Virtual Library Collection Management

Librarian subject specialists build guides based on subject area to help students and researchers quickly find all of the most relevant resources available at a particular library easily. Given the cost of commercial databases, different libraries will necessarily have different databases, and some of the most popular resources are in multiple databases. Thus, researchers going to a new school may find their key journals in a different database, in different databases, or in the same database but one with such an updated interface that it’s basically a new database. Finding the right resources in the right way becomes a complicated act of mapping needs to resources within the correct service frameworks.
Given this complex meshed-mapped of resources, a quick reference is essential. Some librarians are looking at commercial services like LibGuides. Services like this are useful because they allow the specialists to spend time optimizing content instead of working on the nitty-gritty of site design. I’m hoping that there’s an almost-as-easy solution that’s also Open Source and nearly free (other than setup and related costs). I’ve been looking at Drupal, since I’m familiar with it, but I haven’t found a set-up made exactly for subject/content guides in libraries. The UF Libraries already have awesome content, so we’re just looking for the best way to deliver it–that could be a content management system like Drupal, a wiki like MediaWiki, or a service like LibGuides.
In evaluating the different tools for presentation and delivery, we need a simple, yet flexible framework that’s easy for the subject specialists to update and that’s just as easy for patrons to use, and one that also has a consistent look and feel across the many subject guides. The sheer abundance and variety of information requires this to be a solid, elegant design, as shown through the pages for psychology. The pages cover basic resources on using the library resources, tutorials on using those resources and on using the resources for completing common research projects, explanations of what to use and why, links to help from a subject specialist, information on related fields, space for comments on all of these resources, further details on some of the materials, and more. These pages are currently divided on the UF Libraries’ webspace and a separate wiki because we don’t have a dedicated service for supporting the diverse needs of the subject specialist guides, but we’re in the process of selecting what to use and how to use it to best serve our needs.

1 Comment

  1. Andy Oram has written on a cross-reference management system for improving online information and on developing an improved online environment for educating computer users that combines wiki, faq, newsgroup, and other functionality while allowing for credit for authors. This is, in many ways, exactly what we want for the virtual libraries because we want something we can add to, but that everyone else can also edit and use. The other great part of this idea is the recognition for authorship. While, as the first comment notes, this can be difficult to implement in some settings, it’s ideal for academia because academia is a gift or reputation culture. Simply giving authors credit for their gift of work returns a tangible good to the authors because so many people–like me–are evaluated based on their research and service, so credit for writing is part of the way we prove we’re doing our jobs. Academia also means students, students who need to show the work they’ve done to get jobs and to get into graduate school and who need to do work for their classes. So if we provide the framework for the system and if it’s easy enough, some students and academics will contribute and others can then be assigned to contribute. This would be useful for Oram’s intended group with computer science and many.
    I’m excited to see powerful groups like O’Reilly thinking about systems for cross-referencing and for learning. There’s a great deal of work to be done, and creating a system that makes information flexible, modular, and interoperable would be a boon for everyone. This sort of system also builds toward the need for methods of information architecture and organization as more information goes online and the connections need to be better forged between relevant and contextualizing information sets.

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