New Web Design, Databases Lead to New Research Tool at A&M International

 

Whether confirming a fact or delving into an unknown topic, searching for information has become easier than ever this fall at Texas A&M International University's Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library with increased databases and resources available to the University community and the public.

Rodney Webb, director of Killam Library, said databases available at Texas A&M International University increased to over 100 because TexShare, a cooperative program designed to improve academic and public library service to Texans, expanded resources available to member libraries. Users of the Killam Library now have access to the text or citation of articles in almost 8,000 journals.

The massive enhancement in available data also led to a library web page overhaul and the creation of a unique resource for researchers, Webb said.

"We're very excited about it. I really think it brings us to a new level of service to our students and faculty and provides an intelligent interface with all the resources we have. The current resources available on the website will serve the users' needs over and over. There's a wealth of information there," Webb said.

Renée LaPerrière, reference librarian and web coordinator for the redesign project, said the redesign offered the opportunity to reevaluate what the library web page could provide users. She said the new site is far more than just database listings and can serve as a jumping off point, providing enough information to start researching with a firm foundation.

"We wanted to provide points of departure for research. We also wanted to enrich the site with references to significant websites, references to appropriate government documents and print materials. This is not the be-all-end-all of information. Students need to see this as a place to give them some ideas in terms of directing their research," said LaPerrière.

Webb emphasized the hard work of the web design team, which consisted of librarians Eric Elmore, Joshua Been, David Ratliff, John Maxstadt and LaPerrière.

"I'm very proud of the team that worked on this. Our new crew of librarians brought in new skills that we didn't have on our staff. They might say we've worked them to the bone right away, but I get the feeling that they are also excited to get the opportunity to build this," Webb said.

Webb explained that the Killam librarians evaluated and described all the resources in each subject area, enabling the library to offer improved services to registered off-campus students and distance education students. He said the pages offer the advice of the qualified Killam Library staff, even when the librarian is not available.

"People doing work at home may not be able to contact the librarian right at that point but the web page provides some of the advice you would get from an actual librarian. We have a lot of nontraditional students - employed, parents, etc. Their time is extremely limited. Our job is to see how we can serve them better. These electronic resources allow them to be productive even when the library is not open. With the new website, we're extending our services beyond our library walls."

The library's homepage, http://www.tamiu.edu/library/index.htm, now lists 27 research subject headings, based on the University's curriculum. The bottom of the home page includes two instructional buttons. One shows users how to find library items such as books and government documents. The second is a link to dictionaries, atlases and many other reference items. A sidebar has links to important pages such as Research Information Online (RIO), the electronic catalog.

Selecting a subject heading directs the researcher to a subject webpage with relevant full- text databases, citation and abstract databases, print resources and web resources. Wherever possible, the sources are hyperlinked and only a click away. Killam librarians have written informative descriptions of the resources, often including the most relevant journal names in each database.

In full-text databases, some articles are available in their entirety or in simple text with images removed. Researchers should note that for some articles, only the citation or abstract will be available. Citation and abstract databases contain only article summaries or citations. The full text can usually be obtained for faculty and students via interlibrary loan within a week or two, depending on the rarity of the item.

Pertinent print resources available at Killam Library are also listed on each subject page, and are often linked to the RIO catalog. Subject pages contain helpful information from the librarians, such as suggested keywords, Library of Congress call numbers and important library reference books. Web listings link researchers to librarian-evaluated websites believed to be accurate, informative and reliable resources. They include academic research institutions sites and government pages. Some subject pages include even more options, such as available CD-Rom databases or important government documents.

Webb explained that by including this combination of databases, print resources and web pages, the librarians hope to help students evaluate sources of information.

"Undergraduate students do not have much experience in critical thinking and examining information. They think they can just get info from the web--some of those sources are great, such as academic sites or government sites. But many of them are not; they don't have the expertise behind the offered info. The database subscription service is delivered through the Internet but you can't get to these sites for free or with a search engine like Yahoo. Here, we're trying to package high-quality, paid-for resources with the reputable free sources on the web."

LaPerrière said that feedback from users was important, including subject area resource suggestions.

"This is version 1.0. We strongly encourage students, faculty and other users to give us input if they know of things that need to be added. We encourage this to be an joint effort. We want to make these really useful for students, not just pretty pages," said LaPerrière.

For more information please contact LaPerrière at 326.2404, e-mail to rlaperriere@tamiu.edu, go online AT: http://www.tamiu.edu/library/index.htm or contact the reference desk at 326.2138.

Regular hours for Killam Library are 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.


Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu