Karen Ford describes the new Resource Guide for Social Scientists, which aims to provide a user-friendly overview of the electronic services available for UK social scientists.
The Resource Guide for the Social Sciences is a pilot project funded jointly by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The project aims to provide staff and students in higher education with an overview of the exciting but often overwhelming range of electronic services available to them and to promote effective use of the resources for research and learning purposes. These resources include bibliographic, reference and research information, online publications, data services, Internet gateways, and resources for learning and teaching. The project is based at the Institute for Learning and Research Technology (ILRT) at the University of Bristol.
Individual resource providers currently provide excellent training opportunities for the resources they manage. However, until now, coordination between services and joint promotion have been undertaken on an informal basis only. The Resource Guide for the Social Sciences represents the first formalised move toward developing a subject-based approach to awareness-raising and training activities. It is hoped that lessons learned from the pilot will help inform any similar joint promotional initiatives in other subject areas.
Figure 1: The Web site for the Resource Guide
The project's activities have been divided into four overlapping phases: information gathering, pilot, main phase and evaluation. Throughout the first phase, resource providers were consulted to determine how an overview of the range of resources might best be presented to the social science community in a clear, concise and relevant way. In the interests of avoiding user confusion and focusing on the benefits of using the resources, a decision was reached to promote the resources by function rather than provider. The first step toward achieving this was the development of a framework which describes and categorises the resources according to their function from the user's perspective.
This framework was used to develop a variety of promotional materials: an overview flier and presentation which were tested throughout the pilot phase, and a promotional postcard. A range of approaches were also piloted to use in conjunction with the flier and presentation including meetings with key faculty and departmental staff members, presentations to students and staff in departments and support services, and informal chats.
The QUESTICARD was also developed during the pilot phase. A combination of a questionnaire and further information request card, the QUESTICARD allows users to request information about specific resources of interest and to indicate an interest in overview or resource specific training events. Data from the QUESTICARD is entered into a database which has been designed to automate the emailing of user requests for information directly to the relevant resource provider. The QUESTICARD is attached to the flier as a 'tear off and post' section and is also available as an online form from the Resource Guide Web site which includes an online version of the flier.
The project is now entering the main phase which involves a number of activities, including the distribution of the promotional materials through mail drops and personal visits to Universities, giving overview chats at meetings, presentations, seminars and coordinating workshops. To spread the word as widely as possible, the Guide is focusing on working directly with staff and students in their departments in addition to providing support to, and working with, information specialists and support services.
Where possible the Guide hopes to 'slot ' activities into existing departmental and institutional activities such as staff meetings, professional development events, conferences, seminar programmes and postgraduate training events etc. Because this is a pilot project, there is an opportunity to try out new approaches and ideas, and to respond directly to the specific needs and interests of staff and students in the social sciences.
If you are a member of a social science related department in higher education in Britain, the Social Science Resource Guide has been set up to help you and your colleagues make effective use of the electronic resources available to meet your research and learning and teaching needs. We offer a variety of free overview events and we are particularly responsive to enquiries from staff and students who are not familiar with the Web or are unsure how to get started with electronic resources
If you would like to find out more about the Guide and what we can offer, you can visit our Web site or contact Karen Ford (Resource Guide Adviser):
Institute for Learning and Research Technology
University of Bristol
8-10 Berkeley Square
Bristol BS8 1HH UK
Telephone +44 (0)117 928 7056
Fax +44 (0)117 928 7112
The World of the information worker in the late 1990s is undeniably one of rapid evolution, in which changing working patterns and clientele combine with multiplying forms of electronic media to demand that we respond proactively in order to provide an efficienct and effective library service. In this situation Librararians support groups are crucial for the dissemination of knowledge and sharing of experience. We can all learn from each other. This is why the creation of a new Social Science special interest group from the merger of the existing ASSIG and ALISS organisations presents an exciting prospect for strengthening ties in the Social Science community. On the 9th April 1999 the first steps towards the creation of such a group were taken at the ASSIG AGM when it was provisionally agreed to create a larger inclusive group to cater for the needs of all Social Science librarians and information workers.
