Librarians, it won’t be long now before your students and faculty are back and ready to tackle the spring semester. Like that new-notebook motivation, such enthusiasm can be contagious for staff, too, and university librarians are usually ready with tips for library instruction, resource promotion, and more to freshen up your toolkit for the new semester. Our university subscribers are getting a ton of use from our lists, bookmarks, and citation and sharing tools, and we can’t wait to see how students and faculty will be using the ACI Scholarly Blog Index in their upcoming courses. Faculty build reading lists, course assignments, and keep up with the thought leaders in their fields, while students find needed resources through an ACI search – but librarians also find really creative ways to use scholarly blogs in the library. In this post, we thought we’d share a few ideas for how you might incorporate scholarly blogs into your reference and instructional activities for the coming new year.
1. Add a section for scholarly blogs to your subject guides.
Almost all colleges and universities now direct students and faculty to comprehensive online subject guides created and maintained by university librarians, and most probably still offer a selection of print handouts, too. Because such research guides usually contain a variety of resource formats, including a section for scholarly blogs gives researchers the ability to include those primary sources in their research workflow. It may also address a specific research need, for example in cases where a researcher needs credentialed opinion or expert commentary on a key topic in his or her field. In addition, including a scholarly blog section also reinforces the availability of a collection specific to that resource type within your library’s holdings. ACI’s lists feature would work well for this, as you can include links that take them directly to the ACI entry, whether to a specific post page or to all posts for a blog. (ACI lists also have a cool “Print Handout” PDF feature for sharing a list digitally or in print.)
2. Build a scavenger hunt from some interesting posts.
Okay, so library scavenger hunts aren’t exactly innovative per se; I’ve been a librarian for twelve years now, and libraries were already using scavenger hunts long before I started. But whether paper or digital, scavenger hunts are usually still a hit; you just adapt them to the technologies and modes of communication as they continue to evolve. There are various ways to use scavenger hunts, but one popular use is in library introduction courses or seminars. To do this, you basically start backwards: find posts that would be very interesting (or very informative) to the hunters, extract the key terms or metadata affiliated with those posts, and build your questions with them. When you have a database with good search authority (like ACI), it’s fun to have students hunt for interesting blog posts given a specific keyword or search string, blog author, or subject. For students learning about both basic research and database navigation as well as the plethora of resources available in their libraries, scavenger hunts can be a fun guided-search experience. Consider letting students hunt in pairs, too; your library may get a little loud temporarily, but two students on the hunt together will usually feed off each other’s enthusiasm for a more collaborative learning experience.
3. Note access to scholarly blogs during faculty orientations or in subject liaison tools.
Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from hearing what resources their libraries can offer them. For example, most new faculty are probably aware of just a fraction of the full resources your library offers anyway. They might expect certain resources (specific journals, databases, or print collections) and be surprised by others (collaborative tools; multimedia resources). If your library participates in a new faculty orientation session, that’s a great opportunity to let them know they can access the scholars and thought leaders in their fields through the scholarly blog collection. Are you a liaison or subject specialist representing one or more disciplines for your university’s faculty? If so, this offers you a prime opportunity to showcase what’s available to them. What better way to introduce your charges to the value of your school’s ACI subscription than to present a sampling of blogs specific to their primary field?
4. Showcase blogs written by your university’s faculty, staff, and/or students.
Show off the research and scholarship of your university’s blogging faculty in your library’s blog, Twitter account, or website news item. Public relations staff at most colleges would also love to showcase their faculty and staff’s hard work, so a list of blogs by faculty presently teaching in your university – or just a list of recently-published posts – would likely present a welcome opportunity for press staff to boast a bit. Because ACI indexes a ton of content from scholars across the globe, you might be surprised to see just how many faculty in your university have blogs that are indexed in ACI right now. In addition, the collection includes scholarly blogs by students, librarians, and even alumni – so be sure to browse the ACI collection for your institution. (This blog post offers a step-by-step guide on how to find blogs affiliated with your school.) And if you know of a faculty, staff, or student research blog that isn’t in ACI, be sure to let us know so that other researchers in that field can find the hard work and scholarship of your university constituents when researching that discipline.
5. Give your library’s Googlers some unexpected options.
As we wrote in this previous ACI post, those using your library’s computers are often Googling it, whether to orient themselves to unfamiliar topics, to see what issues are currently being discussed in that field, or for numerous other reasons. Whether it’s a planned one-stop shop or a starting point to gather select terms before visiting your electronic databases, you can make their Google visits even more valuable by adding the ACI Google Search Chrome extension to your Chrome browsers. When the ACI extension is added, three scholarly blog posts relevant to your researcher’s search will appear just above the regular Google results. These posts are authored by scholars in those fields, giving your Googling researchers high-quality resource options in addition to whatever Web results would be presented. And because the scholarly posts are presented in an unintrusive way, they won’t detract from Google’s default results if your researcher really just wanted that Wikipedia entry to begin with. (Plus, if you’re a library subscriber, those visits will automatically redirect them to your university’s ACI portal, so you won’t miss the analytics and usage statistics that tell you how students are utilizing that collection.) The extension is free, so make a trial run of it: add the ACI Chrome extension for 30 days and then survey those using the library computers to see what they think.
6. Use the scholarly blog as an example of new media.
Scholarly blogs are an awesome example of new media. There are many catch phrases we could use here, but the relatively recent increase in blogs – and the increased acceptance of academic and research blogs as sources of valued contributions – means that the scholarly blog lends itself to be a great example of all sorts of new and non-traditional media and output categories. Maybe you want to demonstrate the citation formats for citing blog posts in MLA, APA, or other commonly-used styles, or maybe you’ve been trying to think of an example resource for a talk on alternative metrics. Or perhaps you want to add some unexpected examples to your library instruction course, or just point out that your students & faculty can access blogs through your university’s ACI database. Whether your focus is on science outreach, digital humanities, open access, teaching strategies, learning strategies, resources for continued development, or scholarly publishing or communication, the scholarly blog would be a refreshing example of the primary-source resources available in today’s modernized online research environment.
Are you ready to tackle one or more of these ideas for your library? Visit the ACI YouTube channel for tutorial videos to help you with lists, bookmarks, citations, and other features available in your institutional ACI subscription. Not a university subscriber yet? Let us know and we’ll set you up with a free university trial for your library – complete with custom portal and logo – so that your librarians, students, and faculty can explore ACI’s comprehensive collection of scholarly blogs in every academic discipline.
And if you just can’t wait another moment, you can use the promo code SPRING2016 to get started now. Just visit scholar.aci.info, click on Sign Up in the upper-right, and enter your name, email, and university. After clicking on the resulting activation email, set your desired password, and then enter the promo code SPRING2016 beneath the subscription options shown. Try one or more of the above ideas in your account, or explore the ACI Scholarly Blog Index for other uses that specifically target your instructional mission or liaison needs. Be sure to let us know what worked for you and your library in the comments below!