Archive for Springshare

LibGuides & Librarian Savvy Help Solve a Mystery

Students at Boston College, with a little help from a librarian and her LibGuide, helped solve a mystery that began a century ago in a Chinese orphanage.

The students, undergraduates at BC studying history and art, were trying to determine what had happened to 86 intricately carved wooden models of Chinese pagodas carved in 1915 by boys at the orphanage under the tutelage of a German Jesuit and others.

The pagodas were brought to the U.S. for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and had gone from there to the Field Museum in Chicago. But their current whereabouts were unknown.


Adeane Bregman, head of the Bapst Art Library at Boston College, with one of the Chinese pagoda models she helped students to find.

BC Art Librarian Adeane Bregman was brought in to help the students with their research. Her classroom presentation, supplemented by a LibGuide, demonstrated research techniques and sources and ways to make connections.

Bregman used the LibGuide for her presentation. Afterward, it became her virtual presence. “It lasts when you leave,” she said. “It can be consulted. It led to vetted resources that helped the students not just to find the pagodas but to get a sense of their history and why they were important.”

“It made me feel good that libraries and what we provide are not dead yet,” Bregman told The Heights, the BC student newspaper. “We can still help people to work smarter and more efficiently.”

Eighty-three of the pagodas were eventually found in a warehouse in the Boston area. (They had been sold to a private collector.) Bregman was invited to go with the students to see them.

For more on this story, see “A Cultural Treasure Hunt” and “Treasure Hunt Ends in Boston” in The Heights.

Bregman’s LibGuide, prepared for two different classes involved in the project, can be seen at and


Getting Ready for the Transition to LibGuides 2

LibGuides 2 is coming, and everyone’s eager to make the make it happen. The creation of beta sites — a key step in the process — will be getting started soon.  (Admin accounts: if you haven’t requested one yet look for the “Request LibGuides 2 beta site” button when you sign in to your current LibGuides site. Check out our blog post for more info.)

There’s another key step — an opportunity, really — that’s easy to overlook: getting a handle on your existing LibGuides content before making the transition to LibGuides 2.

It’s a simple idea, one that will save work during the transition and after. But how should you go about it?

Emily King, Kim Vasilliadis, and Chad Haefele User Experience Team, University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Emily King, Chad Haefele, and Kim Vasilliadis,  
User Experience Team, University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Librarians on the User Experience team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have a plan. It was developed not with LibGuides 2 in mind, but as part of an earlier transition to LibGuides from an older content system. (The UX team includes Kim Vasilliadis, Emily King and Chad Haefele.)

We thought a look at their process would be useful to other libraries as they prepare for LibGuides 2. Emily King, on behalf of the team, agreed to share with us — and with you — how they have gone about it. Here’s part of our conversation.

Q. Tell us a little about the background of library guides at UNC. What did you have before LibGuides and why did you decide to switch?

UNC Libraries have a long history with subject guides. Librarians started creating online pathfinders in the late 1990s. These early guides were basically online bibliographies and were mainly designed by librarians who felt comfortable writing in HTML and managing files on a server. As our web presence grew, so did our guides. In the early/mid 2000s,  we created an in-house database to manage our guides. Librarians would enter in the guide’s medadata (title, owner, creation date, subject area, etc). This database allowed us to automate where guides were linked on our website and it also sent a yearly email to the guide owners reminding them to  review their subject guides.

Around 2005, we noticed that many librarians were using these subject guides as instructional tools. The automated system did not provide an easy way to sync up the guides with the associated course. We then rebranded these instructional tools Course Pages and  built another database to hold the metadata about course pages. We created a HMTL templates for this new type of guide. We were able to tie this database into the campus learning management system (Blackboard and later Sakai), which helped to put the course pages at the most likely point of need.

We knew that before we moved to a new content management system that we needed to have a sound content management strategy in place.

Until we moved to LibGuides, both Subject Guides and our Course Pages were created in HTML. We created css/html based templates to brand each type of guide. We also had style guidelines and naming conventions to help the guides to look uniform. When subject guides were each initially published we did a technical review and a content review. Librarians were responsible for monitoring and  periodically updating the guide when prompted by a reminder email. It was also up to the librarian to remove the guide from the system when they thought it was no longer relevant.

Q. What prompted you to put a new management plan in place for LibGuides? What were some of the issues you were trying to address or anticipate?

We knew that before we moved to a new content management system that we needed to have a sound content management strategy in place. By the time we began to consider Libguides, we had been managing subject guides and course pages for over a decade and we were intimately aware of the issues. We had guides that no one knew existed or were thought to have been deleted years before.  We also had guides that had been created as a student project but no longer had a guide owner when the student graduated. We also didn’t have a defined strategy for how to deal with guides when the guide creator retired or left. In some cases the guide just languished on our servers for years. We also had a very busy staff who often felt crunched for time and just didn’t have the resources to go back and evaluate their guides.

