any experience with the new version? What do you like/not like?
Come on guys, light this comment area up! I know it’s a crazy busy time of year, but show me some LIBGUIDE LOVE!
I have a favorite tool. I know I shouldn’t, but there are tools that I like more than others. I find them more helpful. They seem to be just a bit more easy to work with. And frankly, they may be more responsive.
Noodletools has always been that way. And I have always loved Libguides as well.
What is Libguides? Well, it is on online pathfinder, sort of an old school bibliographic pathfinder. Think of the old library with all those sheets of colored paper with columns of information on how to find things for Chemistry, Business, or even Fairy Tales. You name it and a librarian made a pathfinder, put some clip art on it and ran it off on colored paper. Well, Libguides is the new and improved bibliographic pathfinder. But it is so much more as well.
At Berkeley Preparatory School in the Jean Ann Cone Library, we use it for all of our classes and some of our clubs, as well. We are completely electronic in grades 6-12, when it comes to library course material. All of the information about our projects can be found on Libguides with duplicates of some teacher material on Edline.
Step 1. Create a Style Guide
We did have a few problems when we first got started with Libguides. One was settling on a style guide to use for all of our classes so that students would get familiar with where to find information. That took a while. We also needed to have a common look and feel that blended with the school’s colors. We made sure to use the accepted school logo. We sat down as a department and decided on how we were going to lay out the pages for our classes. The way the pages are arranged is the same: Project Details (or Class Name), Databases and Websites, Books and Ebooks, Works Cited and Passwords. There may be additional pages, such as Primary Sources, etc., depending upon the class and the assignment, but that is the basic layout.
It’s important to talk about what you want on the page. Are there differences in the way your kids search? Do you definitely want them to contact you? Do you always want your contact info on the right hand side of the password page? Do you want all pages to be two columns? Now is the time to have those conversations. Bring some kids in and have some conversations with them. Have them draw out what a great Libguide page looks like to them.
Step 2. Set Up a Template
Last year, we took an online seminar by Springshare and heard about a redesign and had another meeting where we decided to incorporate more graphics into our Libguides. We also wanted to create a template to get our links from, as recommended by the amazing librarian, David Wee. Wee suggests having one Libguide where you store all of your links to your databases and links you use frequently. Then reuse those links out to your class Libguides, don’t copy them, that way, when you change your template, those changes are populated out through all of your classes. It makes thing much easier.
This fact was brought home to us in real time this year when we did a switch over to EZproxy logins. We needed to add the EZproxy address to the frontend of every database link we had. I had mistakenly copied some links into a Libguide rather than pulling them in. What a bother! And what a hassle for the kids. Never again.
Step 3. Make Use of Surveys
Are you really making full use of Libguides? I wasn’t. Christina showed me that Libguides has a powerful survey feature and I LOVE it. If you haven’t tried it, do it! You might find yourself addicted. But be warned. Making a meaningful survey is harder than it looks. I suggest that you do a couple of things:
- Make the survey open the day that you make it, otherwise you can’t see it to test it.
- Take the survey to test it. That way you can find grammatical and spelling errors and things that just sound wrong.
- Think about what questions are essential to be answered.
- Don’t make your survey too long. 20 questions max. They are kids!
I have used questions adapted from TRAILS for a 9th grade class to evaluate their digital literacy skills. I have also used a Libguide survey to query the whole upper school during advisory (almost 300 responses) about their thoughts on a recent all-school convocation speaker and film festival we had. Our students are rarely given a voice and this was a new experience for them. Granted, there were many silly responses and some very negative ones, but there were enough thoughtful responses to make the exercise useful.
Step 4. Beg, Borrow and Steal! 😎
Yes, steal. Well, not really. The nice thing about Libguides is that it tells you when people are using your work. I have one Libguide that a lot of people seem to really like: My Libguide on our Model UN club. It’s fairly detailed, has lots of links and gets used by the kids for research. Please feel free to use it for your Model UN club if you have one. I’m constantly updating and changing things around, so it is always in flux. When someone wants to use it, they usually send me an email asking to use it. I reply back, “Sure.” When they just take it, Libguides sends me an email saying someone is using my Libguides. Annoying, but still flattering in a way. Better to give people a head’s up.
Search the entire Libguide community. There is an amazing wealth of knowledge out there. Use it! Don’t reinvent the wheel. You can also link to people’s pages directly. Here is an example where I have done that: US History Primary Sources. That’s a nice option too. The first tab is mine, the red tabs are another librarians. Those pages are maintained by the librarian who created them.
I also take the interior content from boxes and credit the librarian who came up with content. It was, after all, their research. It is only fair to credit their hard work. It is a nice community. Play nice.
Step 5. Break Outside the Libguide Box
Libguides is a librarian tool, but we don’t hoard it. This year we actively pursued teachers and got them to create Libguide class pages. We had several sign up for sessions with us on how to create a page (Biology, Genetics, English and Music), but Biology was the only one who actually kept the Libguide going and active. Baby steps!
