Tuesday 26 April 2011

Many pathways: LibGuides

Konchi-in pathwayphoto © 2007 Chris Gladis | more info (via: Wylio)
What criteria do you use when considering the publication of library pathfinders? Do you have procedures in place to regularly review their content and appropriateness?

These questions have been in my thoughts for some time now, and I have been prompted to write set guidelines for our staff as we move content to LibGuides.
Joyce Valenza's New Tools pathfinder has attracted much well deserved positive comment along with a suggestion for a slight reorganisation by Colette Cassinelli. This has led me to look at and evaluate Libguides content from many schools around the globe. I have taken inspiration from many, in particular from the LibGuides published by Leanne Windsor at TIGS and Cathy Oxley at Brisbane Grammar School.

In our context, several staff will have the opportunity to write and publish guides. Like Joyce and many other librarians, we have had guides in many different places and sometimes these have varied widely in standards.
The following guidelines have been written to remind us to consider as many options as possible. Your comments are welcome.

Policy and Procedures
This site is the web portal to learning resources developed by the teacher librarians in conjuction with the Trinity Grammar School community of learners. http://trinity.nsw.libguides.com/index.php
Guides published here must meet the following criteria:
  • Is there a demonstrated need for information on this subject?
  • Has the appropriate faculty, department, subject teacher been consulted? 
  • Are procedures in place to notify all relevant stakeholders?
  • Has a timeline been established for publication and review of guide?
Guides are to contain the following basic information:
  1. Guide description, includes purpose and scope of guide.  
  2. Association to a Subject area so that guides are appropriately grouped and appear in the Subject search list
  3. Tags of a general nature, likely to be used by students or staff for retrieving material.
  4. Individual pages (tabs) within guides should be ordered alphabetically unless there are special circumstances, e.g. where HSC and IB tabs are used they should be adjacent. This rule also applies to sub-pages in dropdown menus.
Individual pages
  1. The Home page of each guide must contain a Links to Guides box in the upper left column. The contents of this box can be determined by the guide’s author, either a selection of related guides, popular guides or recently published guides. 
  2. Each page added must include a description.
  3. A page should be added only when there is likely to be enough content to be used in 2 or 3 columns, i.e. enough to fill an average web screen.  If there is not this amount of material, consider a box on a related page, it can always be moved to a new page should the need arise.
  4. Pages are to be added as tabs where possible unless sub topics clearly fit underneath a particular heading. A subject guide may have tabs for Year levels with pathfinders for those year levels as subpages.
  5. Pages should be hidden while editing, this applies particularly where a new page is being added to an already published guide.
  6. Each page should have at least one illustrative element, i.e. image, video or other visual. High quality images and screenshots should be used rather than clipart.
  7. Column width can be adjusted when needed, but the 3 column layout is the preferred default. 
Content within guides should be selected for quality, authority, relevance and the reading level of intended audience. It should include as many of the following elements as possible:
  • web links
  • database search guide – list of suitable databases, recommended searches and/or journals 
  • embedded multimedia – webcasts, podcasts, webinars, video, audio, interactive content or any other non-textual format 
  • primary sources 
  • recommendations for mobile apps (multiple platforms) 
  • reading list of books, physical and/or etexts 
  • RSS feeds
  • Recommended search terms for web, library catalogue and social bookmarking sites
  • Images, charts, mindmaps, diagrams and other non-interactive representations of information
Publication Procedure
All guides are to be previewed by the Head of Information Services before publication.
Guides are to be allocated a ”friendly URL” at the point of publication.

What have I missed? Do you have further suggestions?


  1. This is fabulous Carmel, my questions revolve around when to use a pathfinder and when to teach how to find the subject area, and finding the balance between both.

  2. Yes Stacey, I agree. There is always a dilemma between teaching 'how to' and providing 'how much'. In the ideal world we would get to teach all students the "how to" but the fall back position when we are unable to reach all students is to have an excellent collection of resources and I see this as one way of providing that service.

  3. Hi Carmel. Thank you for the generous comment about our LibGuides at BGS!

    You've certainly thought carefully about how to construct meaningful guides. With regards to the dilemma mentioned above, we take the view that our LibGuides are only a starting point for research and a companion for our teaching. Obviously, some of the best resources are to be found in the subscription databases, which we can't make available. With the few guides we've created, both staff and students have been very appreciative!

    You might also be interested to know that we've recently made LibGuides our "Library Homepage". (We created a new guide and set it as the LibGuide home.) In effect, our boys view it within our school's learning management system, unless they use the direct URL. Everything is just that little more tightly integrated...

    Thanks for an interesting post! Looking forward to more.

  4. I do agree - Libguides are fabulous. Thanks for writing this post as it's perfect for sharing! I'm looking forward to more schools using them too. Cheers.

  5. Thanks Mr_H and Judy for your comments. We aim to have a guide as Library home page too which will be viewed within the LMS. In the meantime our current internal Dreamweaver site points to the new guides while we critically evaluate, cull and renew appropriate resources.
    I think the scheduling of reviews of content will become a critical issue as size of sites increases.


Thanks for visiting, I welcome your comments.

Enjoyed this post? Want to see more?