LibGuide Assessment from the Ground Up

Librarian Rick Lezenby authors many Libguides. In this guest post, Rick shares some insights about assessment and the value of listening to users as we collaborate on tools that support their instruction.

Libguides at Temple Libraries are guides to library resources and related information skills built on the web-authoring platform from Springshare. These are used mainly as introductions to degree program subject guides and for guides created for specific courses. After a number of years of a laissez-faire approach to their look and use,  the Libraries in 2017 developed detailed standards, based on usability testing conducted at Temple University Libraries and other institutions, for a uniform look and purpose. Guides also go through a review process to avoid duplication with similar guides. Then there is a checklist review of required usability format standards once the guide is submitted for publication. Beyond that, the content of guides continues to be left to the discretion of subject-specialist librarians.

We in the Libraries have not yet developed a good way to assess the level of satisfaction users have with these guides. Getting detailed feedback has been hard. For years, I have been creating libguides for subjects, topics and courses with little feedback from users or faculty beyond “Thanks!”, “Great!” when asked directly. The daily hit counts provided by Springshare do indicate how much a guide is accessed and how many of the sub-pages of a guide are viewed if at all. There is no tracking where users go next.  It has always been a bit of a guessing game as to what should go into a guide beyond a standard list of likely tools and general advice.

Over the summer of 2020, I had the pleasant surprise of receiving two full plates of unsolicited recommendations, one from the faculty in the Global Studies department and the other from the Political Science faculty. Both were lengthy documents full of titles of what was important to them. It also gave insight into what library resources they were aware of.

In the case of Global Studies, I had created a subject guide when the department was first created. I was now given a chance here to compare my original guide based on an outsider’s perspective with what faculty thought independently of what I had created. It gave me grounds for comparing what I thought should go into the guide versus what faculty thought independently of that. Global Studies at Temple strives to be an interdisciplinary program that ranges across Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences, using the areas of global security, economy and cultures as touchstones. The senior capstone projects could be on just about anything situated in global, or at least, multi-foreign context. 

Global Studies was first headed in the mid 2010’s by a faculty member out of the Political Science department, which was my subject librarian area, and with whom I had a good working relationship for a number of years prior to that. In 2020, the new chair came out of the Sociology department, which had not been one of my areas at the time. A group headed by the new chair sent me a document for a proposed research guide, with specifics on each section of the guide.

Goals:  The guide should provide:

  • Resources for students (touches on all three tracks: culture, economy, security)
  • Highlights issues/themes of human security, human development, gender, race, language, cultures, terrorism, environmental concerns, international trade, international financial institutions
  • Mainstream Global South
  • Highlight source type/variety
  • Feature access to primary sources
  • Perhaps a guide on citations


  • Dictionaries, Encyclopedias 
    • Provide an explanation of “using reference sources” 
  • Handbooks/encyclopedias
    • For example, The Oxford Handbook of Global Studies

The faculty member took time to review other guides in Temple’s system and pointed out to me those that might serve as “models.” They were specific about how resources should be organized, using examples from other guides.

The advice had me looking at sources in a completely different way. Faculty in Global Studies think about tracks in that program: culture, economy, security – and expect their students will identify best resources in that way. They preferred listing resources as specific titles with links to the library’s catalog entry.  The suggested Articles and Databases showed awareness of those and some lack of knowledge of databases that could serve some purposes better than others. And, the unorganized list of Great Sources of Data presented me with a challenge to organize it. 

Seeing what they liked about guides and what they wanted was probably a unique experience, almost impossible to replicate to this detail for other departments. It was their motivation driving it. But, it does suggest a framework for getting feedback from other departments.

Similarly departmentally-motivated, in the summer of 2020 I received a list from the Political Science department Chair with the title: Books TU Polisci Faculty think Undergraduates Should Read – May 2020. It was created by faculty in the midst of the pandemic when there was some uncertainty about what the university would be doing going forward and intensifying street protests. 

Political Science Reading List Guide

The list ran to 12 pages,  mainly of political classics important to faculty along with a section on race. At the time, the library was closed to all, so I offered to organize and turn the list into a libguide with links to ebooks where possible. The titles were listed under each professor’s name, so it became much like the soon-to-become notorious practice of analyzing bookshelves behind Zoom participants. My goal was to include a brief description of the book from available web sources. The process of putting all these titles together on a libguide with links was a bit mundane, but it did force me to attend in great detail to the titles and summaries of their content.

In collaborating with faculty on these guides, I acquired significant insight into how professors would direct students in a way I would not otherwise be privy to, and a way to think how well my guides reflected that and the department overall. It made me aware that as a librarian, my interest has been in providing resources primarily to assist with immediate projects. Faculty have longer range goals in mind to develop students beyond the assigned essay or term paper project, not necessarily tied to a semester course. Finding a way to link the two approaches in a guide requires much more communication between us.


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