The Embedded Librarian: Integrating Library Resources into Course Management Systems


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  • Integrating library resources into course management systems like Sakai, Blackboard and Moodle has become a hot topic over the last couple of years. Today I’d like to talk about what we have done at Duke University to embed course-specific library resources and instructional tools into our CMS, which is Blackboard.
  • During this session, I plan to give some background and history of our project and an overview of how we have become embedded into Blackboard over the last four semesters. I’ll give a brief overview of the technical components involved – I don’t want to get too bogged down in the techie details, but I do think it’s worth mentioning how we have made this happen, and I hope that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple the process really is. I’ll, of course, address WHY we’ve gone to the trouble of doing this – what we think we librarians are getting out of it, what we think faculty and students are getting out of it. And then, finally, I’d like to hear from you – I know that we are certainly not the only ones who are experimenting with course management systems, and I think that we would all benefit from hearing what has worked or not worked at your institutions. As I tell my students when I’m in the classroom, this session is for you, so please stop me, slow me down, etc. if you have questions as I’m moving through my slides… I hope that this can be a conversation about the work that we’re all doing – or hoping to do – in this arena.
  • Students – undergrads, in particular LiBQUAL+ 2007 showed that only 19% of undergrads access library resources through the Libraries homepage, while 80% use non-library gateways for info needs So…it’s not surprising that students think they have to pay for articles they find on the so-called free web or that we hear again and again that I “didn’t find out about the library until grad school” Not enough simply to list contact info on the libraries homepage and hope that students come to the ref desk – we need to be where they are We need to be where students are, at their points of need – no easy feat considering that Duke students are in a number of places One common place to almost every Duke student’s experience: Blackboard In spring 2007, added a content item called “Ask a Librarian” to every Bb site
  • Students clicked on “Ask a Librarian” and were taken to the 2007 iteration of this page…
  • Got very little traffic – students simply didn’t notice the menu item, and Bb stats showed us that the item was seldom clicked Even if they did, it provided little added value for students
  • So, we knew that Ask a Librarian was not cutting it, and many had proposed an ideal scenario: Ideal scenario: include subject librarian’s contact info and links to course-specific instructional resources in ALL course sites Committee was formed by Associate University Librarian for Public Services – we had buy-in from the top! Libns in Bb: 3 librarians, 1 staff member from Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology, which is part of library 3 librarians asked a dozen faculty to give them “coursebuilder access” to their individual Blackboard course sites. This status enabled librarian to add a content item entitled “Library Links” and then populate this Blackboard “page” using a template designed by the working group
  • Mention menu items (Library Links AND Ask a Librarian) Place for librarians’ contact information Note about their involvement in the course site Links to general Libraries resources (stacks guides, lists of subject librarians, etc.) Feeds from social bookmarking sites such as Connote Space for links to subject-specific databases, library resources students might find useful for particular assignments, subject guides hosted on the Libraries website, help pages for citing sources or using EndNote or RefWorks, and short animated tutorials. Evaluation Surveyed 210 students in 16 courses – some with Library Links, some without Nearly 65% of students who had Library Links in their course sites indicated that they were “more likely to contact a librarian,” while only 43% of students who did not have Library Links in their course sites indicated that they would be “more likely to contact a librarian.” Approximately 60% of surveyed students indicated that they found Library Links to be “somewhat useful”; 34% found Library Links “very useful.” Approximately 28% of surveyed students reported using Library Links 4-6 times over the course of the semester; 50% claimed to have used it 1-3 times Interviewed all faculty involved; they all liked Library Links and hoped project would continue – weren’t sure how much students were using Library Links and realized that they could do more to market it in class – said they would in future classes Librarians noted benefits, as well: email/announcements/syllabi/course readings
  • So moved forward…encouraged other librarians to join project in Spring 2008: 16 librarians became coursebuilders of 56 Blackboard course sites Once again, asked for faculty and student feedback – feedback was positive Fall 2008: Librarians in Blackboard and Subject Portals Task Force merged
  • Process remains same – I am asked to be made a coursebuilder; I go in and add Library Guides (new name for Library Links) (Side note: I am enrolled in this course site and so could add announcements (this one for a survey for students on value of Library Guides) Students click Library Guides menu item and instead of seeing this page (GO TO SLIDE 7, then to LAST VIEWED SLIDE) – a new tab or window opens, and they see this page
