Using LibGuides for Instruction Sessions

by Chella Vaidyanathan, History, Political Science & Govt.Info. Librarian
University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, FL

The University of Miami Libraries adopted LibGuides in the summer of 2008. LibGuides is a web 2.0 library guide management system. It is very impressive as it offers librarians an excellent way to integrate web 2.0 tools and audio-visual content into their subject guides. According to the information provided on the LibGuides website, as of April 12, 2010, 1221 libraries around the world have adopted the LibGuides system and 82,532 guides have been created by 19,119 librarians.

Since the introduction of LibGuides at the University of Miami campus in 2008, the system has won the universal approval of students and faculty. As the subject guides are dynamic in nature, they provide easy access to the Libraries’ resources and to the subject librarians. Some of the more popular LibGuides include: History, Political Science, Federal Government Information, South Asian Studies, Nursing and Health Studies, Psychology, Architecture, etc. The increased use of LibGuides in library instruction and research is reflected in the number of hits on the guides. The History LibGuide has had usage increase from 8,947 in 2008 to 11,015 in 2009. The University of Miami Libraries' guides can be accessed at

As an instructional tool, the LibGuides system has been extremely useful in creating an awareness of the information resources that are available to the students and faculty. I regularly use the LibGuides/subject guides in my library instruction sessions. The tabs and boxes allow for the organization of different kinds of resources. The guides are simple to use for teaching and great for demonstrating databases and other online tutorials. I have been able to use the subject guides effectively to teach and promote information resources in my assigned subject areas – history, political science, and government information.

In addition to creating subject guides, it is also very easy to make course specific guides that meet the information needs of the students. Several of these guides were created for our ENG classes. The students and faculty from these classes have expressed their appreciation of the guides as they have proved to be beneficial in locating research information for the course assignments.

Moreover, as someone interested in Area Studies, I have also created subject guides for East & Southeast Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and South Asian Studies. These were developed to meet the information and research needs of students and faculty focusing on these subject areas. I have also used them numerous times in teaching library sessions for history, political science and international studies classes.

Further, LibGuides have been very useful for compiling lists of links. At the University of Miami they have been used to create lists of online tutorials which students can then refer to when learning how to cite resources correctly in their papers. Likewise, it is quite easy to design LibGuides that provide links to tutorials on using RefWorks and ICPSR. In addition, they can be used to gather links to various freely available digital collections on particular topics of interest to students and faculty. They can also be used to bring together different tutorials on research strategies such as using Boolean operators, understanding scholarly vs. popular sources, avoiding plagiarism, etc. These LibGuides can be successfully used to teach library sessions because of the organization that they provide to the relevant tutorials. The displayed tabs make it convenient for librarians to click on the relevant online tutorials in order to demonstrate research strategies to students.

One of the most effective ways to promote library instruction using LibGuides is to provide links to the subject guides and the course LibGuides via Blackboard. Similar to other academic institutions all of the University of Miami’s courses have a “library support” tab on their Blackboard pages. Subject librarians have access to work with and develop the “library support” tab. Thus, they can add relevant resources and provide links to the subject guides via Blackboard. As a result, these guides have significantly helped in teaching and outreach efforts. They have also increased our visibility as instructors on our campus.