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April 23, 2008



I think that designing subject guides "for us," as you put it, is a perfect example of work that we do to make ourselves feel good, rather than serve patron needs. We absolutely should ask ourselves who our web guides are for. I've seen a little bit about both these products over the last year or so, and it's very valuable that you've field-tested them in this way. I'm sure it's a big plus to get feedback like this directly from students, too.


As a LibGuides user (and I co-presented on our use of them at CIL this year) some of those things the students are complaining about are options chosen by the creator of the guide: wordiness, rounded corners (you can have square or no borders at all), two many sidebars (you can have 2 or 3 columns).

That does get me thinking about the design issues. Something to talk with my colleagues about.


Hi Brian,

Thanks for mentioning us (and for considering LibGuides for your library). We appreciate the feedback from your students and we will consider it in future revisions, although I will tell you that the negative response you listed is highly unusual, in our experience to date. I will be glad to share with you dozens of emails from my inbox with people praising the look and feel of the system (as well as its usability).

I should also say that the actual guide design (i.e. the number of columns, rounded corners vs. square corners vs. tabs, color choices, etc.) is customizable for each guide - the librarian can customize all these when creating their guides. In other words, it is up to the librarian to make the guide as simple (or as complex) as they want it.

At 162 libraries we have on board to date, LibGuides got 2.1 million page views during the month of March (and page views are growing 20% a month), which speaks volumes about how faculty and students perceive LibGuides - as a very useful and popular tool.

This is not meant to minimize the opinion of your students who tested the system, we appreciate the feedback very much, but I also wanted to offer an alternative view, and provide some supporting facts about it.

Thanks for considering.

-Slaven Zivkovic
Springshare - web 2.0 for library 2.0


I wonder if there would be a difference in the feedback on LibGuides depending on the school's (or librarians) implementation of it. I know that at my institution there is a lot of difference among the different librarians' guides, including navigation choices.


"Us or them". I think it can be for both. For us, we are likely to produce better guides more quickly and target them more closely to the needs of the users if the tools give us the capacity to do so. Also, in some libraries a resource like LibGuides means that librarians can now have total control over their guides (for better or worse) and that empowers them to create the guides and take more responsibility for its success. For them, the guide can be crafted to better meet the needs of the user.

I agree with Derik. Some of the concerns of the students could be related to the design, so I'd ask how skilled with the guides the designers are. Perhaps the results shouldn't be used for a purchase/no purchase decision, but simply to help design a better guide. I would tend to base the purchase decision on which product the librarians think will allow them to do a better job of meeting the needs of the users. Then involve the users is achieving a good design.

Brian Mathews

Thanks to everyone for their comments. I'll have to test a few more implementations -- and of course, hope that we can include students during the development process.

Andrew Darby

Hi Brian,

Thanks also for the compare/contrast. Keep in mind that SubjectsPlus is free and open source--the righteous path!--and so you are free to customize to your heart's content. (Assuming you have the time and inclination.) Adding things like Meebo widgets, or other 2.0 bling, is pretty simple, and will probably be included in the next release.

One issue we've found in user testing, which I think would be the case for either SubjectsPlus or LibGuides, is driving users to the guide from your home page. Usually when students encounter the guides, they find them helpful, but many students were oblivious of their existence. At my college, the guides with the most usage are the ones most publicized in bibliographic instruction sessions with students.

Anyway, best of luck whatever you decide. It was helpful for me to read your student comments, and I hope you post any further testing results.

Take care,


Bryan Carson

Hi Bryan,

Sorry to comment late, but I was away from blogland (and computers) all last week.

I recently implemented SubjectsPlus and have had some student and faculty feedback. All of it has been positive. One of the many good things about Subsplus is that it's free and it's cheeper than Libguides even when you factor in the support for implementation. It is customizable, and you are able to tweak it to your local environment fairly easily. You can start fairly quickly once you have server space. Most encouraging, I found that librarians were enthusiastic, and that it allows for flexibility. Those who want to take it to the limit can. Those who don't want to use it, don't have to.

Slaven Zivkovic

Hi Brian,

Just wanted to let you that, based on student feedback, we have made a few changes to the public guide pages and made the search box more prominent. You can check out our blog post entry about it for full details - http://support.springshare.com/?p=66

Thanks for your feedback.

-Slaven Zivkovic
Springshare - web 2.0 for library 2.0

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