What’s the different between a library subject guide and a library research guide?
From my observations, a page of just indexes and article-finding tools is a ‘subject guide’ but a page (or set of pages) dedicated to the a select number of recommended resources that take from other formats (dictionaries, key journals) is a research guide. Ryerson University does something clever: its list of indexes (called articles) is just a sub-page of a larger research guide.
But the differences between these two types of webpages is blurring considerably.
At Leddy, our subject pages started of as lists of indexes but over the last 6 years and some still haven’t changed much since that time – while others subject pages have become little digital library sites of their own.
A new differentiation has developed in some of the library websites of larger institutions. Some libraries, like the University of Michigan, offer three types of lists of resources available to the reader: a page of automatically generated lists of research from different formats, a librarian-picked list of subject resources, and a list of resources made available from a keyword search. NCSU libraries have a similar approach (search page, subject page, subject guide) but they also have course specific pages. I don’t know how NCSU or UofM are able to suggest appropriate subject pages and liaison librarians from keyword searches, and I’m hoping to contact them shortly to find out.
Neither UofM or NCSU have links from their search results to their course-specific pages or their course reserves. There might be some university libraries that have create dynamic library pages based on the information provided by the university credentials that are known when a student or faculty member logs in with their institutional ID (I seem to recall that the University of Winnipeg once had this feature) but, offhand, I’m not aware of any libraries that do this. The trouble is that I can see that libraries like the University of Saskatchewan have a log-in feature, but since I can’t log in, I can’t see what’s on the other side
Before I close out this topic, I just want to touch on some related design problems.
The first is how to present the option of browsing material by subject. The front page of many library websites present a list of subjects on their front page that reflect either the university department being taught on campus, or universities programs. The trouble is that these lists end up being quite large in number. Examples include:
- UPEI : Explore a subject
- Queen’s University Library : Research by subject
- University of Alberta: Browse by subject
If we want to follow the University of Windsor design template for the front page of the Leddy Library website, we won’t be able to list the programs on ours but will probably add this to the navigation menu bar instead. The trick will be what to choose as the right language to make it understandable to students – otherwise known as the “Program” v. “Topics” v. “Subject” v. “Research” Battle
The related design problem, is how to facilitate browsing by format. How do you present a list of encyclopedias, dictionaries, newspapers, and the like? This will be tackled in another post, methinks. And this reminds me, how can we also facilitate generating lists of resources by intention of use? The Leddy Library Chemistry Research Guide is set up by “how to do something” and it was inspired by a guide from ASU Library (I think – I set this up years ago and I’m working from memory here) which has now been replaced by a LibGuide. Speaking of failed searches, I also can’t find a particular business research guide in which the librarian had presented the material by intention (“stats for a business plan”, “stats for market research”, “stats for investment research”). If memory serves correctly, it also seems to have been replaced by a much paler LibGuide.
I am not fond of Libguides. This will definitely be a topic of a future post