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A truly comprehensive search tool for resources provided by libraries will continue to be a distant dream until daunting technical challenges are addressed. A Google-like search experience is desirable in some contexts, but a case can be made that hiding subject-specific article databases behind a comprehensive search tool is a disservice to researchers.
Librarians have a long history of addressing the complex landscape of the various resources they offer by crafting guides to library collections. These guides provide direct links to resources while educating inexperienced researchers about discipline-specific databases. Unfortunately, this solution creates more complexities in the research resource landscape. Web design skills often fall outside librarians’ expertise. As a result, library guides can add another confusing layer of pages that researchers must traverse in order to get to the materials they need. This issue is often further complicated by the features, and limitations, of various library guide products on the market.
There will never be a perfect template for library guides but there appears to be enough user research studies focused on guides to begin identifying trends. Such trends can be used to address common problems and allow library professionals to focus on issues that remain troublesome.
In this preliminary study, user research articles focused on library guides published between 1998 and 2017 were analyzed. Findings addressing user barriers in guides were recorded. These findings were further analyzed and clustered. The result is a list of guidelines based on the research literature. A detailed list of the references for each guideline will be shared in a future report.
Vess, D. (2017, June 6). Library Guides: An Aggregation of User Research from 1998 to 2017. Intentional Teaching Lecture Series, Research and Education Services Department, JMU Libraries & Educational Technologies, Harrisonburg, Va.