The Work Behind the Research Guide

Throughout the course of just a few short weeks at my internship, I have learned invaluable lessons about the research that informs not only my work for Gumberg Library, but also my education as a Liberal Arts student.

As the Gumberg Library Intern, my main job is to build research guides to be published on the Gumberg Library website. For the creation of each research guide (which is essentially a web page), there is a general process to be followed. My supervisor, Theodore Bergfelt, humanities librarian, first provides me with a topic of potential interest to students and faculty of the university. So far, I have worked with the great thinkers Benedict de Spinoza and Martin Heidegger, though the research guides I complete will cover more than just philosophy-related topics and people. After selecting a topic, Mr. Bergfelt provides me with a list of introductory articles, reference works, primary sources, selected books, databases, catalog searches, and maybe a couple of media elements (a list that I will eventually be able to generate on my own) to include in the research guide.

It takes me a long time to integrate the factual materials, links, and resources into the research guide, because I must maintain the style that marks all of Gumberg’s other research guides. I take care with the design of the page, paying attention to things like font, color, size, continuity, order, readability, framing, and mobile view, to name just some elements. LibGuides, the platform that Gumberg Library uses, is a digital content management service that allows me to have detailed control over the layout without needing extensive knowledge of coding.

One of the more time-consuming aspects of building a research guide involves setting up lists of links that connect students to specific searches within the library’s catalog of print materials. Mr. Bergfelt has developed such shortcuts on many of his research guides, a strategy that works towards his goal of making resources optimally available and accessible to those who are not experts at academic research. By making a list of topics that a student studying Spinoza might need, for example, we are at best linking them directly to sources that they need, and at least giving them a nice shove in the right direction (as well as hinting at how they might proceed). When I create these lists, I do all of the search engine manipulation necessary to get an appropriate set of results. When the student clicks the link, the catalog runs the search and the student simply has to browse the now manageable amount of potential resources.

Though it has been only two weeks, I am already learning the strategies of academic research, the shortcuts and tricks of effective searching, and most importantly, how to successfully navigate complex platforms such as LibGuides and the Gumberg Library catalog.

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