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E-Reference Selection Guidelines: Services

Selection Guides

The E-Reference section of the Library Web site has been created primarily to meet the reference and research needs of the University of Lethbridge community.

Most sites will be selected for their contribution to academic research and writing, but a few will be chosen to meet personal needs of users.

Content will be free, or primarily free. There will be no obligation to purchase items when free information is obtained. Advertising will not be overly intrusive.

Sites will be general in nature (i.e., serve a broad cross-section of users). Subject-specific sites will be selected by subject librarians and will not be included on the E-Reference Web site.

The E-Reference site will be selective in number of links (i.e., limit of 6 to 8 links in each category).

Canadian web sites will be selected, wherever possible (if they are comparable in quality and content).

Selection and Evaluation Tools

Potential sites will be identified through a variety of sources, including other virtual collections on other University Web sites, email discussion lists, electronic newsletters, etc.:

Evaluation Criteria: Sites must contain credible information and be user friendly:

  • Purpose | the reason the site exists
    • Is the primary purpose to provide information?
    • Is there a clear statement of the content/purpose of the site?
    • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions clear (i.e., separate the information from the advertisements)?
    • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
  • Relevance | value of the information in relation to reference needs of users
    • Is the site general in nature, rather than subject-specific?
    • Does the site contain information appropriate to a broad spectrum of the Library's user community?
    • Does the site contain information and/or links that would help the user answer specific reference questions?
  • Authority | source of the information
    • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
    • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
    • Is contact information available?
    • Does the URL for the Web site indicate information about the sponsor or author (e.g., .edu - education, .gov - government, .org- organization , .net- network, .com - commercial)?
  • Currency | timeliness of the information
    • When was the information published or posted?
    • Has the information been revised or updated?
    • Are the links functional?
  • Reliability | accuracy of the information
    • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
    • Can the information be verified in another source?
    • Are there any spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors?
  • Design and Navigation | user friendliness of the site
    • Does the site have a search engine that allows the user to locate specific pieces of information quickly and easily?
    • Does the site load quickly? Does the site require any plug-ins? Is the site reliable or are there often problems in accessing the site (i.e., server problems)?
    • Can the user navigate the site with a minimum of time and effort?

Responsibility for Development and Maintenance of E-Reference

The Reference Review Group, consisting of 1-3 members of the Reference Team, including the Coordinator of Collection Development, the Subject Librarian responsible for the Reference Collection, and the Coordinator of Reference Services; and 1-3 members of the Web Team, will be responsible for the selection of items in the E-Reference Web pages.

The Web Team will be responsible for monitoring the E-Reference links on an on-going basis to address any problems that may arise(e.g., broken links). The Web Team will also monitor technical problems (i.e., sites unavailable for extended periods of time, server problems, graphics that make download times unacceptable).

On an on-going basis, the Web Team will monitor the U of L Library's informative Web pages (e.g., How to Guides) and add links to these pages in the E-Reference, as appropriate. These links will be marked by adding U of Lethbridge Library in brackets after the title.

On an annual basis, the Web Team will conduct a thorough evaluation and review of all the sites in E-Reference section. This process will include checking all of the current sites and links to determine if they are still accessible. The Web Team will also research E-Reference websites on other university library Web pages to gain ideas for new categories and new web sites, check reviews of reference Web sites (see list of review sources above), and then compile a list of possible additions/deletions for the E-Reference section to be discussed with the Reference Review Group.

On an annual basis (usually during the Spring/Summer semesters) or as needed (in person or by email), the Web Team will meet with the Reference Review Group to present the results of their annual evaluation and to make recommendations for updating/improving the E-Reference section. Decisions will be based on the recommendations of the majority.

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