So We're Publishers Now

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					     »    tech tips for every librarian                               b y d o n n a f. e k a r t g u e s t c o l u m n i s t f o r j e s s a m y n w e s t

         So We’re Publishers Now
             First, a disclaimer: I’m not Jessamyn      You may have heard the phrase “the                  and new book lists; and to move tradi-
         West. My name is Donna Ekart, and I’m       democratization of the tools of produc-                tional reference services online through
         a librarian and the communications co-      tion.” It was made popular by the buzz                 instant messaging. They also tend to
         ordinator at K-State Libraries in Man-      surrounding Chris Anderson’s long tail                 humanize online research by putting
         hattan, Kan. I like to think and talk       writings. One can point to things such                 staff photos and contact information
         about how libraries deliver technology      as YouTube, blogs, and wikis as proof                  front and center. Let’s check out some
         to their patrons, and Jessamyn is being     that many once-rarefied arts—video                     ways to replicate these features with
         kind enough to share her space with me      production, web publishing—are now                     easy and free tools.
         now and then this year.                     available to the
             Although it’s not typically how your    masses. To apply
         average person conceives of libraries, I    this concept to
         think libraries have acted as publish-      subject guides,
         ers, or at least content creators, for a    we’ll want to
         very long time. Librarians have always      figure out what
         been bibliographers, collecting, listing,   makes the ex-
         and annotating for their patrons, and       pensive or com-
         instructional content is likely as old as   plex software’s
         the first open stacks. Library publish-     end products
         ing is becoming more and more obvi-         appealing and
         ous now, as librarians can publish to       then find ways
         the web to their hearts’ content. In this   to mimic those
         month’s Tech Tips, I’d like to focus on     features with
         the publication of subject guides (or re-   easy and free
                                                                        Ithaca College Library’s SubjectsPlus installation includes “Try These First” pop-ups to get basic
         search guides or study guides—call          tools.             researchers straight to simple resources.
         them what you will), and how you
         might use a few simple tools to make
                                                     You Can Pay                                                  Or You Can Publish Your Way
         them more dynamic and useful for
         your patrons.                               to Publish Their Way                                            Subject guides fail because they are
             In academic libraries, guides are          Two of the best software packages                         relegated to dusty lists of links, they
         usually discipline-specific and research-   out there for subject guides are Lib-                        are seldom updated, and they are left
         intensive, while public libraries might     Guides and SubjectsPlus. LibGuides is                        to become obsolete. Broken links and
         trend more toward community infor-          hosted and more or less ready to go,                         outdated information don’t encourage
         mation and general interest topics such     but you’re going to have to pay for it.                      your patrons to trust that you are en-
         as gardening or music. Regardless of        SubjectsPlus is free, open source soft-                      gaged with their interests. However,
         their intended uses, subject guides can     ware, but you’ll likely need a pro-                          there are simple things you can do with
         be invaluable places for people to begin    grammer to do the install and to help                        a basic web-based subject guide to
         to gather information from a variety of     with customizations. Both packages                           make it more interesting and dynamic
         sources. There are many tools to help       have common features, though, and                            and, therefore, more useful to your pa-
         you bu
Description: [...] a disclaimer: I'm not Jessamyn West. Both packages have common features, though, and selling points include the abilities to organize any type of multimedia including videos, podcasts, and images; to include dynamic content such as RSS feeds, "canned" database searches, and new book lists; and to move traditional reference services online through instant messaging.
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