In the past few years, libraries have become increasingly innovative in the different ways they display their subject guide. Practically everything under the sun has being tried.
Libraries have tried wikis (here), paid for Libguides (here), used Delicious linkrolls (
here) and Squidoo (here). I haven’t heard of a library using Google Knol, but I won’t be surprised. Libraries have also tried opensource software such as Subjects Plus (here) , LibData (here), Research Guide, Pirate Source (here) , Library à la Carte (here)
Many libraries have used Netvibes in particular. Though the use seems to be mainly as generic library portals + subject guides, rather than outright subject guide, but the principle is similar
What do such services do? They are dynamic personalized pages where you can choose to aggregate material from different sites. Typically you install widgets such as calenders, web-mail etc together with RSS feeds to put all your most commonly used material on one page.
Of course there is nothing to stop libraries from creating pages made up of different widgets/modules and RSS feeds and opening access to the world. Such pages will function as normal pages for users who don’t use such services, while other users who do use such services can grab whatever modules/widgets they need to mix and match on their own pages.
It’s unclear how many users use such services, so the question is why use this over static pages?
Basically such services provide a lot of flexibility. Staff can easily create tabs, arrange the layout of each section by drag and drop, grab different sections or pages etc. In comparison, wikis or static pages are harder to customize this way.
A good example is Central Medical Library, University Medical Center Groningen‘s Netvibes page.
Looking at what libraries have done, you can see there is a lot of room for creativity out there, but let me describe some ideas I like. I basically looked at my own static subject guide and thought how I could convert it to something more dynamic.
Let’s take it as given that the OPAC search box, FAQs, instructions etc are already available and focus on subject specific material.
Examples will be drawn from Central Medical Library, University Medical Center Groningen , Shrewsbury and Telford Health Libraries , Dublin City Public Library . My own institution also offers Nexus, which is similar (will blog more about it in another post).
Add RSS feeds of journal or database searches
Why offer lists of high impact journals when you can list table of contents of the latest issues of those journals?
This is a pretty obvious idea, get the RSS feed of the table of contents of the latest issue of the top journals in a given field and then feed it into a widget/module to display the results. Most journals offer the RSS feed on their homepages or you can try ticToOCS Journal Service. To ensure that the link works to handle the ezproxy properly you should convert the RSS feed using the Yahoo pipes method I described previously.
The most basic way would be to offer each RSS feed individually.
But a more advanced idea would be to offer a widget that combines RSS feeds of several journals/search engines, filter out results that don’t meet a certain specified keyword , dedupe (and rank?) and display results.
Or how about a widget/module that tracks citation alerts/mentions from Scopus/web of science and Google scholar, and dedupes results? I’m sure that will come in handy for people tracking citations of their papers. A widget linking to citeulike, various web-based citation managers?
Add searchboxes of databases
Why offer a boring static link to the recommended say Economics databases, when you can offer dynamic search widgets?
Using the method I described here on now to Creating custom search boxes for library use , one can also offer search widgets to be placed on the startup page. If you are a truly progresive library offering opensearch plugins, you can also provide a link to it too.
As the image above shows, the user can grab the whole widget to put on their startup page (click on wrench icon), or they can click on “add search to browser” link next to the title to add the opensearch plugin version to their browser’s search box!
Topcited articles in given area
Use Scopus topcited to list top cited article in an area of interest.
Add book related widgets
You can create a RSS feed from your OPAC showing a list of new books in a certain subject, or popular books.
Or better yet embed a Librarything Widget!
Add Delicious, social bookmarking widgets
Your library uses Delicious to tag internet links? Insert a blog roll as a widget!
Dublin City Public Library
Add instructional tips
If you have being linking to powerpoints of your subject specific tutorials, convert them into slideshare (or similar alternatives) and then put in the widget. It’s a bit clunky to have one slideshare widget for one presentation, so package them all in one using slideshare presentation pack to combine several in one (see below). Have screencasts of tutorials? Even better!
My subject area is Economics so I can use palgrave’s Econolog which tracks and ranks most popular (based on comments) Economics blog posts.
But what if you want to add blogs on other topics? What you should do is to combine the top 20 or so blogs in your area, aggregate and rank them using Postrank and grab only the top posts.
If you are not sure what the top blogs are in a given area, you can use delicious to search for most popular blogs (e.g. Geography+blog), grab and combine the posts from these feeds and then pass then through Postrank , a service which checks for duplicates and ranks or just displays top blog posts based on popularity (number of comments, number of clicks, number of blog trackbacks, links from social media sites like Twitter, Friendfeed, Digg, delicious, see details etc).
Excellent resources on this topic include
Add other library widgets
If you have created subject specific library widgets like conduit toolbars, bookmarklets etc , why not offer them here?
Add calender widget
Add feedback widget
Insert Meebo or your favourite chat widget so you can get feedback. Add a poll, or a askalibrarian form. If you are really bold, how about adding a twitter widget or even a getsatisfaction page/widget!
Central Medical Library, University Medical Center Groningen
Add custom google search engine
Most subject guides have a link to a list of free online resources. Why not create a custom search engine to search those sites? Use either Google custom search engine or Rollyo search engine
and offer it as a widget
Add Google analytics
Want to know how often your public Netvibes page is being accessed? Add a module with the google analyics code included! Of course, this works only for the public page, but typically each module/widget usage will be automatically tracked as well.
I’m just scratching the surface of what can be done. In the future I will from time to time post about specific library widgets that have useful functionality.