Curation and contemplation: How to serve up information.


flickr photo shared by kendrak under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I just made my first LibGuide. It’s on the very broad and generic (for me) topic of “Transportation Engineering” and doesn’t really link to much besides the obvious. I spent a lot of time reading over LibGuide best practices and looking at good examples to figure out how to approach making the guide.

I really struggled with how much to include. Should I add links to everything just in case? Would not including long lists of resources signal little effort? I kept trying to think of the user, and what they want most of the time. Yes, a few might want link barf of every book on transportation engineering but that’s what the catalog is for. Is this LibGuide to demonstrate my research expertise to users? Well… kind of but not really. It’s an iterative process and I decided for this one to do the “less is more” approach. Just get something up that will be a good start for most people, and then make more detailed ones for specific subjects. This way I will get over the perfection hurdle and stop worrying about including everything, especially since everything will be overwhelming.

This is something I struggle with in my other life as a DJ and music obsessive. How do you balance usable and informative? Curation, particularly the curatorial act of editing and limiting. Including everything might be informative, but unusable and hard to wade through. Nowadays, with the long tale and so much at our fingertips, it’s really easy to include everything. At the radio station we have a pretty sizeable physical collection and my duty as a DJ is to program something entertaining and informative from that heap of records. Hitting the high points, the critical notes, the must-knows are important. The interesting details that people might like… well that’s not always the way to go.

That is the value of curation – thoughtful selection to make it useful.

Some of the LibGuides I saw that were overwhelming with the amount of stuff linked therein seemed like compensation for a poor CMS. Others however really seemed like signs of insecurity – if they didn’t link to a bunch of stuff, regardless of how useful it may be, how else can they demonstrate their expertise and value? For them quantity denotes quality. Some of the transportation ones really made me scratch my head, and that’s all I do. Then I remembered some of my attempts at introductory playlists to scenes or genres that were 10 hours long and including way too much to be useful. It’s why it took me ages to pare this playlist of Medway Beat down from 15 to 3 hours. It’s still inclusive but a thoughtful tasting menu. That’s one of the great things about the constraints of mixtapes.

So in my future LibGuide endeavors I will try to limit myself to the boxes and really embrace the constraints in the name of the user.

 

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