Three library tools available in Penn State's Course Management System, ANGEL, allow students to conveniently access course readings and research sources with a single logon. These are the Library Reserves tool, the Custom Library Guides tool, and the Ask a Librarian tool. These library tools have been made available to ANGEL users through a collaboration of the University Libraries and Information Technology Services (ITS).
Library Reserves tool
The Library Reserves tool allows an instructor to activate a link in an ANGEL course to materials that have been placed on reserve in the Libraries. As Loanne Snavely, University Libraries head of instructional programs, explained, placing readings on reserve has gradually become more of an electronic process, and students are often linked to full-text documents through the Library Web site. "But until we had this Reserves tool," she said, "the students still had to get out of their course management system and get into the Library and then get into the online catalog and then get into the reserves section and search for their class and then get their reserve list. It was a multi-step process." However, when students click the Library Reserves link in their ANGEL course, the reserve readings list is immediately available. Snavely also noted that because this list is dynamically generated, each time a student accesses it, the most recent reserves list is displayed.
Custom Library Guides tool
Custom library subject guides are developed by librarians for use in ANGEL courses. Each guide differs, but may contain information such as guidelines on defining a topic and conducting research, call numbers associated with a field of study, search tips for the CAT, and a list of pertinent books, periodicals, databases, and Internet resources. A subject guide can link directly to electronic sources, including full-text documents. Subject guides can be created at the campus, college, department, course abbreviation (major), course, and individual section level.
Snavely emphasized, "Our priority right now is to get at least one for every department, at the departmental level." Fifty-six departmental and major guides have already been created, and more are under development.
Only one subject guide may appear in an ANGEL course at a time, whichever is the most specific. A campus- or college-level guide will be linked in a course if no departmental-level guide is available. Six campus-level library guides, including one for University Park, have currently been completed.
Instructors who wish to request a new custom library guide may do so by e-mailing email@example.com. Snavely said that with input from the requester, a librarian most familiar with that subject area will make an effort to create the guide in a timely manner. Departmental-level guides will take first precedence, however.
Faculty are encouraged to direct students toward the library subject guide in their ANGEL course as a source of reliable, useful information. Snavely's message to students is simply, "Use it."
In fact, Snavely explained, the Library-ITS collaboration that led to the development of the Custom Library Guides tool in ANGEL was sparked by a 2002 EDUCAUSE Review article entitled "Course-Management Software: Where's the Library?" which warned that course management systems often lead students to Web resources of "uneven quality." It went on to note that libraries make large investments in resources purchased with the specific curricular needs of their institutions in mind, in consultation with faculty, but that unless students are led to these quality resources via the course management system, they may not use or even be aware of them. Snavely said, "Often what has happened is that the information thatÕs offered through the course management system is of an inferior quality. The issue has been: How do we connect our students with the scholarly information the University is already purchasing? So that's the premise on which we designed these tools."
Ask a Librarian tool
The newest library tool available in ANGEL courses is the Ask a Librarian link leading to the University Libraries Web site. There, students can engage in online chat with a librarian or e-mail to obtain reference assistance or find out the locations and phone numbers of reference desks. "If they have a research question," said Snavely, "they can ask right in ANGEL."
Snavely said the addition of the three library tools in ANGEL "has been a neat collaborative project." She noted that Penn State is an innovator on the national level in this initiative to make library resources available through its course management system.