Focus on: LibGuides

I’m chairing the ACRL Instruction Section Research & Scholarship Committee, which is working on a new ongoing publication for instruction librarians titled “Five Things You Need to Read About…[fill in the blank]” (You may notice a resemblance.)

Our first topic for this new publication is going to be copyright and instructional materials, but our runner-up was LibGuides. And because I’m also interested in LibGuides, I’m going to do a quick focus post on ’em.

If you don’t know about LibGuides, they’re a proprietary turnkey system for creating web-based research guides, created by a company called Springshare. They allow librarians to quickly and easily add Facebook applications, YouTube videos, meebo (web-based chat) widgets, polls, a rating system for suggested resources, and other neat things to their web pages. Overall, the idea is to make library web pages more interactive and user-friendly, while removing the technological burden from non-techy librarians. This is not a free service (annual licenses run from $899 to $2499), and the pages are hosted by LibGuides, not the library. (Although they say they’re willing to talk if you really want to do your own hosting.)

You can see some examples of library research guides created using LibGuides here.

A selective list of readings includes…

  • The Librarian in Black blog post
    Sarah bullet-points a lot of the key functions of the tool, and nutshells it as a “swanky-looking wiki with a lot of open source features pulled all together in one place.” A good starter post for anyone considering the LibGuides option.
  • Library Support Staff blog post
    More critical of the pricing model for the tool. “This, to me, is packaging Library 2.0 like a database subscription.” Which, good point. However, I’m pretty sure there are libraries who are willing to pay for the convenience that LibGuides offers, or who don’t have Systems departments that can host and support all the features that LibGuides offers. Those libraries might accept the cost. (Though I hope they’d also put some money into training their staff to do these things for free in future.) Also critical of some of the fine print in the license agreements (with a link.) To their credit, Springshare addresses some of these points in the comments.
  • BiblioTechWeb blog post
    Much more enthusiastic review of the tool. Scott is very happy with the way LibGuides interfaces with Facebook tools, which is sort of a mixed bag for me. (My last “Focus on…” post was about Facebook, and included some research showing that students don’t want to use FB for research, they want to use it for gossip. Also, I keep seeing articles saying that FB is already getting old, so I’m not sure it’s the technology I’d want to tie to.) Scott works at a library that has actually used LibGuides, so he has hands-on experience.
  • “Beyond HTML: Developing and re-imagining library web guides in a content management system” in Library Hi Tech, 24(1), 2006
    I skimmed, I admit! A case study of using a CMS to create web guides at Georgia State University Library, and a good overview of why libraries should move toward using a CMS (or similar tool) for publishing their subject guides. Essentially: consistent look & feel, clearer information architecture, no skill barrier for publishers, reusability of content, and usually version control and good customization. Georgia State moved from the Wild West of Front Page to the more civilized climate of a homegrown CMS after doing a comparison of several licensed and open source CMS providers. I don’t want to stray too far into CMS territory here, but for any librarian who wants to understand a bit more about why CMS = good (or what CMS = at all), this is good background reading to compare with what Springshare is offering.
  • Oregon State University’s open-source alternative (ICAP)
    Look at that, someone’s gone ahead and made a free, open-source LibGuides tool! I have no idea why I haven’t heard more about this project. ICAP stands for Interactive Course Assignment Pages. My one nitpick (and it’s minor!) is that while the ICAP site looks great, it’s maybe pitched a little toward tech-savvy Systems librarians who know why “Uses the MVC pattern” is a benefit (?), when in reality it’s non-tech-savvy subject librarians who are going to be the real drivers on using the tool. Be sure to check out their Publications page, too, for more about the project.
  • Creating a Library Database Page with Drupal
    Okay, this one’s a little more tech-y, but again, it’s an interesting alternative to the LibGuides model. Leo Klein screencasts the process of setting up a resource page (he calls it a “library database page,” which is confusing to me–he means a page that lists licensed databases, so basically a research guide) in Drupal, an open-source CMS. Too much detail for most viewers who aren’t actively pursuing Drupal solutions right now, but still interesting as a way of getting the under-the-hood view of managing sites with Drupal.

3 thoughts on “Focus on: LibGuides

  1. Thank you for mentioning LibGuides, Karen. In the first 8 months since the introduction of the system we already have 110 libraries in our community, with 2,000+ librarians creating guides. LibGuides systems (combined) get 1.8 million pages views per month, which speaks volumes about the popularity of the system with students and faculty at our member institutions. (see http://www.libguides.com/selectsite.php for the list of LibGuides libraries). Next month we are introducing the community site where LibGuides librarians can share their guides (and ideas) across institutions, which will further increase the appeal of our community to libraries.

    Thanks much,
    -Slaven Zivkovic
    Founder of Springshare

  2. Margaret Mellinger says:

    Hi, Karen
    Thanks for mentioning OSU Libraries ICAP project, too. It’s great that there are so many more web applications and options for subject librarians who want easier ways to create and maintain subject guides and course pages.

  3. […] pricing information available publically on their site, one blog post, from 2008, cites the cost as ranging from $899 to $2499 for an annual license. That amount of money can be quite significant to libraries whose budgets are being cut or when […]

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