  • Includes many of the same links and resources suggested by Librarians in Blackboard the year before Added: picture of librarian, better organization (multiple tabs, for instance), IM chat widget Evaluation at end of fall 2008: Fall 2008: 16 librarians developed guides for 58 course sites Librarians love LibGuides and feel tool helps facilitate enhanced collaboration with students and faculty Students are using these guides! 58 course sites received 12,737 hits between August and December (inc librarians’ hits) – more traffic than Library Links; anecdotally, they tell us they like LibGuides interface better than Bb interface (basically the same info) Faculty continue to support project, hope it will grow; some even noted that they feel they’re seeing improvement in students’ work as a result of Library Guides PAIRED with instruction
  • About mid-way through the fall semester, we begin addressing the issue that our current system, while beneficial to the students, faculty and librarians who are part of it, is simply not scalable. It’s not realistic to expect that librarians would ever be able to integrate instructional tools into all (or even a majority) of Duke’s 2,800 course sites using the current, manual system – in each of the previous semesters, librarians had been enrolled in approximately TWO percent of all course sites. Fortunately for us, when Librarians in Bb and Subject Portals Task Force merged, we gained a member of the university’s Blackboard support staff Group began to discuss ways to automate the inclusion of Library Guides Hope, of course, was to link all students either to subject-specific LibGuides or a LibGuide with general information about accessing library resources. Thanks to our member of the Blackboard support staff and a programmer who works in the Libraries’ Systems Staff, we were able to come up with a process that would enable the Library Guides button to appear automatically in EVERY course site beginning this semester So, how does this work?
  • IN A NUTSHELL… Javascript redirects users to an on-the-fly URL with a Blackboard-defined variable (variable is the subject code for the course; e.g. ARTHIST, PUBPOL). The on-the-fly URL points to a middleware tool -- in our case, Django, which is an open source “web framework that encourages rapid development” that allowed our programmer to develop the database that we needed in a little over a day Django database reads the on-the-fly URL, matching the Blackboard-defined variable to the corresponding LibGuide (or other webpage) that a subject librarian created for that particular subject code. It then places the corresponding URL in the Library Guides menu item.
  • Librarians have complete control over the Django database, virtually any URL – ranging from the Duke Libraries homepage to a specialized LibGuide created with the needs and assignments of a particular group of students in mind – may be pulled automatically into Blackboard System is dynamic, the page that users see when they click on Library Guides may be instantly changed at any point in the semester by simply entering a new URL in the Django database. Many of these pages are already created – librarians simply send up the URLs for the database
  • Librarians looked at codes, determined which apply to their areas of expertise – provided URLs to LibGuides or more traditional subject guides, many of which were already created Law, medical and divinity libraries also provided URLs (some LibGuides, some links to their research pages, some links to their homepages) So… now when a student enrolled in a Canadian studies course with the subject code “CANADIAN” clicks on Library guides in her course site, she is taken to this page:
  • Margaret, who is our subject librarian for Canadian studies, has NOT had to ask the professor of this course to make her a course builder or go into the course to add the Library Guides button; she simply provided the link to this guide to me, I put it in the django database, and Blackboard matched the subject code of this course to this particular guide and populated the Guides button accordingly Of course, we’ve encourage all librarians to create pages like this for all codes that apply to their work and to supply us with the URLs for the Django database Not all subject codes, however, have specific URLs -- some don’t neatly match librarians’ areas of expertise, some librarians haven’t provided URLs for their subject areas Codes that have NO URL in the django database point to a general “introduction to library research” guide
  • Includes tips and links for general research help – tutorials, RefWorks/EndNote info, general announcements We encourage faculty to contact us to create course-specific guides
  • Show public view Modifty AAAS; show preview option Back to PPt SLIDESHOW
  • Because process is applied to 2800 courses, there are times when it doesn’t work perfectly For instance, interdisciplinary (cross-listed) courses may have 2, 3, or 4 codes assigned to them; Bb arbitrarily selects one of these codes for its purposes, and this is the code that determines which URL is automatically linked Faculty members have been informed of this project and are encouraged to contact subject librarians if they feel that the LibGuide that has been mapped to their course is inappropriate Librarians hope that more professors will take advantage of their willingness to modify the automatically linked guides to correspond more closely with students’ research needs
  • As noted earlier, we have the same note in our "default" guide -- hope faculty will take us up on our offer to create course-specific guides!
