Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spring cleaning your LibGuides

I'm in the process of revamping my library's LibGuides, and I've come across a few small changes you can make to your guides that make a world a difference for design and usability. First of all, as far as headers/banners go, I am NOT a graphic designer, so I kept it simple, with just the school logo, and "Library Research Guides" in our official font. I don't recommend random images and color-fading if you're not really, really good at it. Otherwise it looks like a page for your local pre-K, coded with Microsoft Word.

old design

new design
Second, take advantage of SpringShare's excellent documentation. As a company that markets guide-creation software, they really put their money where their mouth is. Seriously, they've created a guide for pretty much everything. Here are some I found particularly useful:
As the library's LibGuides admin, I'm currently building a template that all librarians can start from when creating new guides. They are free to not use it if they don't want to, but if the majority of them do use it, this will ensure some consistency across guides. It also acts as a repository for all the custom search-boxes I've built, so other librarians can pick and choose which ones they want to add to their guides.

I've also created a hidden tab (hidden from public view, that is. It's visible to anyone signed in through the admin interface.) I'm using this tab to post instructions, screenshots, and tips for guide creators. I'm also using it as a content repository for boxes I want to be available, but that don't necessarily have a logical home in the template itself (more on this in a minute...)

I've recommended that users link to boxes in the template, rather than copying them, so the template can also act as a content hub, where changes can be made in one place and pushed to all guides linking to the content. This is also why it's a good idea to import your database A-Z list into LibGuides, even if you have one on your library website. If librarians link to links in the database A-Z guide, it will automatically pull the description (which can be hidden or changed if they want) and it will allow you to make changes to database links and names in one place, that, again, will be pushed to all guides that use those links.

I've also noticed that most libraries that use LibGuides just use the default homepage options, which include a list of guides (featured, popular or recent,) a random user profile, email sign-up and/or a tag cloud. But you can choose instead to display a box from elsewhere in the site, by just entering the box id. So, on my hidden template page, I created a box of popular links (I called them "quick links") and put that on the homepage. I also replaced one of the boxes with our "help" box, that contains our various methods of contact. A good example of a nice customized LibGuides homepage is Worcester Poly's site:

I also like how Rutgers made their homepage a complete list of guides, listed alphabetically on one tab, and by discipline on another:

This is still a work-in-progress, so if anyone has any other helpful hints, please leave them in the comments!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Is tenure academic?

I really wanted to make the switch to an academic library where the librarians had faculty status, because I'm on a career path that includes publishing and presenting, and I wanted some credit for that. I'm noticing a scary trend though. Because it was not required in my old job, my scholarly projects were organic. If I did something I felt was interesting enough to share, I wrote about it or presented on it. Now that I'm at a school where librarians are faculty members, I see some of them (and this seems to be encouraged) coming up with half-cocked projects that are not of any real use to the library or the school, just so they can write them up and get articles on their CV.

This is just taking librarians away from their regular (and, in my opinion, more important) job of being useful to their local communities. And, if not that much thought is going into their written content, they're not adding much to their professional community either.

When all that debate was happening over whether or not librarians should have faculty status, I was firmly on the side of YES, because I don't want all my scholarly work to be done on my own time, and for nothing. But if we're just going to adopt all the problems of a crumbling tenure system, I'm less sure of where I stand.