The Final Post!

I can’t believe next week will be my last week as a Scholars’ Commons intern! I am happy that the Zotero project has been completed, but the graduate project has morphed over the past few weeks. It began as a separate page on the library website, morphed into a possible LibGuide, and it now has been tucked away in order for us to address the overall structure of the Scholars’ Commons website. We found that addressing the information architecture to that landing page is the most crucial and time-sensitive matter. I will not be getting Drupal training until my second-to-last shift; so, I think there will be a few hours here and there that will be needed to get things done. With the library’s limited hours during the semester breaks, this may prove challenging; however, I am up for the challenge!

I have scheduled my final review with my supervisor on August 1. I will also begin working on my internship presentation!

The Unintended Consequences of Journal Writing

I am a firm believer that most experiences have something to teach you.  Ranging from the mundane to the profound, experiences provide opportunities to mine for nuggets of knowledge.  That being said, what kind of learner would I be if I did not take writing these journal entries as an opportunity for growth!  I viewed creating this blog as an opportunity to learn more about content management systems (in this case, WordPress).

When I got to my landing page, I wanted to customize it a bit.  The nice thing about WordPress is that little-to-no understanding of HTML/CSS is needed.  In fact, I think the primary intended audience are those without any web development understanding.  I at times would get frustrated by the way that text grouped into blocks and would switch to the code mode in order to better control my content (in particular, the creation of bulleted or numbered lists).  I also found that the site works better if you type directly into a post as opposed to copying in text.  That is not how I personally wanted to use this site, as I wanted a backup document with all of my journal entries in case something terrible went awry, but I can see why WordPress promotes this way of operation.

For the design of my blog, I wanted it to be cheery and full of pep.  I used a preset layout but then did some work with colors and images to jazz things up a bit.  I also made sure to use tags and categorization throughout my post for ease of search.  I am pretty happy with how things turned out in the end!  It has metadata AND a pineapple… what more can you want?

Resources for Reference Librarians

Today, I began moving on to my next project that considered graduate student resources; however, my supervisor and I began to see that we may need to consider the overall departmental page before creating a new guide.  Upon looking through our existing landing page, I realized that I couldn’t answer a fairly simple question: what is the Scholars’ Commons?  What is its mission?  Its motivation??  The reason for its very existence?  Addressing this overarching question helps us better guide patrons to services.

This conversation got me thinking even deeper about the purpose of a reference librarian, and I began exploring what kind of professional resources exist for reference librarians.  I went to the American Library Association page, and I started looking into the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) division.  In addition to providing guiding principles for evaluating resources, RUSA provides webinars and online courses related to reference.  Within the division, there are also subgroups related to individual interests, including BRASS (Business Reference and Services Section) and RSS (Reference Services Section).  These sections often have their own publications, events, and resources; so, helpful information is not lacking within the RUSA division!  I was able to access the majority of these resources without logging into my ALA account and will take a look through the site as I think more critically about the guiding purpose of the Scholars’ Commons.    

Project One Done: Reflections

I’m so excited that the Zotero project is complete!  Feel free to check out the updates on the website.

The main things that I am proud of in this new LibGuide:

  • condensing of information, including the removal of outdated features
  • reordering information, leading to an improved information architecture
  • better complying to ADA standards by applying alternative text to all images
  • the use of tabs to group information, leading to pages being less “scrolly” and more compact

Outside of just learning  LibGuides (which was a huge goal for me!), there are two personal achievements:

  • I was able to take ownership or a project and make edits with minimal feedback.  I had to trust my own academic training and time management to get this done.
  • I persevered through some major health challenges.  I had major surgery 3 weeks ago and developed a terrible secondary infection afterward.  I began to think that there was no way I could keep pushing forward (a full time job AND full time grad school AND an internship…what was I thinking?!?!?!?!?!).  But I’m doing it! I can’t believe I only have two weeks left.

In these final two weeks, I am excited to move on to my next project: compiling library resources that will be shared system-wide with new graduate students to IUB. I may be creating another LibGuide for this next project, and I will take the lessons I have learned into that work. 

Creating Book Displays

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing, the Scholar’s Commons has a new exhibit set up in the West Tower.  I was able to help select materials for this exhibit, and there are a few things I learned:

  • Locating visually interesting materials can be challenging.

To create a compelling display, I wanted to locate books of varying sizes, colors, and subjects; however, the IU Libraries typically remove the dust jacket for books in the Stacks.  With the dust jacket removed, so many books have the same black cover.  In collaboration with my co-workers, we tried to weed out having too many books with the same exact cover.  We tried to keep those content-crucial books, but we filled out some of the rest of the collection with paperbacks.

  • Locating diverse materials can also be challenging.

Particularly with a subject that is so dominated by White, middle-to-upper-class men, it became challenging to bring diverse voices into the collection.  Our team tried to locate materials about forgotten voices in the Apollo project (similar to the film Hidden Figures), but we also tried to expand beyond just historical data and explore the general topic of the moon and space.  In doing so, we were able to locate some folklore collections around the moon, some international art pieces, and a couple novels that expanded the collection.