  • Has led to additional opps to work with faculty – word about Library Guides has spread, and more and more faculty want course-specific guides added to their sites Faculty also see Library Guides in their Bb sites and contact librarians – may not have otherwise done so Access to course materials makes planning instruction sessions easier Librarians also enjoy having access to course email lists – they may send email with additional sources they’ve found, relieves pressure of one-shot library instruction session – can always email students later They also see email from faculty and so know if assignments have been altered, due dates changed, etc.
  • Director of the Writing Studio, who also teaches undergraduate courses, was so impressed with the direct link to library resources within Blackboard and the LibGuides interface that she contacted the task force and asked if the Writing Studio could piggy-back on the group’s efforts. We considered a number of options and decided to give the Studio a LG account so that they could create a tab called “Writing Studio Links” Tab is featured in the LibGuide linked to all courses with the WRITING subject code, as well as to the general LibGuide that appears in all courses with no predetermined URL.
  • Looks like this... Borrowed language we used when we started the project (Library Links) Members of the Writing Studio customize their general “Writing Studio Links” tab to match the requests of faculty members teaching particular Writing courses
  • After LibGuides interface was introduced in Fall 2008, interviewed librarians, students and faculty – positive feedback from all three groups End of Spring 2009 (next couple of weeks): most comprehensive evaluation… Students who access the Library Guides menu item are being surveyed ( go to slide 8 – then go to LAST VIEWED slide ) to gauge the usefulness of the guides Results of one class: All 30 respondents said the guide was somewhat (n=13) or very (n=17) useful. Student comments are uniformly positive, by the way (most didn't make any comments; that's typical). 29 of 30 say we should keep providing Libguides through Blackboard in the future. "require the meetings with a specific librarian during research courses. so many people don't understand the library website and don't realize the resources it has to offer" " Keep having the information sessions because I learned a lot from that class since I hardly ever used the library link until then." "Library guides was very helpful for me" Hits on guides accessed within Blackboard will be analyzed – as of last week, intro guide had received nearly 1400 hits; our 200ish published LibGuides received nearly 50,000 hits this semester (of course, some of these are linked to places other than Blackboard, and this number does include librarians’ hits, but still – these pages were clearly viewed this semester) Numbers of course-specific and subject-specific guides will be scrutinized -- we already know that there were 49 course-specific guides created this semester; we would like for that number to continue to grow… Mention that appendix with full plan is in proceedings
  • Evaluation: Will track guide hits, numbers of guides created Will gather anecdotal evidence from faculty, students and librarians
  • We’re certainly not the only ones doing work in this area…what has worked well (or not so well…) at your institutions? What questions do you have for me? END SHOW
  • The Embedded Librarian: Integrating Library Resources into Course Management Systems

    1. 1. The Embedded Librarian: Integrating Library Resources into Course Management Systems Emily Daly Instruction & Outreach Librarian Perkins Library, Duke University
    2. 2. This session <ul><li>Background and history </li></ul><ul><li>How we’ve gotten where we are </li></ul><ul><li>Technical components </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions and discussion </li></ul>
