Subject Guides

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Subject Guides We Like

El Dorado Center Library's Internet Subject Directories,

The EDC Librarian's Guide developed by Librarian, Regina Jimenez, provides a more manageable search tool that points students and faculty to a number of extensive subject directories and featured sites organized and selected by librarians and other competent information professionals throughout the world. All the selected subject directories within each subject heading have been carefully selected to support the curricular offerings at Folsom Lake College.

Canadian Studies Research Guide. University of Toronto Libraries ,

This is a student's guide to selected resources for the study of Canadian culture, society, economics, and political science. Here you will find links to key resources such as article databases, web sites, books, biographies and primary sources.

Japanese Studies Resources, Perkins Library, Duke University ,

This site provides a comprehensive guide to resources for Japanese studies, from Anthropology through Women's Studies. It focuses, naturally, on resources available at Duke Univ., but also has links to web resources for different subjects, study abroad, funding resources, culture, etc. It gives researchers, students, and librarians a good starting place regarding key reference materials for social sciences or humanities subjects. Remember that you might be able to access the resources via ILL if you cannot get to Duke.

The site is undergoing some revision to make it more navigable and less dense. Suggestions welcome!

BizWiki Ohio University,

Wiki for general, company, industry and international business and marketing information.

Medicine: Clinical Sciences, University of Saskatchewan

Our Web Advisory Group liked the tabbing organisation in these guides, as well as the flexibility in the categories which allows librarians to tailor their guides to their audience. There is also an article about their redesign project [1], which is helpful.

Tips for Developing Good Subject Guides

Often, as library professionals we don’t realize how overwhelming the library can be for patrons who are not familiar with the resources and services we offer. Well thought out subject guides can be very useful tools for helping patrons successfully navigate through your library’s resources.

First, it is important to point out that a subject guide is not a laundry list of every reference book or Internet link related to a topic. Instead, a truly useful subject guide is a list of carefully selected resources that will help users begin finding the information they are looking for.

Since there is a good chance that the patrons are not as familiar with the resources you include in the subject guide as you are, it is beneficial to include starting points and explain how the resource is formatted (i.e. dictionary, collection of articles, divided by geographic area, etc.).

The topic and purpose of the subject guide should be clearly identified. In the opening paragraph (or web page) explain any specialized terms that users will need to know when researching a topic, and identify key authorities in the field (i.e. professional organizations, non-profit groups, government agencies, national organizations, etc.).



If there is a chance your users are new to the library’s catalog you might include a description of how to use the catalog. If you are creating an online subject guide, include a link to your library’s online catalog.

Subject Headings: Include key words and subject headings that will produce successful catalog searches. Call Number Ranges: Some people prefer to just browse the shelves. For these users include call number ranges that will have the most information about the topic.


List a handful of useful reference books and general collection books. Be sure to note that these are only starting points, not a complete list.

Especially in reference books where the entire work is often not devoted to one single topic, it is useful to include access points and an annotation explaining what users can expect.


If you are making an online subject guide, include links to the indexes or databases. It is useful to include a brief statement explaining that not all databases have full-text articles and how to use citations to find the article.


List key journals or magazines your library owns that may be useful sources of information on the topic. Include a few citations (or links to articles) to show users what they can expect to find.


Government documents can be a surprisingly useful source of information and much of it is available online. It is definitely worth exploring what is out there on your topic.


Be careful here! Find reliable web sources for your patrons. Your best bets are professional organizations, government sites, and non-profit organizations. Always check a site out thoroughly before you recommend it.


Depending on your topic, it may be helpful to include other types of resources such as video collections, audio samples, dissertations, teacher kits, etc.


1. Keep it on topic! I know you have a wealth of information to share, but you will only confuse users if you don’t stay on one topic.

2. Don’t overwhelm users with exhaustive lists. If you have more than 5 examples under any one area, you are probably not being selective enough.

3. Make the subject guide specific to your library. Nothing is more frustrating than a guide that promises resources not housed in the library. If you simply must include resources your library doesn’t own, be sure to note how the patrons can access the material.

4. When using examples, be sure to make it clear that your examples are only a sample of what is out there on the topic. It is not a complete list.

5. Make it creative and have fun!

Blogs/Websites to Watch

Specific Blog Posts/Articles to Check Out

Fichter D. Designing a BETTER SUBJECT PAGE to Make Users' Searches More Successful. Computers in Libraries. 2005 10;25(9):6-56. [