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Guided search tools are used to help library patrons find the resources they are seeking. Originally paper-based subject guides were written by subject specialist librarians, but the world has moved on and technology can now assist this process. Subject guides can be as broad or as specific as the librarian wants to make them. They can help to ensure full utilisation of little-known works such as theses or dissertations.
Directing library patrons to useful resources in the electronic age is a much more difficult task, due to the sheer range and breadth of resources available. Some libraries have designed authoring environments that suit their needs in this area and then released them as open source software. LibData and SubjectsPlus are two examples of open-source applications based on PHP and MySQL and need someone with expertise in these to configure and maintain them.
SubjectsPlus is a free and open source tool (created at Ithaca College Library in the USA) that enables libraries to create and manage online research guides. Usually created by subject librarians (and therefore requiring no specialist technical skill), these guides can take many forms, with the software sufficiently flexible to allow many different ways of presenting the guides and enabling users to access them (for example, users may want to navigate by subject, by course, by database or by the type of information they seek).
There is a SubjectsPlus wiki on which you can find documentation relating to the software, and also a SubjectsPlus Google Group for users to share information and ask questions. You can download the software here.
EIFL FOSS has published a step-by-step guide to installing and using SubjectsPlus, and has recently launched a SubjectsPlus Community of Practice that anyone can join to discuss the software and its use.
A Themed Week on SubjectsPlus was held in October 2011. See the news article for details.
The National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe is currently implementing SubjectsPlus as an EIFL-FOSS pilot project which is due to report shortly. Read an early news article about this project. You can now read the full final report of the SubjectsPlus pilot in Zimbabwe as well as an executive overview of the pilot
Further translations and implementations of SubjectsPlus are now taking place in Cambodia and Kyrgyzstan. Reports will appear here in December 2012.
A national training workshop on SubjectsPlus was held in Zimbabwe in December 2011. You can download the training materials as a Zip file here: zimbabwe_subjectsplus_workshop.zip.