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Outstanding LibGuides v2 Customization – Interview with University of North Florida

If you haven’t had a chance to preview the UNF’s LibGuides customizations, run (don’t walk) your typing fingers over to We chatted with Jeremy Hall, UNF’s Virtual Services Librarian, about their LibGuides customizations, CMS functionality, Springy Tools integration, and the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Okay, we’re kidding about that last one, can you blame us for an homage to Douglas Adams? Onto our interview with Jeremy, one hoopy frood who really knows where his towel is. 🙂

UNF LibGuides Homepage
UNF LibGuides Homepage


Q. Tell us about your customizations! Shed some techie-light background on what you’ve accomplished.

Most of the customization I’ve done revolves around the LibGuides homepage. I really wanted something that resembled an actual homepage rather than the default LibGuides structure. The CMS used by the university is pretty limited so I’ve put some thought into how we might use LibGuides as kind of a proxy homepage.  It’s going to be a long process but from the beginning the plan was to move as much content as possible from the university system into LibGuides.

I needed to conform to some UNF marketing standards so the header and main menu are very similar to that which is used by the university. It’s built a little bit different but it looks almost identical which is all I needed. Additionally, while we are slowly moving content into LibGuides, not everything resides there yet and some items (catalog, etc.) will never reside in LibGuides so I needed a menu anyway. This particular menu is just a generic bootstrap navbar altered with some CSS.

How we might
use LibGuides as
proxy website

The next important element was integrating our discovery tool which is the core of our business.  We use Ebsco Discovery and their API just doesn’t work with the university CMS so I was very excited to be able to actually use this API to make a nice search box for LibGuides.

Finally, I wanted to integrate as many of our other Springshare products as possible. We use LibCal to dynamically update our hours of operation, to book help sessions with librarians, and just recently, book group study room reservations.  LibAnswers & LibChat widgets were easy to add and help complete the one stop shopping feel I wanted to the LibGuides homepage.

Q. Tell us about your experience with LibGuides v2. How is the new interface and design working for UNF?

I love LibGuides v2!  It’s definitely a huge step up from v1, and really solid right out of the box.  Obviously, to get the most out of it takes some customization but I think you can take it as is and still have a really good site.

Our librarians are pretty happy as the new system is easier to work with for a variety of reasons. The admin side is much better organized and the guide creation process more streamlined.  The ability to edit custom templates has allowed me to customize our templates to include all the required pieces we want in our guides and allow Librarians to work on guide content instead of structure.  A key element for me is the new publishing workflow [LibGuides CMS Only].  Librarians spend time on content generation and can then send the guides to me to adjust structure or implement any special customizations they may have requested.

FSU LibAnswers & LibCal Integration
FSU LibAnswers & LibCal Integration

Q. You’re using LibAnswers and LibCal and you’ve done a beautiful job adding them to your LibGuides CMS homepage. Tell us more!

Well, for starters, Springshare products all tend to be fairly easy to use and inexpensive. Budgets are tight so we appreciate all the bang for our buck. We also have a wide range of technical skills in the library so it’s nice to have a collection of tools that just about anyone can be taught to use.

We’ve pretty much gone all in with every Springshare product we’ve purchased and thrown widgets everywhere.  It’s too soon with the new page to see if it bumps our usage numbers but LibChat and LibAnswers have been popular since they were acquired. Texting in particular has grown quite a bit over the last year or so.

 Q. Tell us more about your LibAnswers growth!

UNF's LibAnswers
LibAnswers growth has been a combination of a few things including homepage placement, emphasis in instruction, and  emphasizing with staff.  We also embedded LibAnswers widgets in our LMS and into the main student portal where they view grades etc.

As for the texting, I think it’s a combination of the above reasons and just the general acceptance of texting as a means of communication. It’s not uncommon for us to have students text us from within the library to make noise complaints and items of that nature.

 Q. Any tips to share with our LibGuides users?

Obviously you need to be pretty familiar with HTML & CSS but I would highly recommend that anyone interested in doing a lot of customizations should spend some quality time learning about Bootstrap.  There’s so much functionality built into bootstrap that is now part of LibGuides that you can do virtually anything!

Thanks for the chat Jeremy! Keep on doing stellar work with your LibGuides CMS system and remember the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42!

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