Q. How did you go about evaluating what guides you should and shouldn’t have?

When we started this process, we wanted to make sure that our guides were well designed so that patrons would find them useful. We used three sources to help with shaping the goals:  general web design studies, usability studies that other academic libraries have done on their LibGuides, and the results of usability studies we had done on our own instructional web pages (subject guides, course pages, and other online learning objects).

Some of the findings were not that surprising; we did not want to have broken links, we wanted to use formatting to convey meaning when possible, we wanted to give good white space, and we wanted to have scannable content. Other findings were more interesting, how students viewed the pages. What content students were drawn to and what features were ignored. One of the most striking findings was that we needed to have a clear purpose for the pages and meet student expectations about what they would be getting. This purpose needed to make sense to patrons that came to our website. For example, for our course pages, students expected everything on the pages would be related specifically to their course work.

Going through this process does take time and a lot of discussion if you have a large number of guides, but once the time is invested patrons and librarians benefit from the results.

Q. Are guide authors given the opportunity to make the case for guides that might fall outside the parameters you’ve established?

Yes, in a way. We are a LibGuides CMS campus, so we have parameters for each group that we have in LibGuides. There is definition for each group that the guides in that group need to adhere to (

If someone wants to create a guide outside of the set parameters  we meet to discuss the need they will be addressing and either create a new group to meet that need or determine an alternative solution. Our goal is not to restrict content creation, but to make sure that we are planning for the content we add.

Q. Who manages the process? How do you define the roles of the team managing the guides vs. those of the individual guide authors?

Currently the User Experience team for UNC Libraries manages this process, but librarians and department heads have ultimate say over the content as long as it adheres to our guidelines. They are the subject experts. That being said, the UX department worked closely with subject librarians to develop the guidelines we have. Our approach is very much a partnership to help librarians identify the goals of their subject guides and course pages and help them meet those goals.

I think that librarians feel better about the time that they choose to invest in their subject guides because they see how the guides fit into the strategic web presence of UNC Libraries.

Q. How have the guide authors/librarians responded to having rules and processes and procedures in place for their guides?

We have gotten this question a lot, and the answer seems to surprise people, but I don’t think it should. We have had really positive feedback from our librarians. I think it is because we are working together to meet the same goal: help our patrons connect to the resources they need. That is how the guidelines are presented and practiced. I don’t think any librarian wants a patron to come to a library web site and receive bad or out of date information. I think that librarians feel better about the time that they choose to invest in their subject guides because they see how the guides fit into the strategic web presence of UNC Libraries.

Q. You have a timeline for guide maintenance. Can you describe the different tasks it calls for at different times of year and how they are carried out?

We do. It is published as a LibGuide that all librarians can access ( Our major review happens over the summer because that is when the librarians at UNC have the most time to review their subject guides.

In April/May, we go through the guides and try to “measure” them to give librarians a sense of how long they will need to spend updating the guide and identifying specific problems that need to be fixed (broken links, display problems, etc.). Then when the spring semester finishes, we run the Google Analytics statistics for each page of the guide. We only pull two metrics, unique users and average time on page to give a snapshot of use. If librarians want to go more in depth with the metrics for a particular guide, they are able to look at the raw data in Google Analytics. We think it is important to include a maintenance time estimate with the usage statistics so subject librarians can see all their guides together and compare. Each librarian considers how much time they have to devote to guides and then sees which guides have the highest impact and spend their time on those.

We have found the most important pieces of this process is to define what user needs your guides are meeting and let those needs define the creation of guidelines and the review process and to plan for the whole lifecycle of the guide.

Q. Can you describe how you estimated the time it would take to update a guide based on the data you had on it?

To get our minimum time estimate to update the guide, we add together the following:

  • 20 minutes times the number of pages – We estimated this as the time it would take to look over the page as a page and ask questions like: Do I still want these boxes? Is this still the best way to organize the page? Are there any new resources that should be added? This estimate also includes time to fix any stylistic problems that were identified in the yearly review.
  • 3 minutes times the number of resources – Because a web page can be any size, we decided to count the number of books, databases, services, and other library resources that were listed on the page. It is going to take librarians the same amount of time to review 500 links no matter how many pages they are on.
  • 7 minutes times the number of unlinked resources – One of our web goals is to minimize repeated content on the web. To meet this end, we require all subject guides to link to the original digital material (if it is a digital item) or the official digital surrogate (for example, the catalog record for print items). Because librarians have to track down the correct link for this, we know that it will take a little longer than a simple review of a resource.
  • 15 minutes times the number of broken links – I think it goes without saying that we don’t want broken links on our pages. If there is a broken link, librarians need to either track down the right link, delete it the resource, or replace it. This investigation takes a bit of time, which is why we have 15 minutes for this.

