Meredith Farkas has a long, interesting post on her project to develop her library’s online subject guides:
You could hardly call these things subject guides; they were just a bunch of Web links in different areas. Some were more useful than others. The guide for “science” had three links. In addition, a very high percentage of the links were dead, because it wasn’t anyone’s job to check them.
Meredith wanted to develop guides that were easier to update than static webpages. She considered del.icio.us (worries about relying on a 3rd party site led her to reject this option), LibGuides (a subscription service that looks to have some very useful functionality – not all needed in her case), and some open source guides (looked useful, but would her successor be able to maintain the software?). She finally settled on using a wiki, for its flexibility, ability to give colleagues only the rights they need, ability to include student/faculty contributions if desired, searchability, and ability to be assign pages to categories.
I’ve also been thinking about the subject guides I maintain. They’re a fairly long list of static pages. I think the content is reasonably good, but it does take a fair amount of time to check the pages – URL-rot is still a major problem on the web (which surprises me, I would have thought that most organisations have settled on their site layouts, and wouldn’t be changing URLs much -but obviously they do – and don’t leave re-directs).
I’m still quite interested in the idea of using del.icio.us, while noting Meredith’s concerns about the effect on our guides if the site went down. The advantages I see are that del.icio.us incorporates tagging, meaning a site can sit in more than one place in the subject guide (sure, I could do that now and manually add a site to several pages, but that gets clumsy and clutters the guide).
The other key advantage, of course, is seeing sites that others have tagged with the same tags that I used. This is maybe less useful when considering more generic tags (“intellectual property”, “human rights”) but when I looked at very specific tags I could see a real benefit: see my pages tagged CISG*, and all pages with that tag – several of which I was unfamiliar with, and which looked useful.
The third advantage would be that faculty or students with del.icio.us accounts could ‘friend’ the library’s account, and each other, and add useful sites to their own accounts, which would then be linked to the original subject guide.
I’m not sure I’m quite ready to push this forward yet, but I think it’s an idea that’s worth looking at more closely.
*Convention on the International Sale of Goods, an important document in international trade law.