on my love affair with libguides, but feeling the need to have a wandering eye…

I’ve been a Libguides user for YEARS and I must say…

I ❤️ Libguides

I also know that I’m not alone. WAY BACK in 2014, CD McLean posted Libguides: My Most Favorite Tool.

I think the folks over at their parent company, Springshare, call them, “Lib [like liberty] guides,” but I don’t care and with my kids I’ve always referred to them “L-eye-b guides” since they’re guides to the library. I’ve heard other librarians argue that we should call them “research guides” since the platform branding really isn’t the concept we’re shooting for in our information skills instruction and that makes TOTAL SENSE, but I don’t care so I still call them “L-eye-b guides.”

Really, though, you know it’s been a long year. Let’s just all smile and agree to say it my way… Thanks for your cooperation! LOL!

If you’re not a Libguides user, no worries, it’s not all that complicated. At its most basic the Libguides platform is really just a really good and rather elegant web authoring and hosting platform. I think the reason that I’ve been so taken with Libguides over the years, though, is that it’s web authoring software that behaves like it was designed by librarians for librarians–the tools are tailored for librarians to very quickly and IMHO pretty intuitively organize content and resources the way that librarians want to organize content and resources.

A week or two ago librarian extraordinaire, Matt Ball, asked how people organized their database offerings to help students select the most appropriate database for their information need. The thread that transpired led to an interesting discussion that surfaced some really fascinating factors that librarians consider when creating the digital portal to their library’s resources and services. Things that people appeared to weigh as they organized resources for their students seemed to include:

  • What is your student population like?
  • At what grades or age groups is your site aimed?
  • Are all of your students Academic Search Complete or JSTOR power researchers or do you need to meet a broader range of research needs?
  • Are you a laptop school? iPad school? Other?
  • Is your curriculum structured and consistent where you know that middle ages primary source project is going to be launching in February so you can plan or are your students’ projects completely different from year-to-year?

Clearly, there were many more, but you get the idea. What I found fascinating was that librarians in the discussion indicated that they were having a lot of success with the A to Z database list feature in Libguides. As a librarian, I find this feature so freaking elegant! I LOVE it! But, alas, after I set it up, my kids found it bewildering and just wouldn’t use it.

We ended up using a more graphic approach to organizing our databases. Kids generally just wouldn’t read the scope notes and other text so I just got rid of all of it. It looks like here at Mid-Pacific we will be returning to all face-to-face instruction next fall so we’ll probably stick with our current database organization, but our icon only format only works if you have in-class face time with kids so they’ve been introduced to searching in Gale in Context: High School–otherwise known as that “pretty purple icon that’s probably a pretty good place to start almost any search” ahead of time.

I supposed this is all just a very long winded way of explaining, that as much as I love Libguides, I’m not really sure that I’m using enough of their elegantly powerful tools to justify my annual subscription costs. My program is decently funded, but I don’t have the luxury of a bottomless budget bucket and I’m finding that emerging digital resources like Sora for our eBooks and digital streaming databases that I’m think are becoming a new necessity are really forcing me to find efficiencies in my spending so I can stretching my budget as far as it can possibly go. Over the past two or three years I’ve thought long and hard about whether I can do what we’re doing on Libguides with Google Sites, Weebly, or other service. Each year, I’ve chosen to stay with my Libguides, but I’m finding it harder and harder.

Factors I’ve weighed in deciding to stay with Libguides or head off in a new direction:

I work with an younger librarian who is an amazing, talented, excellent, and hugely creative partner in the library, but I’m also a huge control freak. Our Libguides templates give us each flexibility to build research guides for classes with our own style, but keeps the look and feel on our site as a whole, consistent enough that no matter where you are on our site, you know you’re at the Mid-Pacific Library. .

We originally created “admin guides” that housed all of our main resources. When we were building project-specific research guides, we placed “linked boxes” on the new research guide. That new offspring box continued to be live linked to its parent on our admin page. When a database icon or URL got updated, replacing the new icon on the admin guide parent box automatically updates the icon on all of the offspring boxes everywhere else on our site. It’s elegant and saved us time which was hugely helpful when you’re a 2 librarian department in a PK-12 school with 1500+ students.

