ABOUT THE RESOURCE
Despite many efforts to improve the usage of the e-resources in the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), usage levels have remained low over the years. The challenge of users having to navigate throughout the website to get to the best resource for their particular needs was deemed one reason for the low usage of these resources. Also a tool was needed to help Subject Librarians to easily create and share online subject guides. And finally, due to budget restrictions the solution had to be a FOSS one.
Selected during the EIFL-FOSS call for pilot projects, the NUST library implemented SubjectsPlus (see: http://library.nust.ac.zw/sp/subjects/). The resources were organized into 29 subject areas, providing easy access to a variety of e-resources in each area, including journals, books, dissertations, and exam papers. The contact information for each subject librarian ws also included in the subject guides. In addition, a reference chat feature was implemented to make it easy for patrons to easily contact librarians. Finally, a google search engine was implemented for users who prefer to search versus browse by subject.
Both patrons and Subject Librarians were targeted as beneficiaries. Patrons benefit through enhanced access to resources and Subject Librarians are now more visible to their patrons, raising their profile, and also they now have a tool to facilitate the creation of online subject guides.
- There was an impressive improvement in the usage for some of the Library’s most popular e-resources soon after the new SubjectPlus website was launched
- Launch of a library gateway from which users can access both licensed and open access e-resources
- Creation of 29 online subject guides
- Creation of a website that allows for easy implementation of related tools, including Google search and an online reference chat service
- Library staff became proficient in a new technology
- The project resulted in support from library management and the purchase of laptops to promote SubjectPlus during visits to academic departments
- A team member presented the project at EIFL-FOSS 2011 Regional Seminar in Tanzania; it received a positive response, seven delegates from other countries expressed an interest to implement SubjectsPlus.
You can now read the full final report of the SubjectsPlus pilot in Zimbabwe (Download below the text) as well as an executive overview of the pilot.
What is SubjectsPlus?
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.
SubjectsPlus is a FOSS tool for creating and managing online research guides.