Creating virtual exhibition space using LibGuides

Libraries as exhibition spaces

Libraries have always created physical displays of their collections, to promote resources and engage users. Bradford College Library uses book displays, noticeboards, signs and posters to encourage library users to pick up a book, flick through a magazine or try a new database.

Since the development of web technologies, we have also created virtual displays -curating galleries of book jackets on the library catalogue, tweeting photos and grouping together online databases to support national and local events and celebrations. More recently, our library has been encouraging users to contribute. Student reviews are displayed along with the books; we tie in our displays to student activities such as the climate change protests; and library users are encouraged to post pictures of themselves with the different collections onto our Instagram pages.

ESOL Students under lockdown

The ESOL classes in Bradford College are creative places. Enter any classroom and students are busy writing poems, creating Animoto videos, discussing current topics, reading stories, acting out plays. They organise talent shows, bake cakes for charities, go on trips, attend concerts. Students are encouraged to use the library – particularly the Graded Readers collection, but also textbooks, workbooks and dictionaries. Students take part in reading campaigns such as the Big Read, write reviews, and book discussions. Under lockdown, teaching staff wanted to maintain this energy while asking students to explore their own experience during this strange time. As Seima, a lecturer in ESOL, explained:

During these difficult times, we as ESOL lecturers realise the importance of continuing with our online teaching and learning, using a variety of remote learning tools. It is vital to engage and challenge our ESOL learners in their work; empower them to become autonomous learners; foster remote learning skills; harness the skills of all learners; and keep them motivated during lockdown“.

Capturing authentic voices

ESOL tutors asked their students to continue writing, reading and using IT. Students contributed to blogs, padlets, prezis. Some students created professional looking recipes using free applications, or wrote their own newsletter – learning skills such as report writing and design. However, the students were also going for walks, cooking, taking photos, drawing, recording videos, and making crafts. We wanted to capture all these activities to gain an authentic picture of how each student was experiencing lockdown. Seima and I discussed how to bring everything together into one place, to showcase not only the different experiences of each student, but also the variety of media that they had chosen to use to tell their stories.

Introducing LibGuides

LibGuides is a content management system designed specifically for libraries to organise and make accessible relevant resources for a subject or course. LibGuides can be easily created and updated, and URLs can be renamed to make them memorable. For example, our ESOL libguide is called library.bradfordcollege.ac.uk/esolhelp. Librarians use LibGuides to guide students in using library resources, which can include contact details, images, video, links, search boxes, galleries of book covers with direct links to the catalogue, helpguides and so on. However, we have started to realise the potential of LibGuides to act as a showcase for student work – not only collaborating with teaching staff, but also with students.

Creating a virtual exhibition space

The Inspired By ESOL showcase we have created is as exciting as any exhibition that could have been displayed in the library. LibGuides allows us to create moving galleries of images and recipe cards, embed the blog, Padlet and Prezi into the page, listen to mp4s and read diaries saved as PDFs. Students feel proud to have their work on display publicly – the pages are open to anyone who wants to view them. The page is vibrant, colourful, interesting and interactive. Galleries of images move on a carousel, and you can scroll down through the padlets or flick through the prezis without leaving the page. The project is already catching people’s attention. It’s been reported in the college news , will be shortly mentioned in the NATECLA newsletter, and is soon to be discussed in a JISC podcast.

The ESOL team and the Library have already collaborated on a number of projects . This use of LibGuides opens up a lot more possibilities!