We also had some teachers willing to step outside the box and try Libguides as a new type of assessment tool. One English teacher is using it with her 9th graders as an online magazine. Each student has editing privileges and can put up their own stories on a features page (Sports, Food, Technology, etc.). So far, the teacher has been very pleased. It is password protected or I would share it with you.
Last year we used it in 11th grade English to comment on books. That was a less successful venture. This year, Libguides has a class discussion page, which is blog-like. The biology teacher will be using that feature later this semester.
We’ve had some successes. We’ve had some failures, but overall, the ease of use and functionality of Libguides is so amazing that I love this tool. I would love for you to take a look at our Libguides. We aren’t perfect by any means. Currently, we are looking at our template and testing our template to see if it needs to be tweaked. We think that the current format might make the page too long for the Middle Division students and they might be unwilling to scroll down. We prepared two nearly identical pages for World History (one with graphics and one without) to get a sense of if the graphics and layout were affecting clickthroughs. We’ll have more data in a week or two.
We will have a final talk at the end of the year and make some changes as a team then. Until then, if you have some suggestions for what works, what you like or don’t like, please let us know. We would love to hear from you!
(Part 1 of a 2 part series)
Since graduating from library school, I have worked in corporate, public, and independent school libraries. Through it all, there has been a glaring common denominator: the need to market the library to my community, to convince them of its utility, to “sell” my resources and my services. It’s crazy how hard you have to work to help people these days, huh? I believe that it’s as important as anything we do because really, what good is a well designed space and a great collection of books and digital resources if no one uses them? Here are some of my marketing schemes. I know there are some rock star librarians reading this so please, use the comments feature to build upon these ideas.
Part 1: The Grownups
Idea 1: the digital newsletter. This has been key for me in putting it all together, for promoting databases, library programs, new books, faculty book clubs, and really just anything cool and relevant that I can come up with. Get their attention with a well-designed newsletter and you will keep their attention when it comes time to collaborate, to schedule research conferences with students, whatever you like. I really got into it at GPS–here’s the my archive. I moved to Emma Willard in August and recently did my first one here, eReaderissue1oct2013. I love that it’s gotten people talking! I don’t think that many of my new colleagues knew what I was ‘about’ before they read it. Microsoft Publisher template, tweaked to fit your school colors, hyperlink away, mix in some fun quotes and images, call out a cool database or app people should know, give a teacher a little shout out, then publish to PDF and attach to email or link to your web site. So easy, so fun, it will work. Trust me.
Idea 2: sugary bribery. Ask to attend a department meeting. If it’s before 11 a.m., offer to bring donuts. If it’s after noon, make it cookies. Tell them what you can do to make their lives easier and to better prepare their students. Tell them that you want to anticipate their needs before they even realize those needs (so you need to know what they’re doing, right?). Start a conversation about how you have already been working with members of their department (or other departments) to give them ideas of what you can offer. Talk about how you can work with them to develop Libguides to streamline the research process for their students. In short, sell it baby! Here’s your chance!
Once you learn what they’re doing and where they might like some help, follow up! Do your research, find out better ways to help them achieve their goals in class. Look for articles that might be of interest to them. Help them with their summer reading list. Offer to host it on your web site or as part of a summer reading Libguide. You help them, they’ll continue to use you in even more meaningful ways. Simple as that.
Idea 3: This isn’t so novel an idea, but I find it’s as effective as anything: be their friend. Sit in the lunchroom whenever you can. Chaperone if your schedule allows it. Just be cool. Friends want to work with friends, right? There’s nothing disingenuous about it. Be you, but just put yourself out there and talk to people. These connections will build momentum for you and your library program.
Idea 4: If folks are strapped for time in your school, expand your services outside the library walls. Pack up your laptop and go to THEM to teach a research lesson. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Flip your library. If you want to show them a particular database that would be good for their research project, send them a short screencast. Demo an app. Make a quick tutorial and post it to Vimeo. They can plug these into the course management page and you can use them again for other classes. Demonstrating your comfort with technology only builds credibility. Offering to be their life preserver, to come to their class to help them introduce a new technology (and stick around for when (not if!) things don’t work quite right), this makes you even more valuable.
Idea 5: Offer internal professional development. When I return from a conference that has great keynote speakers of interest to more than just us librarians, I create a simple web site like this one. Because several of us attended this particular conference, I asked the others to send me notes from their sessions so we covered a bunch of ground! We then offered a lunchtime discussion where the rest of the faculty could come, ask questions, and discuss. It was hosted in the library, of course. 🙂
Coming in December, Part 2: Marketing Strategies for your Upper School Students.
I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and success stories! Please use the comments to share.
Director of Research
Emma Willard School
Troy, New York