Lately... I’ve been thinking about Steven Bell’s piece regarding the demise of the academic library website... or rather, its evolution. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty certain he told me once that he envisioned library websites becoming “just libguides.”
At first I was dismissive. I imagined a homepage with a long list of subjects or courses that would filter the user into the appropriate guide. But now I’m thinking maybe this is the right path for us to take. My staff (and probably yours too) spends an enormous amount of time and energy working on our web presence. But what if we chucked it all and just used LibGuides?
0% chance of that actually happening and I’m not entirely serious about it just yet. But ask me in two years and my perspective could be different.
What’s interesting is the artistry of our websites. While we all pretty much offer the same resources and services, we try to put a little personality into our web presence. What does your website say about you? It makes me think of vineyards and wine production—everyone uses slightly different processes and ingredients to create a unique product. But really, wine is wine, right?
(I personally recommend Firestone Riesling.)
What I am getting at is there is no universal design yet that all libraries use. Local conditions could prohibit that, but largely there is no Budweiser or Heineken; we’re all boutique beers. But that’s going to change…
The Future of Academic Library Web Design
I imagine in ten years there will be a definitive design that we will all use or purchase. Our sites will go the way of research guides. We all use to approach these differently, but then came LibGuides and the rest is history. (1200+ libraries in 25 countries use LibGuides—why aren’t you?) It seems that everyone is using this product these days—why develop your own clunky system when you can have something that looks slick and is easy for both patrons and content managers? In a matter of a few years LibGuides has quickly emerged as the solution for how we package resources by subject.
So… what about a common Content Management System for us all? Drupal seems to be gaining traction—but it is a huge investment in terms of up-front time and expertise. I’m not ripping on it—it’s what we’re moving into but… what about just using LibGuides instead? What if we just used the LibGuides template for our entire library website rather than just as a wrapper for subject guides?
Here is an example: Scottsdale Community College Library
Everything that you would expect to find on a traditional library website is contained within their LibGuide instance. The site is geared toward functionality and it maintains a consistent look throughout the site.
There is an emergence of using LibGuides for non-subject guide content:
- NYU offers an inspiring look at their renovation.
- Duke promotes Kindles.
- GVSU uses them for professional profiles.
So it is possible. LibGuides as your CMS.
Ok, so maybe the current LibGuides interface isn’t the perfect solution, but SpringShare should start working on it. Or someone else out there should! I know that if I could purchase an easy-to-use content management system that worked like LibGuides but that was designed for my entire site—I’d probably make the switch. Make it very modular so that libraries could interact with their course management system (Moodle, Blackboard, whatever), their campus payment and registration system, ezproxy, federated searching, catalogs, etc.
Let’s take the hard part out of managing our library websites and make them all the same—a universal design for all academic library websites. No code. No design debates. An out of the box—or nearly out of the box--- design for all of us. AACR2 for web design. A fantasy, perhaps, but just putting it out there.
Companies... do the research. Show us that your design is not only easy to manage, but that it helps students, faculty, and scholars with their work. Show me the data that says your design scheme will improve how they discover and use information AND will save my staff time. Oh and make it very affordable!
As we go through the process of a major overhaul, I know that we’re developing a web presence that is superior to our current design. But in the long run does it really matter? Does having a cool and fabulous design really matter to anyone other than librarians? If I have a boutique Drupal site (U Mich) vs. a LibGuide only site (Scottsdale) does it really matter to my users? Do I really need a Sweetwater Blue when a Bud Light is more or less the same thing?
I swear I’m not having second thoughts about Drupal—I’m just trying to think big picture. If we all switched to something like “just libguides” it would be better economically and our users probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.