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The following is a fictitious proposal recommending the use of the LibGuides content management system for a college library. While budgeting would be a major consideration in any proposal, it has been left out here since exact pricing is not available publicly.

Director’s Brief  11/24/2013
To: Dr. Stuffee, Library Director
From: Bob Dreeming, Reference Librarian
RE: Implementing LibGuides into our library

Introduction:

I am submitting the following proposal for the purchase of the LibGuides content management service for our library as it will better serve the needs of our students and faculty.

LibGuides, used by many other libraries similar to ours, have found success using this platform. It is my intent to show you how LibGuides would work in our university library in an era of financial discomfort and constraint. While we have had numerous conversations over the past year on how to utilize web 2.0 tools (such as mentioned above), we have not yet discussed how a platform such as LibGuides can help us organize all of these other tools in one location.

What are LibGuides and what do they do?

LibGuides are the solution to the problems we reference librarians have been having. We know our print subject guides are not only outdated, difficult to maintain, and often incomplete, but also they are based on an obsolete model.

Over 1,700 libraries use LibGuides not just for content management but also knowledge dissemination. LibGuides can gather our research tutorials, connect with web 2.0 applications, and serve as what we once termed a “pathfinder.” (Roberts & Hunter, 2011, 68). LibGuides is tab-based with a variety of boxes and columns (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 2010, 642). RSS feeds, chat widgets, embedded videos, and pictures are just a few of the resources which can be places in those boxes. Everything can be shared with the social networking bar  to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Since we will always have staff not proficient in html code and web design, LibGuides does all the work for us with a simple interface. Also, by creating a template, we create consistency and can be more efficient with time (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 644), while also having the option of not using the template and creating a guide from scratch according to class needs.

Roberts and Hunter also break down the need for LibGuides in three areas: New Library; New Librarian; New Student. “The new library goes where the student is. The new student is on the computer. Librarians are aware of this and are working towards a better, more versatile library” (Roberts and Hunter, 70).  The breath of new life for the library is actually found in what we have always done: provide whatever the patrons need. As we seek to be an emerging library meeting patrons where they are, we can find a willing in ally in LibGuides to help us organize and distribute our content.

Ultimately the new library is adaptable. The library is not a lone silo relying on its internal staff to be experts in various fields. The new library allows for more collaboration amongst teaching faculty, students and librarians.                                                                                                       (Roberts & Hunter, 70).

LibGuides take us to where the college student of today is. We will continue our role of providing information in an organized fashion. Students need well-organized, easy-to-find guides for doing research. We need to connect with the user as they connect to everything else, mainly web 2.0 tools. LibGuides is designed to take us there. LibGuides is a system:

where students can submit links for classmates to review…Students can rate items and comment on boxes on any guide… Students appreciate this type of social networking where they can add to the discussion in a meaningful way…This creates a new type of online classroom where learning has no boundaries to a time and place. (Roberts & Hunter, 72)

LibGuides are a user-centered tool. They can be viewed on a phone or tablet, so students have access wherever they are.  Librarians have the ability to belong to the LibGuides community whereby we can copy (with permission) a box or page from another contributor and others can do the same with ours. We can also reuse our own boxes so that a box with “History databases” could be simply copied from one guide to another so that we don’t have to duplicate the same material.

What else can we do with it?

Indiana State University has a LibGuide designed specifically for distance learners: http://libguides.indstate.edu/distancelearning

Their page is a model we could use. They have several tabs which function as a library orientation for students who are not physically visiting the campus or library. The home page gives valuable information for getting students started and how to contact the library staff. Their purpose was to provide the same quality of information services to distance learners as on-campus students received (Arvin, 2009, 26).

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 Gonzalez and Westbrock (2010) describe the influence LibGuides has had at New Mexico State University:

Using the LibGuides platform, guides can be created, updated, and changed relatively quickly. Since creating guides was becoming much less burdensome for librarians, they are able to create guides to meet specific, and often changing , needs of students and faculty. Without any input from faculty besides a syllabus or assignment, course/assignment guides can be created, shared, and used to open the door to future partnerships. These guides provide faculty with a vetted, organized set of tools to provide to their students (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 2010, 649).

