Rethinking the LibGuide course page: A collaboration of two minds addressing the three instructional areas of library, research, and writing.
Unlike many universities that hire young adjuncts to teach writing courses, the UCSC Writing Program has a stable, mature faculty of experienced writing lecturers. Many teach a rhetoric and inquiry course with set goals, which include teaching methods of research. The faculty develop individually themed courses with different writing assignments, addressing the research goal by sending their classes to the university library where a reference librarian provided hands-on library instruction. The instructors liked the arrangement because some of them lacked in-depth knowledge of the library’s diverse research tools, and it lessened their workload.
In summer 2012, the Library Management Group, under pressure from ongoing budget cuts, attrition of librarian positions, and a restructuring in response to shifting library priorities, charged the library instruction coordinator with moving the popular library one-shot writing sessions to an online model. With the help of three writing instructors and one student, the coordinator investigated repurposing existing online modular tutorials and started plans for a small pilot project spanning two quarters. The pilot findings indicated that some writing instructors made use of the online materials provided, however, most wanted a way to replicate what they considered important: database demonstrations and hands-on time. The librarian adjusted her plans to support writing instructors in their new role.
Initially, many faculty were dismayed by the loss of service, including one instructor with a strong background in research who received specially-designed library sessions aimed at her science-oriented students. The librarian and instructor agreed to collaborate so they could meet the students’ needs, with the collaborators visualizing a science-oriented LibGuide the instructor could use for demonstrations. But the instructor realized the LibGuide provided a location where students could return day or night if they had questions about accessing library resources, doing research, and recalling course content. So the collaborators then asked how a LibGuide could better meet the research, inquiry, and writing needs of both the students and their teacher.
With the teacher writing most of the content, the librarian organized the text into logical tabs and enhanced everything with links, thumbnails, and instructional videos. This represented a departure from typical LibGuides, which were authored exclusively by librarians. By working with the instructor’s content, the guide became more relevant to the course, and by extension the library profile was raised with the students, who reported using the guide for other science courses.
The science LibGuide was rolled out for Beta testing with two writing classes during winter 2013. When the students were surveyed about the LibGuide, their response was very favorable, with many offering suggestions for changes in the layout as well as other small improvements.
The revisions led to plans for expanding and supporting other writing faculty, with the collaborators interviewing and surveying more faculty.
By working together, the collaborators have a more complete understanding of the issues each faces and can see students problems from a different perspective. This has also sparked conversations about how the changing nature of university libraries affects what and how writing teachers teach.