By Beth German
Library Guides have long been a mainstay in reference and user services. With the proliferation of SpringShare’s LibGuide system, creating guides has been easier than ever. However, despite the ease of creating a guide, designing a high quality guide remains elusive. Most best practices and tutorials focus on teaching to the tool (how to create boxes or add links) and few address developing high quality content and design. A checklist can be useful in bringing the focus back to the content in order to make your guide useful and usable for your users. (sample checklist)
The steps for creating a checklist are straight forward:
- Determine the overarching areas that you’d like to focus on (this can be done by either looking at your Best Practices or simply by brainstorming).
- Develop each of the individual items for each area.
- Publish the checklist where guide creators have access to it.
Here are four suggestions with the rationale of a checklist from one academic library but you can adapt any of the areas or items to fit the needs at your institution.
Suggestion 1: Writing for the Web
Writing for the Web is one of the most important things that you can do to make your guide useful to your users. Libraries are often heavy with jargon or too many links. Following best practices for writing for the web will help with this but the checklist will help guide creators know what they should be aiming for.
- Page titles are clear
- Clear headers and sub-headers
- Content is chunked
- Limit jargon
- Short sentences and paragraphs
- Use bullets and lists
- Good balance with white space
Suggestion 2: Universal Design
It is important for all users to be able to use your guide. Beyond just being the right thing to do, designing with universal design in mind will create a better experience for all users. It is often also the law. The checklist will remind guide owners/developers what they should be looking for when creating their guides.
- Use alt-text for images
- Captions in videos
- Color is not solely used to convey information
- Sufficient contrast is provided
- Guide is understandable even without style
- Run your guide through Wave (http://wave.webaim.org) to check the usability of your guide
Suggestion 3: Quality Assurance
At the end of the day, you need things to work. Nothing is more frustrating to a user than to visit a guide and receive “link not found” errors. Quality assurance can also be a step for guide creators to take a step back and think, “If I can’t make sure my guide works, maybe I have too much content on my guide.”
- All links work
- Check spelling throughout guide
- Look at guide in different browsers
Suggestion 4: Local Practices
We’ve all made best practices or customizations for our instances that guide owners need to remember to make our systems work. They could vary from adding a particular tag or using the right syntax for naming your guide.
- Add subject associations
- Reuse links from A-Z databases
- Reuse assets and images when applicable
- Set a date within 6 months to review your guide
By Dana Von Berg
At the University of Arizona Libraries we have a professional book making machine known as the Espresso Book Machine which produces professional, self-published books. It is ideal for anyone interested in self-publishing their work. Examples include aspiring authors preferring to bypass expensive publishing houses, individuals who would like to publish their memoirs or a graduate student who wants to make copies of their dissertation to give to family and friends. Recently an instructor for a beginning photography course had each of his students print a book of their photographic portfolios as their final project. The Espresso Book Machine was used for printing these student portfolios. It produced very clear, high quality color prints of each student’s photographs. There are very few of these machines in the country so the University of Arizona Libraries feel very fortunate to be able to provide this service for customers. For more information, please visit our website at: http://www.library.arizona.edu/services/self-publishing.
By J. David Midyette
Well, RUSA Voices has launched and has been getting quite a few looks by interested folks. I want to thank all of the folks behind the scenes (you know who you are) for getting things started with our posts about the ALA meetings in San Francisco. I wanted to go, but couldn’t make it this year. However, the posts by our diligent ALA correspondents certainly brought home some of the information and flavor of a successful conference. Following on that success, I want to put a call out to all RUSA and non-RUSA folks to contribute to RUSA Voices. This is YOUR blog for YOUR ideas and concerns, so Raise Your Voice and speak to your fellow librarians!
Writing a blog post can be as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be. Your colleagues want to hear from you about your trials and tribulations, your successes and challenges, but mostly, they just want to hear what’s important to you in your professional lives. While RUSA is focused on reference and user services, that is still an incredibly broad category, and provides innumerable options for sharing of information. How is your transition to LibGuides 2.0 coming? What are your challenges in collecting quantitative and qualitative data to prove your worth? What new reference services are red hot topics? How are old concepts and techniques being applied in new and novel ways? Is Google still putting us out of business or is it just reshaping how we help people connect to information?
Still not convinced? Send me an email or give me a call! I’ll help you work through the process of putting fingers to keys. It really can be as simple as sitting down and typing out your string of consciousness about a topic. We can work from there to refine and shape your writing. Heck, it may be perfect the way it is! The point is that you have a Voice and it needs to be heard. You may think to yourself that you have nothing interesting or novel to say (I know I listened to my inner voice saying that for far too long), but in truth, you have a lot to say and it WILL interest people. While many of us live at the bleeding edge of technology, others bide their time and wait to see how these new technologies express themselves through patron usage. Twitter is an awesome tool, but it has changed immensely from the beginning. Think about what you do on a daily basis and simply report on some of the unique things, even if they seem mundane.
I love editing people’s writing and helping them shape their ideas. Send me something and let me help you get started. Write a blog post for RUSA Voices and put it in your resume. Posts can be more academic or more practical in orientation; it’s up to you and your interests. You don’t have to agonize over things, just get something down and send it in; we will go from there together . . . We will make sure that your colleagues hear your Voice and share what you have to say! I look forward to working with you, now sit down and write something!
Editor, RUSA Voices