Session 9 – Sharing your Passions, Expertise and Experience with “Lists”

Lists have always been a part of libraries: Subject Guides, pathfinders, bibliographies, suggested reading lists. The BiblioCommons List functionality presents library staff with a unique opportunity to take these to a new level. BiblioCommons’ Lists have a number of key advantages over our traditional way of doing things.

  • They’re easy to create, annotate, edit – all from a “click and point” interface that staff can manage on their own without any intervention by a library’s IT staff.
  • They’re automatically inserted into the OPAC where users are most likely to find them.  A link to the list is included on every item page of the titles that are on the list, under Lists that include this title.
  • They’re easily shared! Once you’ve created a list you can easily send the URL to anyone who might be interested – say a teacher for a project for which the whole class is coming to the library looking for resources.

Lists are a great way to showcase the broad knowledge of library staff. We hope you’ll engage in creating great guides of your own.

9.1 Browsing Lists That Others Have Created

The best way to get started may be to spend a few minutes browsing lists that others have already created. There are many different types of lists to choose from – each is useful to different types of users in different contexts. In the notes that follow, we’ve provided multiple examples of multiple types. Feel free to be selective in your browsing! As you work through these, make a note of list titles that you might eventually create for each type.

9.1.1 – Personal Opinion or Judgment

Here are a few examples:

Books that took over my life

Most overrated books of the decade

My all-time favourite books

9.1.2 – Curated Collections – “Mix Lists”

Think of these lists as temporary displays that you might see on a table in your own library or in the window of a bookstore. Often, there’s an element of whimsy perhaps, or personal sensibility.

Locked Up – Prisoners, Mental Patients and Hostages (in fiction)

The F Word

Mysteries for Mathematical Minds

Paris in the 1920s

While an enticing display may be gone by the end of day, virtual displays live on and on!

9.1.3 Readers’ (or Film) Advisory – Collections of books, movies or music

Getting Back to Nature – Ecofiction

Jazz in fiction

Books Set in Toronto

Inspired by Charles Dickens

Art Stories for Children

9.1.4 Readers’ Advisory – “If you liked… “

If you liked Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut…

When you create this type of list, don’t forget to include the title that you’re referring from (in this case Slaughterhouse Five), since this is the only way it can then be added to the item record page.

9.1.5 Homework Help

Library staffs are often inundated with the requests for help over and over – if students in a local class have all received the same assignment, for example. Lists can be a great way of capturing this information, and building on it over time.

A good example of a frequent request at the OPL reference desk:

Pioneers! Jobs and Occupations

9.1.6 Subject Lists

Of Local Interest: The Bard Down the Road (About Stratford Festival)

Health Lists: Teen Anorexia – Treatment & Recovery

Travel: Tokyo: Real and Fictional

9.2 Tips for Helpful Subject Guides: The More Specific the Better – and Less is More!

Typically, a library’s subject guides are very general. They’ve always had to be this way, because it would be far too much work for every library system to prepare its own set of guides on very specific subjects. BiblioCommons remedies this situation by making lists available across all participating library systems. Staff members can provide depth where they have personal interests or expertise, or where they’ve invested considerable time “digging” on behalf of library reference users, and so on.

These in depth guides are generally more helpful than the obvious information users could find on the first page of a Google result set, or on Amazon.  Here for example are some more narrowly focused riffs on the general theme of Dealing with Cancer.

  • A caregiver’s guide to later stage cancer of a loved one
  • Lung Cancer Treatment Options: Complementary Therapies
  • Daily Practicalities of living with terminal cancer

Even a subject such as Children and Cancer can be sub-divided into small, more relevant sub-topics:

  • Parenting and Cancer
  • Helping families survive – books that help children deal with a parent’s cancer
  • Cancer books for kids with cancer
  • Gentle books for children dealing with grief and death

The more specific or granular you can get, the more helpful the list will be to users. These are the searches that are not easily captured with keyword searches.

Task: Make a List.

  • Go to My Lists.
  • Select Create New.
  • Think of a topic. Try to pick one either based on a recent reference interview, or that you know will be useful to you and your colleagues.
  • Put some thought into a title for your list as it will be visible to other users, and indexed in search.  Add a description.
  • Select who the list is of interest to: the library, the region, the state or province, the country, or everywhere.  This option reduces the amount of noise in the catalogue.  The default is everywhere.   Here are two examples to get you thinking: A list about Canadian politicians, although a Canadian topic, could be of interest to people outside the country and should be marked as of interest to users everywhere.  Whereas, a health resource list primarily containing links to local support groups or clinics would only be of use to someone “in my region”.
  • Add titles.
  • Add some Web sites where appropriate. (These may be particularly important for school subject guides, where a library’s collection may be limited and the whole class needs resources, or for subjects like health.)
  • Most importantly of all, annotate the guide. Let people know why or how the title is relevant to the guide’s focus.

Tip: Make it short. (10 – 12 items is fine. The maximum is 32.) Lists are intended to provide “best of”.

When should I make a list as opposed to just tagging?