Kim and I came up with the numbers based on our experience working with subject guides and course pages. We know that actual time may vary greatly, but this does help compare apples to apples when subject librarians are trying to figure out how to prioritize their guides.

Q. What did you use to gather usage reports with the old guides? Are you doing it differently now that you have LibGuides? How have the built-in statistics in LibGuides been useful?

We have used Google Analytics in the past for these reports. Because it took us a while to migrate all our existing content into LibGuides (we completed in February of last year), we wanted to make sure that the numbers were consistently generated for the guides in LibGuides and guides in HTML. Now that we have all our guides in LibGuides, we will explore if we can generate the stats we need with the LibGuides statistics. The most important stats for us are unique users and average time on page. It allows our subject librarians to see how much use the subject guides are getting and how much time people are spending on specific pieces of the guide.

Q. Your plan was developed to coincide with the change from your old guides to LibGuides? What advice would you have for libraries that already have LibGuides in place?

We have found the most important pieces of this process is to define what user needs your guides are meeting and let those needs define the creation of guidelines and the review process and to plan for the whole lifecycle of the guide. Ask questions like: “How will we know when we don’t need this anymore?” “How will we know when this is out of date?”, etc.

For our subject guides we have a thorough yearly review process because these are semi-permanent additions to our web site that anyone coming to our website could use. For our course pages that have a very specific user group for a specific length of time, we don’t do an annual review. It’s much simpler to just unpublish the guides when the user group doesn’t need them anymore.

This is definitely something that is easier to do when people have to rethink their guides anyway, but I think it can be done at any time. Going through this process does take time and a lot of discussion if you have a large number of guides, but once the time is invested patrons and librarians benefit from the results. It is almost like a library building renovation.

One happy side effect of this process is methodically reviewing guides exposes content that may have been created as a workaround for a problem elsewhere in the library. This is a way of identifying needs that are not being met in your other library tools. For example, if we have a page that explains a complicated policy or process in the library, every year when you review that guide you have a chance to think again if that process could be improved to eliminate the need for the guide. If you can, then you are improving the patron experience and taking extra work off of a subject librarians’  plate.

For more on the UNC plan for managing LibGuides, see the slides from Kim Vassiliadis’ presentation at Computers in Libraries 2013: “LibGuides: Sustaining & Embedding Strategies” 

LibAnalytics & the Institutional Review Board

There are few information gathering processes in academia as important as those of the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Federally-mandated in the U.S. (other nations have their own systems), IRBs are designed to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects who take part in research.

But the IRB process, while recognized as vital, can seem onerous to busy faculty and other researchers and even to members of the boards that sit in review.

At Asbury Theological Seminary (ATS) in Kentucky, LibAnalytics is helping streamline the IRB process for researchers, board members, and administrative staff alike.

We interviewed Greg Sigountos, Instructional Resource and Production Specialist at ATS, about their use of LibAnalytics for institutional review data collection and management. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

Greg Sigountos

Greg Sigountos

Q: Is the Institutional Review Board administered by the library or are you doing this for a different unit in the institution?

The IRB isn’t technically administered by the library, but the Director of the Library is the chairperson, and our Administrative Assistant is the board’s recording secretary. Our IT and web services areas are busy with other major projects, so the question came up: could we take care of this in-house, and use LibAnalytics? LibAnalytics let us have control over all the steps in the review process, rather than have to work on other departments’ schedules.

Q. Tell us about the old IRB info gathering process.  What made you look for another way to do it?

The old way involved researchers downloading a fillable PDF, writing their answers down, and e-mailing the PDF. This was software-dependent: it required Adobe Reader, and sometimes in the past, the form stopped saving data for users. The form, once created, wasn’t editable by a user either. If a user wanted to resubmit or edit their request, they could copy and paste their previous answers, but then the OCR would produce bizarre errors, leading to emails back and forth asking for clarifications.

Q. How long have you been using LibAnalytics for the Institutional Review Board data?

LibAnalytics is new for us. In fact, having a data warehouse for the IRB records is new for us. We’re in an assessment crunch right now, though, and being able to store this data helps a lot. Using LibAnalytics for this has saved our department a lot of time and hassle.

Q. How do researchers access the LibAnalytics form?

Researchers access the form through our portal, on the same page as the old review link. I’m going to put together a LibGuide on institutional review as well, and will embed the widget there.  All the questions are in a single column by request, as once a user submits the form it’s printed as a PDF by the Administrative Assistant and circulated to the board, before an ID, decision, and reviewers are added for our records.


