Daily Archives: November 15, 2011

Faculty Connections with Website Flair

ACRLog welcomes a guest post from Marcia Dority Baker, the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library.

One of the great things about being an academic librarian at a law college is the ability to interact with a variety of departments. One such opportunity is a work in progress; this past spring our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs approached the library for assistance in promoting SSRN (the Social Science Research Network) and the UNL Digital Commons to faculty. Simultaneously, the law college Communication department was reviewing how to better promote the law college after a faculty member asked for help managing an email signature line. This allowed us to work with both departments in a new way.

After a few brainstorming sessions, we decided to better promote faculty scholarship and the law college in two ways: first by adding buttons to individual faculty pages that linked to a variety of resources and secondly, if interested faculty could add “flair” to their email signature line with the same buttons.

The university’s content management system recently migrated to Drupal, allowing individuals within departments better access to the law college website. The people who know the information best can update website pages more frequently. I’m now responsible for the law library web pages since I was already handling our social media presence.

Our faculty webpages are fairly static most of the year, typically updated when after annual reports are due or before the academic year begins. Most people search the internet for faculty members to find contact information, publications, areas of expertise or research, and/or courses taught; current content on these pages should be a priority. Since we don’t have a dedicated web person, the best option for our law college is to use buttons that link users to the most current information available. We decided on the following buttons: the UNL Digital Commons, SSRN, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Slideshare–a good mix of scholarly links, professional networking and social media.

The UNL Digital Commons is a hidden gem to most people outside the library, but an uncomplicated way to get faculty publications online. The only requirement from faculty is an email with their CV publication list, this doubles as permission to add their scholarship to the UNL Digital Commons. The Digital Commons staff then locates the publications, handles copyright, and scans and uploads the material into the repository. This process is user-friendly for our faculty, making it easy for them to say “yes” to having their scholarship in the Digital Commons–a great selling point for the librarians when promoting the service. A monthly report on material downloads is generated for all authors; this has increased conversation about the UNL Digital Commons as most people like seeing how many times their work has been accessed.

SSRN was initially utilized by approximately half of the law college faculty; the current number of participants is in flux as we talk to individuals about adding their scholarship. The big difference between the UNL Digital Commons and SSRN is that faculty members are responsible for uploading their publications to SSRN. The how-to instructions are clear, but asking professors to add material during the semester is a challenge. We work on the assumption that more articles will be uploaded during the academic year downtime. To help the process, the law librarians are promoting the SSRN FAQ section which is very helpful and can assist faculty with tech questions if need be.

The law librarians met individually or as a small group with the law college faculty to explain the SSRN & UNL Digital Commons buttons. During this time we also mentioned other options for faculty pages: the buttons for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There was some confusion as to which Facebook page a professor’s faculty page would link to–not their personal page but the law college’s or law library’s Facebook page. A number of the faculty expressed concern about professional versus personal information online, wanting to keep both sides separate. After meeting with faculty to determine their preferences, a student worker in the communications department adds the appropriate buttons to their page. The quicker we update their websites, the better success our endeavor has.

Our project timeframe is the current academic year; we anticipate talking with the entire law faculty this Fall. If we can’t connect due to various reasons, then we’ll meet this Spring semester. The current priority is adding buttons to faculty pages as we talk to law college faculty members, especially since the student worker helping with webpages is graduating in December.

So far, this has been an engaging project. It’s great to talk to faculty about their scholarship and how the University at large can promote their work through the UNL Digital Commons. It has also opened new conversations on social media such as managing the law college and law library’s online presence, and learning how faculty want to connect with colleagues and students or that gray line between personal versus professional information online.