Creating Resource Guides

I’m back at work after surgery and am a) jumping right back into my projects and b) thankful for the somewhat sedentary nature of behind-the-scenes-librarianship!

I have not yet finished my Zotero LibGuide, although it is coming along quite well!  Today, I received some training related to my next project: creating a resource page for graduate students.  Originally, we were thinking that this page would be housed on the library’s main page, but we are now considering putting this information into a LibGuide as well.  I am a bit disappointed that I won’t get to learn Drupal, but I have already begun to consider things I would do differently with this new LibGuide.  The two main things are:

Start from scratch.

With my Zotero LibGuide, I tried so hard to incorporate the information already on the page and, while this was helpful sometimes, most of the time, it was cumbersome.  So much of the information was outdated, and trying to rearrange content within a LibGuide proved more difficult than I imagined.  As the only existing LibGuide for new graduate students that I found is very outdated (possibly over 5 years old), I just want to scrap it and start anew

Continue to explore information architecture practices for LibGuides vs. web.

I have now talked with an IU Libraries web experience professional and a LibGuides professional, and they definitely have diverging opinions on best practices for the web.  I am going to need to assess my audience a bit more (and talk to my supervisor) to determine whose opinion reigns supreme for this new LibGuide.  I want to create something of which I am proud; so, I also want to trust my own inclinations and teachings. 

Project One: Mission (Almost) Accomplished

I have spent the past couple of days getting more hands-on experience with LibGuides, and I have officially rearranged the official IU guide!  It is live!  Woohoo!

I still need to do some content editing, but I’ve done a significant amount of information pruning already.  The page now looks much cleaner.  Even though I had several thoughts on the IA before getting started, once I got in and started playing around with rearranging pages, things began to feel like they more naturally belonged in other areas.  I attribute this in part to me knowing Zotero on a much deeper level, but there is some intangible thing I cannot put my finger on as to why things just fall into more logical place when you are in the weeds. 

I will be out of the office next week for surgery, but I’m hoping that coming in with fresh eyes the week after will help me see if the new edits I made were for good or ill. I will also begin work on Project 2 when I come back; so, let’s hope I heal well…and not just for project completion purposes!

Reflections on the Reference Desk

I have talked quite a bit about the projects that I am doing in my internship, but I have not delved into the front-facing aspect of my internship.  I work for several hours at the Scholars’ Commons Reference Desk each week, and although the summer is slower than during the academic year, I still face some challenging questions.  What this portion of my internship has taught me is just how much I enjoy the educational piece of librarianship.  My favorite part of working the reference desk is when I am able to teach someone how to find information.  Just finding the appropriate places to search can be a challenge, and then once someone is in the right place, employing the best search strategies is something else entirely.  I enjoy getting to explain how a trick like conducting a Boolean search can help someone locate more relevant information. 

This topic may wax philosophical, but I think one of the major issues in access we have today is not actually access itself.  Instead, the issue is finding appropriate (and factual!) information.  We can now easily type a query into Google and get a response, but this does not mean that the information is reliable.  It may be biased, outdated, or blatantly incorrect, and basic information literacy training is important in helping someone navigate the information retrieval process. Teaching how to critically analyze information is something that I enjoy, which makes since with my significant work experience in higher education. I’m hopeful I can bring this love of learning into a future career!

Developing LibGuides on the Back-End

Today, I went to a training on a behind-the-scenes look at using LibGuides.  Having looked at the experience just from the front end so far, it was interesting to learn more about the back-end features of the Springshare software.  The software felt immediately familiar, with editing features similar to other content management systems like WordPress.  Little-to-no actual web programming knowledge is necessary to use LibGuides, even for more robust features like embedding databases or image carousels.

One thing that I found particularly interesting is how the LibGuides talk to each other.  You can easily copy over the content from one guide to another, even if you are not the owner of that guide.  Creative Commons licensing takes sharing one step further, allowing someone outside of your institution to use materials you have published for non-commercial use.  I used this information to do a bit more research into other schools’ LibGuides on Zotero.  I still think I am moving in the right direction with the information architecture overhaul that I had in mind, but I may be able to copy over some of the content from other universities. 

Comparing Citation Management Software Usage at Big 10 Institutions

Now that I understand a bit more about Zotero, I wanted to dig deeper and learn about other citation management software. In perusing many websites, including the comparison chart offered by IU Libraries, there seem to be 2 heavy hitters in the citation management scene: Zotero and EndNote. I have heard of EndNote before and, personally, am not a fan because a) it costs money and b) I find it less intuitive to use.  I was unsure if other institutions used similar citation management software, and I wanted to explore this topic.

To research, I decided to look at information about citation management posted on main library websites for Big 10 institutions.  I focused solely on citation software management systems for which the institution had published some kind of information and not just mentioned the software in passing.  The following chart displays the results that I found:

It appears that EndNote and Zotero truly are king; however it could be worth exploring solutions like Mendeley or Refworks.  At least 3 institutions publish information about Mendeley and/or Refworks on their sites, and understanding these citation software management systems could be helpful in future research.