    3. 3. Why become embedded? <ul><li>Students want library resources online, at their fingertips (surprise!) </li></ul><ul><li>Students don’t know what the library offers </li></ul><ul><li>We want to be where our students are, at their points of need </li></ul><ul><ul><li>70% of Duke courses use Blackboard; led us to include “Ask a Librarian” </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Ask a Librarian
    5. 5. Ask a Librarian
    6. 6. Becoming embedded… <ul><li>Ideal scenario was proposed – how do we turn vision into a more global reality? </li></ul><ul><li>Form a committee… </li></ul><ul><li>Librarians in Blackboard was born </li></ul><ul><li>Fall 2007: Pilot </li></ul>
    7. 7. Library Links
    8. 8. Library Links to Library Guides <ul><li>Spring 2008: Brought more librarians on board </li></ul><ul><li>Subject Portals Task Force formed, recommended purchase of LibGuides </li></ul><ul><li>Fall 2008: Natural to transition from Bb interface to LibGuides interface </li></ul>
    9. 9. Library Guides
    10. 10. Course-specific Library Guide
    11. 11. From manual to automated <ul><li>By middle of Fall 2008, realized that process is NOT scalable, began exploring automation </li></ul><ul><li>Spring 2009: “Library Guides” automatically appeared in EVERY course site </li></ul>
    12. 12. How? <ul><li>User clicks on “Library Guides” </li></ul><ul><li>Javascript redirects user to an on-the-fly URL with Bb variable (subject code) </li></ul><ul><li>URL points to django database </li></ul><ul><li>Database reads the URL and matches variable to LibGuide/webpage for that subject code </li></ul><ul><li>New URL placed in “Library Guides” </li></ul>
    13. 13. Benefits of method <ul><li>Flexible – ANY URL may be placed in the database (LibGuide, Library website, list of databases) </li></ul><ul><li>Dynamic – URLs in django database may be changed at any point </li></ul><ul><li>Comprehensive – EVERY site at Duke now has “Library Guides” button </li></ul>
    14. 14. <ul><li>Task Force asked subject librarians to provide URLs for 260 subject codes </li></ul><ul><li>Included professional libraries </li></ul><ul><li>By start of Spring 2009, had URLs for 68% of all subject codes </li></ul>Have process – need content!
    15. 15. Subject-specific Library Guide
    16. 16. “Default” Library Guide
    17. 17. Using the django database <ul><li>Let’s try it out … </li></ul>
    18. 18. Using the django database
    19. 19. Using the django database
    20. 20. Informing faculty of project
    21. 21. Informing faculty of project
    22. 22. Benefits to being embedded <ul><li>Increased and enhanced collaboration with faculty and students </li></ul><ul><li>Access to students’ syllabi, assignments and course readings </li></ul><ul><li>Made privy to course communication (email, announcements) </li></ul>
    23. 23. Unexpected benefit <ul><li>Has led to increased collaboration with Duke’s Writing Studio </li></ul>
    24. 24. Writing Studio Links
    25. 25. <ul><li>Evaluated our efforts at every step of the way </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage librarians to continue to become coursebuilders in course sites </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage librarians to continue to develop/enhance subject guides </li></ul>Maintain, sustain, assess
    26. 26. Next steps <ul><li>Committee will formally disband in June </li></ul><ul><li>Representative will continue to support embedded librarians and maintain django database </li></ul><ul><li>Will continue to evaluate effectiveness of program </li></ul>
    27. 27. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Special thanks to the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Librarians in Blackboard and </li></ul><ul><li>Subject Portals Task Force </li></ul><ul><li>LibGuides and Django Project </li></ul><ul><li>Instruction & Outreach Department </li></ul><ul><li>Former AUL Tom Wall, who envisioned this project and formed Librarians in Blackboard committee </li></ul>
    28. 28. Show and tell <ul><li>What are you doing at your institutions? </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? </li></ul>
    29. 29. Stay in touch! <ul><li>Emily Daly </li></ul><ul><li>Instruction and Outreach Librarian </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>919.660.5879 </li></ul>