Nov. 6, 2006

World-class services now easily available to Blackboard users

Mike Tolomeo/Provided
Tony Cosgrave, the instruction coordinator for Cornell Library's Department of Collections, Reference, Instruction and Outreach, right, works with Marilyn Dispensa, an instructional designer from CIT, during a Blackboard training session held in Uris Library earlier this fall.

Cornell University Library's world-class resources are now part of Blackboard, a widely used online course-management tool.

Links to the Library Gateway, Ask a Librarian and RefWorks have been built into Blackboard so that anybody using one of Blackboard's course Web sites can easily move between the tools offered there and Cornell Library's resources and information services.

"Students and faculty now have one-stop shopping for their course needs," said Tony Cosgrave, the instruction coordinator for Cornell Library's Department of Collections, Reference, Instruction and Outreach. "We hope that integrating these resources and services into Blackboard will raise students' awareness of these services and then increase students' usage."

Blackboard, which is supported and operated by Cornell Information Technologies (CIT), is a course management system primarily used by instructors to create Web sites where they post syllabuses, announcements, assignments, reading lists and other related Web links. Blackboard at Cornell hosts 3,200 active course Web sites with about 17,000 faculty and student users.

Library Gateway
This is the starting place for information about Cornell Library, as well as access to its outstanding resources and services. Connect through the Gateway to search the catalog and other discovery tools, read an article in an electronic journal, chat with a reference librarian, retrieve images, request book delivery to the library of your choice or the delivery of articles to your desktop and find the business hours and the Web sites of each of the 20 units of the Cornell Library.

Ask a Librarian
A quick and easy interface for help at Cornell Library. Link to reference desk phone numbers or to a form that can be used to ask questions by e-mail. Or log into an online chat service and communicate in real time with a member of Cornell Library's reference staff.

A Web-based software tool that makes library research and paper writing easier. By interfacing with library databases, RefWorks enables users to organize and manage their library research citations or references. Footnotes or citations can be inserted into a paper to generate a properly formatted bibliography.

"We view Blackboard as one of the most important applications that CIT runs that directly touches the academic mission of the university," said Jim Lombardi, CIT's director of academic technology services and user support. "Cornell Library, of course, plays a big role in that."

Staff from Cornell Library and CIT worked together over the summer to create a seamless connection between Blackboard and three of Cornell Library's important information services.

Any new course Web site on Blackboard comes with a built-in menu that now includes links to all these services as well as to announcements, course information, discussion boards and external information. RefWorks also has been added to the tool menu for use by students and to the control panel's content areas for use by instructors. Blackboard course sites created prior to September 2006 can be updated to include these new features. Information on how to do this is available on the Blackboard Web site at

"Instead of coming to library Web pages to get services, we want students and faculty to get our electronic resources and services where they already are," said Martin Kurth, head of Cornell Library's metadata services. "And, we want to provide the tools and support so that when faculty are putting together course Web sites they can make this happen."

A big part of the integration also included training for instructors. Four orientation workshops were held at the beginning of the semester, and a series of Web pages were created to help with the process of using Blackboard. They can be viewed at

In addition to gaining easy access to library services, instructors can also integrate into their Blackboard sites such course-specific library resources as links to online journal articles or customized Web-based resource guides created by library instruction staff.

The addition of these new links is the first step in an ongoing effort to include Cornell Library's resources and services in Blackboard's course Web sites. Future plans include adding such library features as e-reserves to Blackboard, and further integrating other resources for teaching and learning.

Chris Philipp is a staff writer and editor for Cornell University Library Communications, and Leslie Intemann is a technical communicator for Cornell Information Technologies Communication and Outreach.