That being said, as time went on I found that as a 1:1 iPad school, our students seem to prefer a single long page that they scroll with most of the information in fewer boxes (Libguides boxes rearranged themselves and move around a page in a way that can be confusing when on a mobile device). That, combined with our move toward more icon and graphics dependent design lead to me doing far more “copying” of database buttons than use of linked boxes. I’m guessing there are better work flows to achieve what I do, but the result is that my work flow has negated the elegant linked box, parent box/offspring box capability of Libguides. When I last had to do a global update of some URLs, I was able to make do with a find/replace search from the admin page, but even now, I’m not super sure that I caught ALL of the necessary URLs that needed updating.

If I really had to, I know I could put together a simplified and probably a little more static web presence for my library. I’m just barely comfortable enough with HTML that I can make minor tweaks and get a page to do what I want it to do. That said, I think it would take more time and there would be some trade offs that wouldn’t kill me, but that I just really would prefer to not have to deal with if possible.

In the end, I think that I’ve continued to ante up the pretty significant subscription renewal because I am comfortable with the platform and I can get resources put together quickly with minimal thinking/learning as far as the authoring platform is concerned. I, honestly, don’t think that that is a wrong or a poor decision. It just, however, troubles me because those extra few hundred dollars mean fewer print books that get added to our K-2 collection or our MS/HS collection. Maybe I just need to get over the guilt and say, “It costs more, but I’m worth it! It’s OK to spend money on myself once in a while!” #LOL but also #Sigh

So that’s it… I’m still in love with Libguides, but I have wandering eye just to be sure it continues to be the right tool for my particular school’s needs.

How to you build your library’s web presence? If you’ve got a cost effective way to make stuff look good that you find works well, I’d REALLY love to hear (and see, so please share links to your library pages) about how you’re handling things! I love my Libguides, but I’ve got wandering eyes! 😉

PS–I’d love to see links to any and all Libguides alternatives, but if you’re a Libguides user, I’d love to see how you organize your resources too! Please hit reply and share a link to your site below!

15 thoughts on “on my love affair with libguides, but feeling the need to have a wandering eye…

  1. Dave-as always you have written a thought-provoking and entertaining post. I have to say that I remain enamored of LibGuides, and find that I can get a guide pulled together pretty quickly. This year our school adopted Canvas (although we still use Podium) and many teachers have made good use of their features in creating their course pages. They can add links, videos, documents etc. We have made some progress with getting them to incorporate a LibGuide. We mostly want the students to be aware of the library resources. I have a huge Asset list and have been using the Image Manager to store icons to add to the database list or links. I almost always have descriptions shown when you hover over the i icon. I use the A to Z list but don’t think kids do. I have one unpublished guide called Special Boxes and that’s where we keep boxes like the Catalog widget, Library info, some RSS feeds, how to get a Boston Public Library ecard, etc. We don’t have a lot of guides published right now by our guide link is:

    • Thank you for the link to your Libguides page! I LOVE your websites vs. databases box! I’d never considered small icons like you’re using for your database list, but I LIKE it! We used Canvas at the previous school I was at and we adopted a new LMS here at MP last year. In both cases I’d hoped to be able to move our research guides and our library’s online presence to the LMS, but in both cases one of main stumbling blocks turned out to be that we weren’t allowed to run a “library class” in which every student was enrolled. Without a universal class (at least as I came to understand it) we had issues with students being able to see our library resources. We have a “Library Services” board on our new LMS that every student, faculty, and staff member can access, but it’s nothing more than a link to our Libgudes portals.

  2. I like the clean look of your database page but I understand the struggle to always want to make sure the costs of a service are justified. I’m more inclined to think that we’re getting our money’s worth out of our LibGuides subscription because we use it for a lot more than our databases and research projects. I also use LibGuides to collect all sorts of recommended resources for a project in addition to our subscription sources, including embedding video and curating lists of books from our catalog, like this –

    We also use LibGuides (in lieu of a newsletter or repeated emails) to collect all our outreach efforts to faculty, including database trials, screencast tutorials on databases, new books, tech tips, and library programming –

    We even use them for summer reading & assignments for the whole campus. Just this year I added LibWizard so I can create assessments as well. While many of these functions could be performed by other products, that’s just one more link or login to remember on top of everything else, so I prefer the idea of using one site to fill as many needs as possible. I also think it’s a good investment of my time because most of our graduates will find their college libraries use LibGuides to organize resources, so I think it’s good to get them familiar with the layout in high school.

