Next Generation Subject Guides: Capturing Knowledge Practice for an Emerging Discipline
Librarians have long counted the knowledge practice of compiling lists of “canonical” reference sources for topics and research disciplines as a key reference service. Known as “pathfinders” or “subject guides”, these lists represent authoritative starting points for many researchers investigating new fields. Even as librarians move these lists from the printed page to the web page, this relatively static knowledge model remains adequate for supporting research in established disciplines where terms have already been organized into disciplinary thesauri and appropriate subject headings adopted by the Library of Congress. However, traditional reference lists are less effective maps for researchers taking an interdisciplinary approach, and are poor representations of literature in emerging disciplines, where mature journals, discrete resources, and controlled vocabularies are not yet available. Web 2.0 tools that facilitate shared resource pages with flexible social tagging make community-generated, dynamic resource lists with evolving subject categories (groups of descriptive “tags” known as “folksonomies”) possible. However, the majority of open source and commercially available tools do not address particular needs of the scholarly community. Instead, these are geared toward casual social networking. A hybrid approach to curating the traditional library subject guide, utilizing freely available tools as well as those which can accommodate formal academic practice may be a solution for academic libraries grappling with the needs of cross-disciplinary programs. This practice-focused presentation describes a case study of a library and student cohort collaboration to develop and document the knowledge domain in the emerging field of Social Entrepreneurship at New York University. Social Entrepreneurship is a form of public leadership that maximizes the social return on public service efforts while fundamentally and permanently changing the way problems are addressed on a global scale. This study examines how emerging and highly interdisciplinary fields form and become represented in scholarly literature and how librarians, through focused interaction with student cohorts, may implement technological enhancements to aid, capture and provide access to information in a next-generation subject guide.
Keywords: Practice, Libraries, Subject guides, Interdisciplinarity, Emerging fields, Social Entrepreneurship
Assistant Curator and Librarian of Public Administration and Government Information, Libraries, New York University