Saturday, September 24, 2011

LibGuides - Information Overload Prevention

Over the last few weeks I have been able to spend more and more time at the Reference Desk assisting patrons and learning more about the wonderful resources available for our information seekers.  One of these resources is the LibGuide.  Reference Librarians generally develop these resources as guides that will lead students "to books, journal articles, internet resources, and more on whatever topic you are researching" (

According to Olympic College (, LibGuides are "customized electronic guides that...Librarians create to better help students with their research...Each guide is customized to a particular class or even to a specific assignment, so students can know which resources and strategies will likely yield the best results.  We can embed files, links, RSS feeds, videos, and custom widgets, as well as link directly to all of our electronic databases and eBooks."

The Libguides Training libguide at Southern Illinois University Carbondale ( goes into some detail about these incredibly useful guides.  They state that libraries use libguides to:
  • integrate multimedia content into library services
  • promote library resources to their users
  • create subject guides, course guides, information portals, research help pages, etc.
The point of this helpful resource is for a trained information specialist (ie. librarian) to gather the mass of existing information that so easy overwhelms users and then place the most relevant information in the most applicable medium to make finding information the easiest for those who are seeking specific information on a specific subject or for a specific class.  In other words, Reference Librarians gather information on a specific subject or for a specific class that is relevant to their students.  They include videos, tutorials, and links to various journals, books, or websites.  Librarians can use this guide for providing brief instruction as well.

Over the next few weeks I will work on creating a Libguide for Mississippi College's faculty and patrons that will provide guidance on researching, writing, obtaining, and managing grants.  There will be a few general sections that could apply to almost anyone who wants to get involved with grants.

With this said, be on the look out for a future blog post mentioning my completed Grants Libguide.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wisdom to the Wise (Information Literacy)….

The much anticipated Information Literacy session observation arrived at last.  And what a great class to begin with...the Education Research class.  I finally understand why “Ed Research” makes even the brave tremble.  Of course, those courageous graduate students who are approaching the end of their degree program could not have a better captain steering the way into Thesis Land than the one who teaches this course.  The professor who leads this course is a very talented intellectual who always seems to be up for a challenge.  Not only does he challenge himself, but he challenges his students, and the librarians who assist by providing an Information Literacy session.

The Reference Librarian’s feat was to complement this clever professor by serving up a hearty helping of information that related to searching the library catalog, databases, and other resources.  After the librarian demonstrated a few databases and how to search the online library catalog, the graduate students bravely tackled an in-class assignment that could bring mind-numbing pain to the best of us.  The students valiantly searched for the answer to their assigned questions.  Some needed help with this quest and a few were able to single-handedly solve their individual puzzles.

Through this activity the students learned the research process.  They were encouraged to keep a research log for writing down components of the questions they try to answer.  In this log, students are to record the steps they take, the search engine(s) or database(s) they use, the places their searches take them and the information they find, so they do not unnecessarily travel back down a dead-end with future searches or so they can retrace their steps if necessary in order to replicate a search.  During this session the students learned that even if Wikepedia or Google provide part or all of an answer, the research must back up their findings with more scholarly research.  One way to do this in Wikepedia is to scroll to the bottom of an article and follow the list of resources used by the author.  In many instances, this act will provide good, solid research.

As a result of this observed Information Literacy session, I learned several interesting things.  In the context of researching something specific, Mississippi College’s Dr. Miller said, “don’t start until you’ve thought about it.”  He urged his students to be “efficient, effective, and ethical researchers.”  He also stated that “all good research begins with questions.”  He elaborated on this statement by explaining that there are two main types of questions: Informative (the “what” or “when”) and Interpretive (“questions to create or assign meaning”).  His main thrust of requiring students to participate in the evening’s assigned research activity was to make them feel a sense of need.  He didn’t want the students to sit through a lecture that would just “roll over them.”

In addition to all that I learned from the professor of the Education Research class, I learned a little about using keywords to search the online library catalog.  I learned that it is usually a good thing to use more than one keyword with “and” separating different keywords or sets of related keywords.  This will narrow the search results.  I also learned that a keyword search looks for results in the title, table of contents (if one exists), and subject headings within the bibliographic record.

Since there is still much to learn about Information Literacy (IL), I will continue to observe other IL sessions and will include some of my findings in future blog posts.  Hopefully, this will be the start of a bright future in regards to Information Literacy.

Until next time...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Librarian Liaison’s CHOICE...

I stepped into my first Reference shift this week with a refresher course on CHOICE: REVIEWS ONLINE.  I refer to this as a refresher course because we were assigned to use this online reference resource in our LIS 501 Introduction to Reference course.  It has been a year-and-a-half since that assignment, so it was time to refresh my memory on how to use this extremely helpful tool.  The good thing about my first Reference shift is that a skilled user (the Reference Librarian on duty) showed me the ropes in how to use the program.  She showed me the program and explained it in the context of being a liaison to various academic departments on campus.

The library where I am doing my practicum divides up the academic departments between all the librarians who act as liaisons for all the university departments.  The liaisons use CHOICE to find books to recommend for the departments.  The Department Heads respond to the recommendations by acknowledging which books they want the library to purchase.  The library orders the chosen books and the money for the purchases comes out of the book budget amount allocated for each department.  All of this is done by February 1st of the current fiscal year.  If there is any money left in a department’s budget after the beginning of February, the money goes into a “general pot” that is used up by a first come first served system.  Any librarian can make recommendations for using the left over money.