    • Oh!!! Your Faculty Resources Libguide!!! #Swoon!!! I mean… I could’ve thought of that!!! But… I didn’t! LOL!!! #StartsBuildingFacultyResourcesLibguide

  3. Thank you for this post as I feel like you read my mind. Also, thanks for the others who have shared their pages. I think I’m ready to have a go at libguides again!

    • I’m certainly no expert, but I noodle around in Libgides a lot and am always happy to attempt to help if you ever need it.

  4. Thank you for sparking such a great conversation, Dave. I feel like I’m going to lose my librarian card for admitting this, but we do not use LibGuides (love your detail about pronunciation 🙂 We had it for a few years, and I spent loads of time training/building, but it never felt right for us. We’re a small team (I’m the only full-time librarian), so I decided that the budget line could be better spent elsewhere, which it has been. Ultimately, our needs have been met by the flexible and engaging web presence of AccessIt, although I remain in awed support of those who create/manage such amazing LibGuides.

    • Hi Shelagh!
      I have fears about losing my librarian card for my views on worrying about citation formatting, but I wouldn’t worry about your Libguides call! I had an Accessit demo and one of my thoughts was that we could build research guides within Accessit. As it turned out the cost of our current library management system and Libguides was significantly less than our Accessit quote.

    • HI Patricia,
      I’m certainly no expert, but I noodle around in Libgides a lot and am always happy to attempt to help if you ever need it.

  5. Libguides never really got off to a good start at my library, then the increasing cost of the subscription and a budget that hasn’t grown since 2012, I left. Once my school made the move to Canvas for our LMS in 2015, I started to make the effort to get our library on Canvas. I wanted to meet the students where they were – and not send them to another site. While it took a few years for me to convince admin that I needed to enroll the entire student body in the library course, I now have all students enrolled (thanks, COVID?) I wish I could share a link, but our LMS is password protected. I am happy to walk others through what we have done – but there are definitely more creative librarians in AISL who have done amazing work with Canvas and their library.

    • Good on YOU, Laura!!! Getting a library Canvas course with every student is quite an accomplishment! I never got close to a yes on that at either my previous school or my current one.

  6. I’m a big fan of LibGuides (in the lib as in bib camp so I’ll try not to judge : ) ) and find they are incredibly versatile for all the different types of curation I and the other folks at my school use them for. I love that I can hide pages to simplify a guide for a small project and even use them to highlight student work. I reuse many of my guides and boxes and love that the LibGuide community is so willing to share their work. I find the link checker a super-valuable tool – I just can’t imagine myself checking links if I used another system for curating resources. The LibWizard app that comes with the CMS has allowed me to create simple pop-up windows with links to emails and Calendly pages. You can see an example of the this by clicking on the red tab on the left on our website: https://libguides.kent-school.edu/library
    I create widgets and use them on our website and in my course page on our LMS if I don’t want my students wandering off the site to explore other resources.
    I do understand the cost, but have also seen faculty really discouraged when a new LMS system is adopted and pages they spent hours creating don’t migrate well if at all.
    I love that I can highlight published student work making it more meaningful than simply turning it in to me. I think you’ll figure it out – please take us on the journey – it’s always a fun one!

  7. When I shifted positions this past year, I lost LibGuides, so it was a huge boon when this team was willing to give it a go. The fact I can reuse assets and that it can find books by ISBN never gets old. Since we were able to start from point A, we’ve worked to make things as simple as possible, visually, and to use some of the training videos to spice up resources from the beginning. Our A-Z list is a good example: https://cranbrook.libguides.com/az.php
    And we also have the image icon version (borrowed straight from you David) but with a few tweaks: https://cranbrook.libguides.com/USResources
    We made a lot of reusable icons with Canva to help share information and make it easy for students both on and off campus.
    Our Guides cover 4 different school libraries (MS and US mainly), all without using CMS because at the moment we can’t justify that additional cost, but in my dreams, we make things even smoother…

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