What *are* guides for?

Apr 17 2017 Published by under finding information, libraries

https://pixabay.com/en/contact-direction-green-guide-help-2910/Libraries of all flavors have these things that gather together resources on a topic for their users/patrons/customers. In a huge portion of academic libraries, these are database driven lists of online resources managed by a web content management system separate from the rest of their web page. Other libraries do these on blog software or their regular web content management system.

These things have been around forever, from mimeographed or even typeset bibliographies available as handouts to these web things.  The old thinking was the only people who learned from guides were their creators. But that's not fair. They can be a real lifesaver if you find the perfect one that addresses your need when you actually need it.

Obviously, that's also the major problem: What to include, what to say about the things that are included, and how to get the guide where it's needed, when it's needed? Of course there have been a million studies and there are best practices but you do see a lot of variety in the wild.

Some guides are for classes in response to a particular assignment so are targeted. A lot of guides are for entire fields of study: physics, geosciences (not even breaking atmospheric sciences from geology), etc.  In certain fields there are standard tasks students have to deal with like in business, industry and company research. There are basic steps to be taken and for each step, there is a preferred resource.

How about those general guides? What to include, in what order, with what verbiage? No point in writing too much if it causes the guide not to be read. Yet you want to really make the point of exactly in which situations that resource will help and how it can be used most efficiently.

Or maybe not for that last part - tips and tricks can go on a blog and in classes or demonstrations.  If you get the chance... and if you can get that training opportunity to the people when and where they need it.

On LSW there was some discussion about this recently and a member brought up a screenshot of a famously poor guide that, if printed, would have been 36 feet long at 75 dpi. Another guide had 38 tabs (basically menu across the top in this software everyone uses) and many of the tabs had dropdown menus.

At MPOW we have to have ours on SharePoint and we are not actually allowed to edit or design them... but I really, really think these database driven ones are often not the best information design to get the point across. I mean, there's no way to keep up with the URLs if you hand code something but at the same time, it's really awkward to try to make various pieces of content stand out. It's often difficult to embed training information, tips, and links to these things. In addition, resources are often listed in alphabetical order which may not really make sense depending on what they are.

For my news guide, I went off the rails and have it divided differently: by time, by location, by topic.  But I don't actually know that ours are any use, either.  Theoretically our pages were tested and users were able to "find an e-book" (they weren't asked to find a particular ebook, mind you)

My professor for my business reference class made a point of saying how guides (and training) should be problem oriented... So maybe, we should leave the lists of resources to the A-Z lists (with topic tags?) and guides should be reworked to be problem based? We do try to make our training problem based not just here's-a-laundry-list... but alas....

 

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