Put the Library Where Your Students Are Learning

Olivia Given Castello and Nicole DeSarno

The Course Navigation link to the Library

The library is a critical learning support for college students, but the challenge is to make students aware of all the library provides. Since many students are learning partially or fully online, Learning Management System (LMS) integration is a handy way to bring library resources and librarian help to your students where they learn: in your LMS course.

Integrating library resources into the LMS can make your students more successful by giving them easy library access. Linking to library content within a course has been shown to increase students’ use of materials. Including information about library services gives them access to learning support when and where they need it, in a way they can refer back to throughout the semester. This can be especially useful for connecting the library to distance students and hybrid online learners, many of whom seldom visit the library in person.

LMS platforms can connect automatically with systems used by academic libraries. Two common ones are Research Guides and Course Reserves. There are also simple best practices you can follow when linking to library resources that will improve your students’ connection to the library.

Research Guides

Research guides are librarian-authored web pages recommending library resources to help students get started on research for particular disciplines, courses, or assignments. At Temple University, research guides are automatically integrated into the LMS via the “Library” link, an item in the default Course Navigation menu located in the left-hand column of Canvas courses. When clicked, this link shows a matched guide from Temple Libraries’ Research Guides system. The guide shown varies depending on the Canvas course. In most courses, the Library link shows a generic guide that highlights commonly sought information and tools, such as building hours, book and article search, a chat widget for live librarian help, and an online scheduler for research appointments. 

In courses where a faculty member works with a librarian to create a course-specific research guide, that guide is shown. In our pilot study at Temple, we learned that students engaged most with the Library link when it showed a course-specific library research guide! 

Having library resources in the LMS helps students build research skills and get help, and automatic integrations like Temple’s Library link bring these resources to students without any extra work for the faculty member.

Beyond automatic integrations, faculty can also manually add smaller portions of research guides in other areas of a course. Once you identify a single box or page from a larger research guide that would help your students, you can manually embed it in the area of your course content where students will find it most useful. At Temple, this type of content can be added to Canvas as an “External Tool.”

Course Reserves

Another common library integration concerns course reserves: high demand materials related to a specific course that you can make available to students via your library. E-reserves are downloadable in the LMS, while physical reserves are available for short term lending at the library. 

At Temple, faculty members can add the Course Reserves tool, which is separate from the default Library link, to Canvas’ navigation menu in the course SettingsYou then request items be placed on reserve from within the tool by adding new requests or importing Reserves items from a previous semester. Library staff see and process the requests, and arrange any necessary document scanning, purchasing, or other additional steps. Once processed, the active reserve items show in the Canvas course.

Persistent links to library e-resources

Academic libraries offer many types of content that you can integrate directly into the LMS as course materials: articles, ebooks, videos, databases, and more — but use persistent links, not the URL in the browser window. A persistent link (a.k.a. durable link, stable link, permalink) is a URL that connects directly to a specific full-text source in a library database or electronic subscription. Using the persistent, library-linked, URL ensures all students (on-campus and off) can access the source. These links are stable over time, and they also eliminate the need to worry about potential copyright issues since students will be directed through the institutional login page if necessary for access. Different databases offer varying options for getting a persistent link to an item, depending on their interface. 

At Temple, persistent links can be added to Canvas as an “External URL.” Intentionally linking to library e-resources is the way to make optimal use of your library’s collections. It also creates a bridge for students to library research support services, since many library e-resource platforms include embedded librarian help.

Want to get started connecting to the library in your LMS?

To explore options for integrating the library into your LMS course, contact your institution’s library staff. Librarians will consult with you on how to integrate library resources, and can let you know what automatic integrations are available on your campus.

At Temple University, start at our guide to embedding library resources in Canvas. It includes step-by-step instructions and short video tutorials on the options described here. Contact your subject librarian to discuss the best library resources for your class, request a course-specific library guide be created, or change what shows on the Library link in your course. Consider adding a librarian to your course in the Designer role. We are happy to help with library-related Canvas options. Have other questions? Need additional help? Email us at asktulibrary@temple.edu!

Olivia Given Castello and Nicole DeSarno are members of the Learning & Research Services unit of Temple University Libraries.

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