Teacher Drew Lawson Shares the Importance of LibGuides and Gale Virtual Reference Library for Learning and Higher Level Thinking

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.

Top Ten Reasons I Love LibGuides

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?

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Loving LibGuides!

http://theunquietlibrary.libguides.com/content.php?pid=36006&sid=266897

Creekview High School LibGuides – Honors World Geography Research Project Spring 2009: Rasmussen – Conflict in Kashmir via kwout

A week or so ago, my library’s subscription to LibGuides went live!  I have designed three research pathfinders so far, and I am totally in love with the clean design I can produce with ease.  I had looked at LibGuides last summer but held off on purchasing as our district was in the midst of a major web authoring software transition.  Thanks to Twitter and Library 2.0 friend Elisabeth Abarbane, I became aware of what a perfect fit LibGuides would be for me and my library program!

LibGuides allows you to integrate your favorite Library 2.0 features, such as embedded video or SlideShare presentations, your favorite del.icio.us linkrolls, PollDaddy polls, and more!  They also have their own great “in house” apps, such as an easy to add “rate this page” feature.  If you use the “links and lists” feature, users can evaluate each resource you add to that box (see the link to this example).

I also love the integrated “Share This” web 2.0 feature; in addition, I love how easy it is to “Tweet” that your guide has been published.   Being the widget addict I am, I also love how easy it is to create a widget for your LibGuides site!  🙂  Best of all, you do not not have to have any special HTML or web authoring knowledge to create professional and organized looking pathfinders—the LibGuides platform makes it easy to publish pathfinders that are easy to navigate and browe.  I am incredibly happy with the content I have created and am energized by the possibilities for additional content I’ve yet to add!

http://theunquietlibrary.libguides.com/index.php

Creekview High School LibGuides – Home via kwout

They also provide extremely reasonable pricing in addition to excellent tech and customer support—I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out of thanks to my customer care specialist Mazen M. Khoury, Springshare CEO Slaven Zivkov, and the great folks in tech support who are incredibly helpful when you have a question.

While there are a few final tweaks to add, here are the three pathfinders I have created so far:

While I still love and will use the library wiki as portal, I  believe LibGuides is going to eventually become our main information commons or hub by July 2009.

I feel LibGuides is going to help our library in our mission of helping our students hone their information literacy skills and prepare them for research beyond their time at Creekview—take a peek at the schools in Georgia using LibGuides!

I will be rolling out these first pathfinders next week, so stay tuned as I gather feedback from our users to help me tweak the pathfinders and to see how they like the new LibGuides platform!