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PSRML Internship Experience: Creating a LibGuide for Medical Social Workers

By Vicki Burchfield
Department of Information Studies student
UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

During the winter quarter, 2012, UCLA Department of Information Studies student Vicki Burchfield completed an internship with the Regional Medical Library. Through her previous work as a Public Service Assistant at the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, Ms. Burchfield had experience with answering reference questions and researching subject guides. Upon completion of her internship, Ms. Burchfield wrote the following summary reflecting upon her experience and the lessons learned during the process of researching and creating an online subject guide for the Clinical Social Work Department at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

Image of LibGuide for Medical Social Workers

The LibGuide for Medical Social Workers was created as part of a larger outreach project to social workers at UCLA’s hospitals. The social workers had indicated in prior discussions that they often looked up information on their patients’ medical conditions. However, they were uncomfortable sharing what they found with their patients, because they weren’t sure what information was trustworthy. To address these concerns, a heavy emphasis on consumer health information and health literacy was built into the LibGuide.

In designing the guide, I first searched the LibGuides community page, to see what other libraries had already done on the topic. There were many guides on social work and social welfare for students and faculty, but not many for practicing social workers. I also searched for separate guides on related topics, such as consumer health. I began plotting a basic outline of the guide and populating it with resources. Then I migrated the resources to a new LibGuide.

Managing the aesthetics of the guide was difficult. They come with several choices of content box type; the links and lists boxes are the most tempting option for web resources, because they offer to track usage statistics, and warn you when a link is broken. The links in these boxes are formatted into bulleted lists, with space for descriptions of the links beneath each item. As a result, it’s easy to end up with a guide full of long lists, which is all right in some cases.

Many students and researchers don’t mind clicking around until figuring out the format. This particular user population, however, found it a little overwhelming. They are a busy group of people, and finding consumer health information for their patients isn’t one of their primary responsibilities. To make the guide easier to work with, I decided to reduce the number of links, include more written content on the guide itself, and give some of the most useful links large icons to attract attention. Using images for links meant embedding them in rich text boxes, which do not track statistics.

Some points I learned about LibGuides:

  • The basic LibGuide system is easy to learn, especially if you don’t want to do anything fancy.
  • The formatting of pages, which looks like the tabs on an internet browser, and content boxes are helpful for organizing. But much like PowerPoint presentations, it’s easy to fall into a rut and use exactly the same format each time. The format of a LibGuide is pretty well set, so customization is limited.
  • Statistics track each time an individual page in a guide is viewed, along with the links in certain boxes, so you know which resources are used most often. They don’t collect statistics when logged in as an administrator.
  • The mobile interface is quite nice, but different from the computer interface. The boxes are arranged into one vertical column, so if you’re expecting a guide to be used primarily on smart phones, you’ll probably want to organize it differently.
  • Having only one or two boxes on a page can look awkward in the computer interface, and too much information can make a page look busy, and force users to scroll excessively. But there is a way to collapse the text behind a link by copying and pasting some Javascript.
  • Guides can be made private until they are ready to publish, and you can make them visible only to people who have the direct URL, so they do not appear in search engines or on the community page.
  • The community page allows searching for other libraries’ guides, so you can see what other people have done for a topic. You can also have the system copy another guide as a template for your own. If you don’t want your guides to be copied, they can be locked.

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