ASSIG  is the Social Science Special Interest Group of ASLIB, The Association for Information Management. It has been running for a number of years and its membership is constituted by academic libraries, government libraries and special information units, including charities. The active membership has traditionally been based in London. The group has benefited from its connection with the ASLIB organisation which has provided administrative support and much needed meetings rooms! One of its key activities is the publication of the journal ASSIGnation which appears quarterly and contains articles and reviews of subjects relevant to the Social Sciences. Areas featured in past issues include: digital libraries, knowledge management and professional development. Other activities arranged by the group have been visits to leading Social Science libraries in London, including the Kings Fund and the London Research Centre. A workshop on improving Internet skills and finding government information on the Internet was also recently organised for members.
ALISS  stands for Academic Librarians in the Social Sciences. It is a forum for Social Science Librarians in UK further and higher education institutions to discuss issues of common importance. The group was originally formed in the early 1990s and has been growing in strength since a revival meeting held in 1996. ALISS membership  includes representatives from University and college libraries from all regions of the UK. ALISS also manages a leading Social Science email discussion list lis-socialscience which is used by information workers and academics to disseminate information and discuss issues relevant to the Social Sciences. Due to the wide spread geographical locations of its members, ALISS meetings  tend to focus around themed events with an overnight stay, although single day participation is always available. The 1998 annual AGM was held at Warwick University and focused on issues surrounding electronic journals. Speakers included Fytton Rowland on recent developments in academic publishing and a representative of Chadwyck Healey on new services being developed by the company. This was then followed by a visit to the Modern Records Centre at the University. A 1999 AGM is being planned to take place at the University of Bangor on the theme of distance learning and libraries.
The most basic reason is of course to strengthen the membership. The more active participants an organisation has, the more services it can provide for its members. There is also considerable overlap between the existing two groups. The basic aim of both is to provide a framework for discussion between Librarians working in the Social Sciences. While this is a wide ranging field, encompassing many subject areas, a core of interests and resources are shared between workers in the academic, special and government sectors. This is especially true as distinctions between the different types of libraries are not always clear cut, with many universities increasingly setting up self-funding research centres which contain information units and academic style research being conducted by users of libraries run by pressure groups and charities. Sharing membership will enable both groups to broaden their geographical range and help them to overcome the common problems associated with special interest groups, namely the potential falling membership due to financial and time restrictions. As a result, during 1998 both the ASSIG and ALISS memberships voted for a trial period of working together. This has included shared particpation in activities such as the Internet Cybercafe and workshop which took place at the British Library of Political and Economic Science in February 1999. In April 1999 ASSIG formally voted for a move towards a full merger and it is anticipated that this will be finally confirmed by the ALISS AGM which is due to take place in June 1999.
It has been provisionally agreed (subject to ALISS AGM confirmation) that the new group will be an Aslib Special Interest group in order to continue to take advantage of ASLIB support and facilities. The membership of the existing two committees will merge to form an interim committee. This will be headed by Heather Dawson (British Library of Political and Economic Science) whi is an active member of both groups, with the support of John Naylor (University of Warwick and ALISS Chairman) and Richard Cheffins (British Library and ASSIG Chairman). Elections for a new committee will occur in the year 2000. In addition, there will also be a steering group which will consider such issues as the name, constitution and subscription details for the new group. This will be composed of Norma Menabney (Queens University Belfast), Heather Dawson (British Library of Political and Economic Science), Richard Cheffins (British Library), Yasmin Adeeb (University of Warwick), Tony Holbrook (University of Bath) and Helen Rebera (Aslib).
If you would like to make any comments on the new Social Sciences Librarians group or would like further information, please contact Heather Dawson at the address below.
British Library of Political and Economic Science
10 Portugal Street