English teacher Drew Lawson shares his thoughts on the instructional value of LibGuides and eBooks in The Unquiet Library’s Gale Virtual Reference Library collection. Hear Drew’s thoughts on how LibGuides provides a point of access that helps students expend more energy into critical thinking and synthesizing information from the resources on the research guide. You can see the research guide for Drew’s current unit of study here.
My documentation and organization of Media 21 has been overdue for a makeover, and this weekend, I finally revamped my resource page for the learning initiative. Originally, it was housed on my Wikispaces page, but you can now more easily navigate the resources, readings, videos, reflections, and links related to Media 21 at my new Media 21 LibGuides portal. Here is how the guide is organized:
1. Home page: a brief overview of Media 21, links to readings/podcasts on Media 21, bookmarks to resources that inform the vision of learning for Media 21
2. 2009-10: this page houses all of my blog reflections before, during, and after the first year of the Media 21 program. It also links to course resources , research guides, and student work as well as photos and videos.
3 . 2010-11: this page houses the same type of documentation as the 2009-10 page and is currently a work in progress.
I’d like to encourage you to explore this guide as I think it captures the depth of collaboration, reflection, and documentation of this collaborative learning initiative I’ve been fortunate to experience with Susan Lester and our students. I am still struggling with documenting all aspects of this work as an embedded librarian and reflecting as frequently and with as much depth as I’d like (as well as my other collaborative projects with teachers and the Kindle program), but there is a good body of that kind of work represented in the guide for now. Susan and I are engaged in planning now as we prepare to pick up the final three months of Media 21 for Spring 2011; please look for new updates to the 2010-11 tab soon!
One of my favorite features of LibGuides is the ease of copying over one piece of content you’ve created for a guide into another guide. If you are constantly creating research guides/subject guides/research pathfinders like I am, this feature is a dealmaker. See how it works in this video:
Over the last few months, I have received quite a few inquiries as to why I love LibGuides so much, so I thought it might be helpful to share a brief post highlighting my ten favorite features.
In no particular order, here is why I invest in LibGuides for The Unquiet Library:
1. The ease and flexibility of creating guides: LibGuides makes it super easy to add RSS feeds, embed videos, embed an endless range of HTML or script codes (great for widgets and embedding and content), lists of links, feature books from the catalog (which could be print books, Google Books I like, or eBooks from our virtual collection), document widgets, a timeline widget, assorted Google Searches, and various polls. While I have utilized the user link submission feature on a limited basis, I plan to incorporate it more after being inspired by friend and fellow librarian Elisabeth Abarbanel’s recent blog post, “LibGuides: Collaborative Aspects”. Because it is so easy to add content and widgets for traditional and emerging sources of authoritative information ( social scholarship) , LibGuides is an essential tool for supporting my information literacy instruction and supporting technology integration into my library program; I can also seamlessly push my students to other library streams of information, including our blog, our databases, and other essential library resources.
In addition, if I need to create multiple guides on a similar topic for different teachers with slight variations, I can easily copy the original guide and then add/take away guide elements or I can create a new guide and add existing elements from other subject guides I’ve created using the “copy from another guide” feature. As if that isn’t enough, I can also use and modify templates for guides (67,000 plus and growing!) created by other library professionals in the LibGuides community. These features of LibGuides make it easy for me to generate research pathfinders efficiently, quickly, and dynamically.
2. Social Media Integration: my students can capture RSS feeds for guides or use the built-in “Add This” sharing feature that allows my students to easily bookmark or post a guide to a diverse range of cloud computing/social media tools. Students and teachers can also sign up for email notification when a new guide is posted, and this email registration can be customized by tags or keywords.
3. Subject Guide Organization and Tagging: I can create and organize my subject guide categories however I choose, and I can also tag my guides with essential keywords. These are features that allow me to “catalog” my guides!
4. Usage and Statistical Reports: you can choose to create a general summary report, homepage hits, or overall guide hits; you can even view a guide hit report for a specific subject guide. I will soon be incorporating this data into my monthly and annual reports. The reports can be generated in standard (best for viewing your browser), plain (best for copying and pasting into another application, or Excel (spreadsheet) format, too!
5. Widgets: I love that I can create and customize my widgets to focus on one particular subject guide OR I can create a more generic widget to direct my students to our general LibGuides home page while featuring new or popular guides. The code is incredibly easy to generate and can be placed on virtually any web platform.
6. Superb Stability: in the fourteen months I have been a subscriber, I have experienced only one minor service outage. I can count on the platform to be up and running without worrying about frequent outages.
7. Customer Service and Tech Support: I have only had to call upon tech support once in the 14 months I have been a user, but when I did, they were most helpful. The individuals in customer service are also wonderfully responsive and gracious as well! You can also join (at no charge) The Springshare Lounge, a free network for discussions about Springshare products, including LibGuides. The support blog , Springshare Twitter feed, and LibGuides FAQ Twitter feed also help me keep up with the latest new features and product news. As if that is not enough, you can also participate in product webinars!
8. Multiple Editors: if you work in a library setting in which you have a team (library professionals, students, or teachers) who may need some access to creating and editing guides, you can add multiple users and establish their editing/access rights to invite participation while protecting the integrity of your overall platform.
9. Multiple Uses for the Platform: While I primarily use LibGuides for generating subject guides/research pathfinders, I am now using LibGuides to create organic, dynamic, and multimedia monthly reports that help me better tell the story of my library program in a transparent and effective manner. I also love how this high school is using LibGuides as a medium for paperless monthly library newsletters!
10. More Than Reasonable Pricing and a Product Worth Its Weight in Gold: if you are someone like me who generates a large number of subject guides and integrates your virtual resources heavily into library instruction, then LibGuides is truly your best friend. The price point, in my opinion, is more than reasonable for a K12 institution, and I get more than my money’s worth in terms of the value the product has in terms of helping me be an effective librarian and the way it impacts the library experience for my students (and teachers, too!). While there may be other similar products out there for less or free, I have yet to see anything with the “horsepower” and reliability of LibGuides. After only six months of use, I renewed my subscription for two more years—given my generally conservative bent in purchasing any online product too far in advance, this should indicate to you how much I love and how heavily I reply on this service/product!
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, my investment in LibGuides is an investment in my library program. I feel that the integration of LibGuides into my library program since February 2009 has played a major role in improving the quality of my library instruction and service. I am empowered to integrate a diverse range of information sources and instructional support materials in an organized manner that works for my students and makes it easy for them to navigate the broad range of resources I can provide for a collaboratively designed research project.
If you are a LibGuides user, what are some of your favorite features?