Posted in Lessons Learned

When it’s Summertime, but the Fall Semester is Nigh…

It doesn’t seem possible that August could already be half-over!  It seems like we just celebrated graduation, and now we’re getting ready to welcome (and welcome back) our students for another school year.  This was my first full summer as a law librarian, and naively I thought summer would be a time of catching up, charging forward on projects that had sat on the back-burner during the previous school year.  Wrong!  While I have in many ways successfully played catch-up on the ol’ To Do list, it is by no means completed.  The summer absolutely flew by, and I am in awe that the school year is upon us again.

Given the timing, however, it does seem time to reflect upon my summer activities.  Much of my time this summer was spent attending and presenting at various conferences: in May I spoke about various and innovative uses for LibGuides to a couple different groups of librarians; in June I attended the CALI conference, held this year in Chicago; and in July of course I attended and co-presented at the annual meeting of AALL, held this year in Seattle.  When I wasn’t traveling or preparing for these presentations, I was updating two of my research guides, badly in need of makeovers, and working on a long-term research project involving a lot of data analysis.  In addition, I began work on a couple more research guides and began collaborating with colleagues as we gear up for another year of teaching legal research.

Along the way, I learned a few things:

1. When it comes to work, you’re To Do list will never be a Done list – as one task finishes, two more begin, and the cycle continues; of course, this is ultimately a positive – you never want to be in a position that there is nothing left for you to do.

2. Research guides are never truly finished.  Once published, they require updating, including adding new sources, checking for broken links, and revising as source content and layout changes.  If you’re not updating your research guides, they lose their utility.

3. When it comes to research projects involving data analysis, whenever possible, keep at it until it’s done, even if you only work on it for an hour a day.  The project I’m working on has been a year in the making, with about a 6 month break in the middle; when I came back to the data, I found I ultimately had to start over to guard against mistakes and to reacquaint myself with the categories I had initially created.

With only two weeks until classes begin, the summer is unlikely to slow down, but I remain hopeful that I can make a little more progress on my To Do list before then.  (I am not naive enough to believe much progress will be made during the semester!)

I hope you’ve all had productive, yet restful, summers, and I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming academic terms!

Posted in Professional Development, Technology

SpringyCamp November 2012

My library subscribes to LibGuides, a dynamic, template-based approach to creating research guides.  Last week, Springshare (the company behind LibGuides) hosted an afternoon webinar called “SpringyCamp” during which presenters from schools all across the country gave presentations on their experiences with various Springshare products, LibGuides included.  Since LibGuides are still relatively new to us and so many of us are creating them, I signed my library up for this free webinar.  (Check out the recorded sessions.)  Though not blown away by every presentation, I did find the experience worthwhile, and generated several pages of ideas for our library.

I found the first session most informative, as it discussed one library’s experiences remodeling their LibGuides – a basic best practices presentation.  Anyone reading my blog knows that I tend toward the verbose, so it was good for me to learn that white space is considered a positive feature of a good research guide.  Too wordy and the guide looks busy.  In addition I garnered several more tips, such as positioning the boxes on a guide so that the most important information is most prominent.  With so many of us working on guides, a small group of us is working to establish some standards and best practices of our own – something that will allow each of us to put our own personality into the guides, but will also ensure that we follow the same set of guidelines.

I also found several of the other sessions illuminating, as they discussed other Springshare products I have heard of, but which our library does not currently have.  For instance, were we to adopt a chat or texting reference service, I believe we would go with LibAnswers, which not only allows for chat and text reference, but integrates with email reference as well.  LibAnswers is particularly helpful for the Knowledgebase it creates – essentially a FAQ based on the reference questions asked in these three formats.  One presenter estimated that 2/3 of his/her patrons’ questions were answered by the Knowledgebase.

We also had some interest LibCal, a calendar service of Springshare.  This has quite a bit of functionality, with the ability for patrons to sign up for events through the calendar and even an option to virtualize study room sign-ups.  Our students currently have to come into the library each morning to sign up for study rooms, first come, first served.  I imagine a virtual service for this would be quite popular.

As always, it was not just the content of the sessions that taught me a thing or two, but the execution of the webinar itself as well.  With two different sessions on LibAnswers and two different sessions on LibCal, I would have liked to have had these back to back; this would have allowed me to better compare the two presentations and get a better understanding of the full functionality of the products.  We also encountered a couple of presentations that alienated many attendees, as they focused on integrating Springshare products into specific Learning Management Systems, such as Blackboard and Moodle.  At IU we use a different LMS, so these programs were not useful for us – but the content easily could have been, had the presentations not focused so much on the LMS, and more on the product.  Finally, it is always important to remember the audience of the presentation.  There were one or two presenters who seemed to make the assumption that we all knew what the products were and how they worked; thus these presentations felt more like advisories on how to plan a project and less on showing us, practically, how we can all benefit from these products.

It was wonderful to have the Springshare staff on hand to answer our technical questions throughout the program.  Springshare products, in my experience, are very user friendly, work well mobilely, and seem to integrate well with each other.  Springshare offers excellent customer service when you have questions about their products, and they seem to build products that can truly enhance a library’s services.  I am glad to have participated in the webinar, and if another is offered in the spring I am likely to “attend” it as well!  There are always new things to be learned.