The value here is obvious: we would not only assist the student-user but also the faculty-user who would see the value of the library staff and seek us out for further help.

screenshot2

Understanding how to reach our users is not as intimidating as we make it out to be.  Wayne Bivens-Tatum (2010) says all we really need is imagination and sympathy. “How many studies do we need to tell us people like ease, familiarity, simplicity, and quality and in that order?…Users want simplicity, ease of use, and quality resources. Well, guess what? So do I.” (Bivens-Tatum, 2010, 8). So don’t we all.  LibGuides can do a lot for us with simplicity and quality.

Schmidt (2010) uses “UX” to abbreviate the user experience, saying “UX is about arranging the elements of a product or service to optimize how people will interact with it. ” This is why our print guides need to be replaced with a more user-active system.

What do we need to talk about?

One issue we will need to discuss is who will have administrator rights.  Indiana State also cited this as an issue which needs to be decided upon before activation (Arvin, 2009, 24). Whether professors and/or students will have access to add boxes, comments, or other features will also need to be discussed.

Gonzalez and Westbrock (2010, 640) describe several practical issues that could make or break how effective LibGuides could be. The LibGuides must be easy to find on the library website and be findable to the user through several points of access. If LibGuides are buried, then we are wasting our time.

Gonzalez and Westbrock also found that course related guides were much more effective than general ones (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 640). Building a U.S. History LibGuide with several tabs and boxes would overwhelm users doing a specific project on the 1890’s. Not only should the LibGuides be course-specific but even some cases assignment-based. The user needs to see an immediate help and application.

To avoid confusion we would need to be consistent in what we call LibGuides, as some libraries choose “subject guides” “reference guides” or other various names. We would need to set a name and stay consistent (Gonzalez and Westbrook, 648).

McMullin and Hutton (2010, 795) describe their experiences with LibGuides at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. To get faculty involvement requires communication and collaboration, not to mention their individual personalities and your past relationship with them.  One way to do this is a “tips for faculty” page including screencast tutorials on how to embed the LibGuide into their own class website. An example is found here:

McMullin and Hutton (2010) go on to conclude that LibGuides “have allowed us to sort through and repackage our resources to suit the immediate needs of a group on our campus, and do so very quickly. They support the personalization of the research process and will help us to serve the new influx of distance education students” (McMullin and Hutton, 2010, 797).

Conclusion

LibGuides can greatly assist us in connecting with the user, especially the distance-learning user. We have great resources to offer but need a more attractive format with which to organize and allow them to be found by the student. LibGuides are exactly what we need.

Schmidt (2010) gives us a good concluding thought of users being people who have needs and are trying to accomplish goals:

People will notice, though not necessarily consciously, if we take the time to think about them when we’re developing our services. The secret here is not to think of library patrons, users, or customers: we need to think of people. We need to consider their lives and what they’re trying to accomplish. This act, which can only be done by cultivating the skill of empathy, is the most important—and perhaps the most difficult—part of user experience design.

As an institution which focuses almost exclusively on the needs of distant learners at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, LibGuides can serve us immensely, both in organization of library and subject content, and also as a platform for promoting our other web 2.0 services, such as embedded YouTube and other videos, numerous hyperlinks to other sources, RSS feeds, tagging, polls, surveys, sharing via social networking sites, as well as annotated bibliographies. LibGuides will help us utilize all these other tools.

I hope we can purchase LibGuides for our library and college community so we can do a better job connecting with our users.  I believe we would find success and higher usage statistics of our resources by having them linked on LibGuides. Other colleges such as ours have found similar success.  As we have watched the classroom change as more students are taking hybrid classes or even classes fully online, so the library needs to adapt. The classroom is emerging, so must the library (Roberts & Hunter, 2011, 69).

I hope we can consider the purchase of LibGuides and train our staff in delivering this content to our college community.

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