I love subject guides. As a patron and a librarian, I usually find them to be indispensable. When I go to a library's website, the relevant subject guide is usually my first stop.
Let me stop before I get too ahead of myself. What is a subject guide? Trey brought the fact to my attention that not everyone knows what that is. A subject guide is a beautiful collection of a library's online (and sometimes citations for "best of" print) resources about a specific subject. The idea is that a patron with interests in, say, African Art, can go to a library's website and not be completely lost about where to start their research.
Example: UNC-Chapel Hill
I might be biased because I acquired my MSLS from this place, but I love their guides. Every discipline has a general guide like this.
There's a list of recommended databases at the top. By recommended I mean: "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SEARCH IN THESE FIRST." Then they list other databases that would be useful, but not necessarily ones that need to be your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd stops. They also put the "Frequently Used" ones to the right. These are general databases that provide access to articles from almost every discipline.
At the top you will notice some tabs. The "Guides" tab takes you to 22 very specific art guides like African Art, Ancient Mesoamerican Art, Graphic Novels, and Illuminated Manuscripts (just to name a few). So that patron who needs to do some African Art research has a place to start tailored to their interests.
Looking for background and biographical information? There's a tab for that. Just need articles? There's a tab for that. Access is a library's #1 purpose. Having a clear path to information, especially when information overload is so easy to come by, is really important to my vision of how a library's website and online resources should be organized.
This is why I spend at least two hours every day working on our subject guides. AND that's exactly why I'm not using mine as examples.
I have very special feelings about our CMS (Content Management System), but to summarize I think it should be a better experience to edit a page than it is. I have a relative understanding of HTML and CSS, however I have not had the patience (yet) to completely change the layout of our guides. So far I've just edited the content everyday. Weeding out broken links and links to free websites that look like they were made in 1996 and gauging usefulness of the resources takes up about 1/3 of every work day. We are a small college so we neither need as many databases as UNC-CH does nor do we have the budget for them! We do not have specialized databases for each subject taught at GC, so I try to make sure each subject has links to the best of what the internet has to freely offer on that topic. I don't think these have been edited for content in years. I don't want it to sound like I'm blaming anyone, it just hasn't been as important to past librarians as it is to me.
Over the next few months, I'm hoping to get feedback from faculty on the quality of the links I'm providing. Then as I do instruction sessions, I'll try to get student feedback. It's one thing that I feel so strongly about subject guides, but what matters most is that the students know they're there and can use them.
Bottom line: Subject guides are useful tools if they are crafted well and well-crafted subject guides are currently high on my priority list.