Building a Library Homepage/Website using LibGuides

At one of my school library positions, I was solely responsible for designing, creating and maintaining a new library webpage using LibGuides.

This system is used by many school and university libraries for an array of purposes. LibGuides can be used within a university’s website to create individual subject guides. For example, the Law Library at a university may link to individual LibGuides for Criminal Law, Tax Law, Writing a Research Project, Finding Case Law etc while still sitting within the larger institution’s website (run by another vendor). I have helped with some guides like this while working at a university library, as well as other e-learning systems such as Moodle (creating quizzes for students and online tutorials etc).

However at the school library, the LibGuide constituted the entire library website, linked over from the school’s webpage. Here I will briefly discuss the functionalities of such as system and my experiences in using it to create a website from the ground up.

I have found LibGuides to be an excellent tool for building a school library website. Many schools utilise this system, and for good reason. It does however, require an annual fee and so your school must be willing to expend this. Otherwise, you will have to consider using free systems such as google site. This is not a bad option, however I have found that it is limited in its functionality. It is harder to make clear and professional, without proper website building and coding skills. I have some basic html skills but this is usually not enough for more complex sites.

The benefits of using LibGuides as the base for your school libraries website are as follows:

  1. It is a simple content management system (CMS), with ‘WYSIWYG’ (what you see is what you get) editing and drag and drop organising features. You do not need a lot of technical skills to be able to create a professional and clear website. Although knowing some basic html will help you with minimal formatting (like changing the height or width of embedded media). Pre-made boxes allow you to fill with media, text, links, widgets etc. You can re-size and change the layout easily. Navigation is clear and simple. You can easily store and re-use content.
  2. The CMS is made specifically for libraries. This means it has functions for databases, catalogue search widgets, inserting books from ISBNs and so forth. This saves a lot of time and difficulties.
  3. The adding and and updating of content is decentralised. Students, teachers, library staff etc can all create guides and pages. Anyone in the school can be given editing rights (there are different levels of these of course) by an administrator. Of course, it may be a good idea to collaborate with these editors and create procedures to ensure a consistent layout and colour scheme etc for your guides/pages.
  4. LibGuides gives you the ability to leverage off content curated by other libraries (with permission) through its LibGuides community. Why reinvent the wheel? If you see the perfect guide or part of a guide, LibGuides makes it simple to ask permission and make a copy of these in your system.
  5. LibGuides provides great support. Since you are paying the vendor, you have comprehensive technical support. If something is not working, or you are unsure how to do something, you can simply email the team and they get back to you quickly and they are always very helpful! The only downside is that LibGuides is based in the US, and so there can be a slight delay in response times, and you can’t really call them due to time differences.
  6. LibGuides also provides free training and help pages. There are video tutorials and an array of simple step-by-step information sheets to help you when starting out.

I don’t really have a list of limitations for this system, as I have found it to be relatively flawless so far! Some people may not like the fact that so many school’s use it, so there can be similarities across school library websites. It can be a little limited in display options, like different fonts. If you wanted to be totally unique I suppose this wouldn’t be for you. But I found by using our school’s colour scheme throughout, our school logo, library motto and so forth, we could really personalise as much as we needed. I was happy to lose a little bit of uniqueness to have the ability to utilise content already curated. It was a huge job creating a library website from scratch, and I was limited for time, thus this ability was very helpful.

What tips do I have for creating a school library website from scratch?

  • Make a plan. Create a blueprint or ‘wireframe’. First, think of what general pages within the main site you will need. (Note – the ‘guide’ is the whole website in this case, and then you can create pages and sub-pages within that. Thus, if you need to create a page with many, many subpages, it might be better to create another guide for that topic and then link this to the main website guide. i.e. the ‘Research’ page had many topics to cover, so I made it a separate guide. I then put a tab on the website which simply redirected you there – seamless one click. Many subject guides would need this too.)
  • Some examples include: Home, About, FAQ, Books, Research, Writing, Resources, Staff only, Websites, etc.
  • Once you have a basic list, start thinking what you would ned to put within each of these pages. List these out. Run through this with others and see if you have missed anything. Look at other school websites, LibGuides or not, and see what they have included, use great ones as inspiration. Run a focus group if you like.
  • Talk with the institution and check any requirements they may have – do they want you to use the school colours? do they have naming conventions? procedures/policies etc?
  • Then – just start! Play around, experiment and you will figure out great things to do. Trial and error is your friend. Email support if you get stuck. You can always move things, delete things and re-use info.
  • Preview the site and test it out on some guinea pigs, make changes after you see what works/what doesn’t.
  • Launch it! Perhaps create a short video tour to email around to accompany the launch – showing all the great functions you have created!
  • Keep updating and checking. Don’t let dead links sit around, don’t let old dates stay up. Keep it fresh and change things on the homepage and in the news feed/events etc.

And that’s it! What tips do you have for someone making a webpage? Or do you hate using LibGuides? Feel free to add to the discussion.

Tune in next time when I post about using Infographics to present your data.

And, thanks for reading 🙂

Michelle De Aizpurua


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