Reference Activity – Subject Guide Service Review

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    • #1004
      Tracey Allen

      Librarians have used subject guides in one form or another since the early twentieth century.  The first subject guides were lengthy bibliographies of resources relating to a particular topic.  Subject guides have remained as a staple at libraries ever since.  Morris & Bosque describe subject guides “as lists of recommended resources of varying types (such as books, articles or websites)”. With the advancement of technology the reference librarian has had to adapt subject guides to the changing media.

      Wakeham et al. suggest the following criteria to evaluate a subject guide:

      • Type of guide
      • Purpose of guide
      • Scope
      • Format and printability
      • Date of origin and revision
      • Explanation of key terms /use of jargon /readability
      • Ease of online use
      • Design
      • Notes
      • Location

      I used the QUT subject guide service to assist in my research for an assignment.  The results of my evaluation are as follows:

      • Type of guide – Subject Guide.
      • Purpose of guide – to help students complete their assessment in the unit by including books, journals, Library of Congress Subject Headings, one-on-one assignment help, and video tutorials.
      • Scope – IFN617 unit.
      • Format and printability – Springshare platform, able to print in HTML.
      • Date of origin and revision – No origin mentioned, date last revised 21 July 2015.
      • Explanation of key terms /use of jargon /readability – Key terms are defined, very easy to read and navigate on the website.
      • Ease of online use – direct link from Unit site works well, but unable to locate link to guide on Library website via Search.
      • Design – Font, icons and colour are all easy to view and read.
      • Notes – Links provided all worked except for one. Links to books and articles are to the Library Catalogue. Videos, Email Alert and Links to Assignment Help Options from the Library.
      • Location – online.

      Overall I found the subject guide great, as a starting off point to further study, as I am new to the Information Science field.  I do concede though that for those familiar with Managing Collections it may not be as helpful.  The literature does provide some negatives to subject guides.  Maintaining and especially evaluating subject guides takes considerable time.  Therefore many guides are outdated or forgotten about.

      Given my positive experience, it was interesting to read that Kate’s opinion was “that most of the libraries that still create subject guides shouldn’t be producing them at all”.  Surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with Kate after investigating other subject guides and the literature.  As Morris states “Although it is important not to use technology unless it fulfills a need, most libraries have failed to integrate even the most basic of Web 2.0 technologies on their subject pages.”

      When I did my undergrad degree, we didn’t have access to subject guides (that I knew of!!).   Though, I did have a textbook or four.  Studying in today’s Web 2.0 environment is completely different and I believe there is a place for subject guides still.  I believe that as a service/product for libraries, subject guides need to stay current but more importantly meet user needs.  I feel that the QUT IFN617 subject guide is both technologically current and meets user needs.

      • This topic was modified 7 years, 7 months ago by Tracey Allen.
      • This topic was modified 7 years, 7 months ago by Tracey Allen.
    • #1007
      Ruth McConchie

      Thanks Tracey, I really enjoyed your post about subject guides. I’m a huge fan of subject guides too. The one thing that I wish subject guides included is more imput from students. I think that the subject guides could be hacked to form a more collaborative space/ wiki where peer-to-peer learning is encouraged and trends can be explored. Do you think that subject guides could be improved by being more collaborative or would it be detrimental?

    • #1140
      Tracey Allen

      Hey Ruth,

      I think that having a section for students to add resources and discuss current issues would be great.  Though I think the unit co-ordinators would still have to have the final say in the resources provided.




    • #1250
      Tracey Allen

      Hey Kate,

      Just edited to change the hyperlinks to open in a new tab/window.

    • #1289
      Chris Sonneveld

      Thank you for the great post Tracey. I’ve never been a fan of Subject Guides as they are usually outdated and if they are updated they are done so by only a handful of people. I definitely agree that it would be beneficial to treat them like a Wiki or another form of collaborative space. Curation is definitely a concern as you would like them to be updated with relevant information from credible sources.

    • #1873
      Steven Walker

      Hi Tracey,

      I have found subject guides to be particularly exemplary for me, as I’m presently doing a Project Unit relating to Privacy and Security with reference and critiquing since the introduction of the recent legislation on Data Retention and Piracy. I have used the subject guides to assist me with finding specific materials and finding targeted academic literature required for my studies. So its an excellent reflection on how you have used it and sharing your experience.

      • This reply was modified 7 years, 6 months ago by Steven Walker. Reason: spelling
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