To use CHOICE, visit and look at the options on the left-hand side of the screen.  There is the "Recent Issues" option that is divided into months and there is the Outstanding Academic Titles that lists the most highly recommended resources for a given year.  To find books within a specific department, click on one of the four months under "Recent Issues."  In the middle of the screen there is the "Browse Reviews" section that is divided into Reference - General, Humanities, Social & Technology, or Social and Behavioral Sciences.  If Reference material is not desired, simply click on one of the other options - Humanities, Social & Technology, Social and Behavioral Sciences, or Interdisciplinary Categories - and pick from the many disciplines from one of these main categories.  After you click on a subcategory, select a few items or click on "select all titles on this page" and click on the print option if desired.  At the top of the page there will be a box to select "Bib Citation" or "Full Text."  Clicking on "Full Text" provides the entire review for each item selected.

A few final thoughts about being a helps to know what the departments are teaching in order to better know what books to recommend.  One option is to see if any of the professors' syllabi are available on their web pages.  After you skim over a syllabus, it might be a little easier to know what is being taught in that specific class.  Another way to know what the department is teaching is to meet with the various faculty within that department.  It is ideal, though not always possible because of time constraints, to annually visit each professor within the department(s) for which the liaison is responsible.  According to the librarian who taught me about being a liaison, "The more you know about what they are teaching, the better a liaison you will be."  The final benefit to working closely with departments on campus is that it's a good place to get information for LibGuides (resource guides).  The various faculty members might be able to recommend helpful websites that provide necessary information.  This will not only save time in the long run, but will make the resource guide stronger.

So far the Reference experience has been a good one!  Until next time...

Initial Results of the Document Delivery Project

The Document Delivery project turned out to be a somewhat complicated project with only some immediate results.  This might have to become an ongoing project that I work on throughout the next few weeks and possibly beyond.  The good thing about this project is that others can pick up where I leave off.  After I've identified some good Document Delivery suppliers and the periodical titles and years covered by these suppliers, final decisions about which suppliers to use can be made throughout the next year or two by the library director.  I have at least paved the way and helped the library begin to consider this possibility more seriously.

Although the library director did not use the document delivery criteria to cancel periodical subscriptions this year, the criteria has been established for use with future decisions.  The good news is that, as a result of the Periodical Renewal Project (see previous blog entry), we were able to determine some unnecessary duplication of journal coverage and cancel a few titles to eliminate this duplication.  In addition, the library director thought the time spent on this project produced a good document and she was extremely pleased with the results of the project thus far.  I will continue to report on the Document Delivery project as I work on it in the future, but it's time to focus a little time on other projects as well.

Keep reading to see the other activities I'm working on for the practicum...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Next Big Project...Week #2

After spending an entire week working on the Periodicals Renewal List project (phase I), I began the hunt for document delivery suppliers (phase II).  The phrase "Document Supply" or "Document Delivery System" is completely new to me, so I've had a lot to learn for this project.

The method of providing articles (document delivery) for patrons is related to Interlibrary Loan (ILL) because information not currently owned by the host institution is made available.  Interlibrary Loan is a process to receive borrow books or scanned/photocopied articles from other institutions that own the material.  With the rise of databases and electronic resources that are not technically owned by an institution, Document Delivery is necessary to obtain materials that cannot be supplied by another library.  This may include something as simple as a single journal article.

The point of this project is to learn more about Document Delivery and then discover what institutions supply documents and how the process works.  Of course, it is important to compare costs and coverage (scope) of titles in each Document Delivery system.  The other reason for this project is to find if any titles from our Renewal List that are covered in a database with a short embargo can be purchased through a supplier.  We will have more confidence in our decision to cancel certain print or e-journal titles if we have access to a decent supplier.

Our confidence in making the decision to cancel print titles that are also covered by a database is rooted in the premise that many [undergrad] students who are learning to research will choose articles with full-text access.  If there is an embargo for a periodical in a database, articles from that periodical that fall within the embargo period will not be provided in the search results.  Students will not be aware of these articles unless they leave the "Full-Text" limiter unchecked or are looking for a specific article.  An article from a periodical that has an embargo will display if it is prior to the embargo period.  This means that if a document supplier can be found to provide the article that is within the embargo period, we can cancel the periodical and not have unnecessary duplication.  The hope for this decision is to save money by canceling a periodical subscription and making the money available to purchase articles as necessary.  If requests to purchase articles are infrequent money will potentially be saved.

Although this project will take several hours and another week or so to complete, I have made at least one interesting discovery.  In order to help make the decision of finding a document supplier easier, there exists an article entitled, "Document Delivery - Best Practices and Vendor Scorecard" that can be found here:   This document is from the v. 11 (April 10, 2008) issue of Information Management Service: Briefing, created by Outsell, a syndicated research and advisory firm.  For my Document Delivery project I used this resource to discover and evaluate document suppliers that will potentially be used to obtain requested articles.  This article is worth the read if you are interested in learning more about Document Delivery.

I will continue working on this project, along with other practicum projects, and will keep you informed as the journey continues!