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The first of its kind: How the library’s new MyGuide system benefits students

It’s Thursday night, and students have been stuck in King Library all day trying to write an essay that’s due the next day. Burnt out and tired, they need a resource to help. Where do they turn? MyGuide, a web portal created to make the library’s content more accessible and easily available to students. 

This site is not a way to find books in the library; instead, it is a starting point for research within disciplines. Within MyGuide, students will find specific resources based on their major and course list, as well as faculty in those departments who can help with answering questions.

Ken Irwin, one of the web service librarians at Miami, said the large amount of resources online and in person can be overwhelming, so MyGuide was created as an entry point. 

While a tool for research, MyGuide also helps students access librarians. It tells who the librarian is for every subject a student has and how to get in contact with them. 

“The library isn’t just a building,” Irwin said. “I think one of the most crucial things in the library is the people who are there to help.” 

Irwin said it alleviates the students of the burden of having to populate their own content. MyGuide has three different categories to help students: librarians, databases and research guides. 

Not every major at Miami has its own librarian, but one librarian can have expertise in many different areas. For example, a science librarian can help biology, chemistry and biochemistry students. 

MyGuide also features a list of databases that are personalized to a student’s subject area. The system is personalized to the student because of the login process using your unique ID. The databases are chosen by the librarian associated with that topic.

“As far as we know, there aren't any other schools that are using that kind of login information to steer students and other users toward the discipline specific content of that sort,” Irwin said.

The librarians also curated research guides. These guides are a deeper dive into places students can look for more information for their research. That could include pointing them toward books in the library that could help, different databases or other research approaches. 

Irwin said the research guides have different names to help students narrow down a search. For example, if a student is a history major and needs to write a paper about American history, MyGuide will help them specify what type of history they need to search for: ancient history, current events, etc. 

At a glance, the MyGuide system can be confusing. Many students haven't even heard of the site, including Madalyn Isbell, a junior finance major. One of the first things she noticed when she first got onto the portal was the subject guide.

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“I feel a little bit directionally confused,” said Isbell. “Nothing I couldn't learn within a few days [though]. I think I would have to come here for a specific purpose.”

When students were asked if they knew what MyGuide was or how it worked, the usual answer was “no, I have no idea.” To get this resource more known to the students, the librarians have been including it in instruction sessions with classes doing research. They have also had an advertising campaign putting flyers around campus, some social media posts and there is a story about MyGuide on the library website. 

The resource was not made by one person. Some web service librarians who helped create it are Meng Qu, who designed it, and Jerry Yarnetsky, who transferred the content from LibGuides, a system that helps build civic library websites, to MyGuide.

“I think there’s more to learn, too. Is this the way of the future?” said Irwin. “ In the future is every library going to have a feature like this? It would be cool if they did.”