One section of the Institutional Review Board data collection form created in LibAnalytics at Asbury Theological Seminary.

There’s some jQuery in there to make certain questions appear based on the review type selected by the user, to keep it as uncluttered as possible for the end-user, as well as to break up a long checklist in the middle. The tooltips are made visible because of the length and importance of some of the descriptions, and because there’s a clickable link in one of them. The form also has a section where the user can select which additional forms they’ll need to attach, and the thank you message displays a list of those forms as a reminder

Q. How are you getting the records out of LibAnalytics and into PDF format for printing?

Printing is done from the view/analyze data section. I created a few print-specific stylesheet rules, and call a plugin so that multi-line text boxes expand vertically to match the amount of text. The fillable PDF would take 8-10 pages, depending on the length of some responses, but I’ve managed to knock that down to 3-4, which is a boon for readability. The board’s comments and recommendations can then be added into a few fields that are hidden on the widget, giving us a complete record.

Q. How has the new process been received by researchers?

Initial reports are good. There are still some pieces of the review process that can’t be put into the form, but I added some code to remind users which attachments they need to submit as supplements. We had our first resubmission happen recently, and it went through smoothly for the researcher- plus, we now have records of his first submission in case we need to track history.

Q. In addition to using LibAnalytics to streamline the process, are you analyzing the data and using it to help manage or guide institutional review at the school?

We are currently in an accreditation review period, so we’re analyzing every piece of data we currently have at the institution, and trying to put in place processes that will gather data we don’t have but are going to need. Right now, I don’t know what elements of the review process we’re going to actually analyze, but until then, it’s good to cast a wide net so that we have data to analyze down the road.

Greg Sigountos is the Instructional Resource and Production Specialist at Asbury Theological Seminary. He handles faculty support, some library infrastructure, and the design of the library’s websites.  The B.L. Fisher Library at ATS uses LibGuides, LibAnswers, and LibCal, in addition to LibAnalytics, to serve its user community.

Springy Products, Public Libraries, and Younger Adults

Chart_Pie_48No one has given them a cutesy label yet—thank goodness for that—but 16-29 year olds have been identified by Pew Research as a key and, in many ways, surprising demographic for public libraries.

The under-30 crowd has particular needs and particular ways they want their needs met. Pew’s recent report “Young Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations” says members of this age group are not only heavy technology users, but “value a mix of traditional and technological library services.”

Are you looking for ways to bridge the gaps—between the traditional and the technological and between you and your young users? Let Springy products help.

  • Mobile telephone_48Online Here, There, Anywhere. Younger adults are one-third more likely than the general adult population to have visited a library’s website, both in the library and remotely, reports Pew. What’s more, 40% of them have accessed library services and resources via a mobile device. Springy products let you reach this key group in what you might call their natural habitat. (All Springy products are mobile-ready, natch.)
  • Answers at Their Fingertips. 16-29 year olds are 25% less likely than older Americans to get help from a librarian when visiting a library, reports Pew. But 77% of them say they would be likely to use an online Ask a Librarian service. Ring any bells? If you have LibAnswers, make sure you’re keeping these most-likely-to-ask patrons in mind. Don’t have LibAnswers yet? Here’s another good reason to add it to your suite of services.la16-29
  • Wazzup? (And When?) Nearly two-thirds of 16-29 year olds say it’s very important for public libraries to provide free events and activities, such as classes and cultural events, for people of all ages. At the same time, they’re less likely than older adults to be aware of what the library has to offer. Reach them where they’re at. Put your events online in LibCal and make them easy to find.

Public librarians: how would you use Springy products to reach 16-29 year olds and keep them as library regulars now and in the future.  Read the Pew report and share your ideas with other Springy librarians in the comments.

Teen Tech Week: Spotlight on LibGuides for Teens

Yesterday marked the start of Teen Tech Week, sponsored by the Young Adult Libraries Services division (YALSA) of the American Library Association. This year’s theme encourages libraries “to throw open their physical and virtual doors to teens and showcase the outstanding technology they offer.”

To celebrate Teen Tech Week, we’re highlighting a few of the many great LibGuides created for teen audiences by school and public librarians. The three guides featured here will also form the kernel of a new “Teen Interest” category on the LibGuides Best Of site. Feel free to use one of the guides as a template to reuse / remix on your own site! (The guide authors have given their permission.)

Teen Resources

Teen Space
Newport News Public eLibrary
The Newport News Public Library in Virginia has created an attractive and dynamic “Teen Space” with a wide range of resources for its teenage audience.

The site offers everything from career and college information to homework help  to books and magazines to special events. It’s all wrapped into the highly customized and tightly structured design that gives the Newport News eLibrary a distinctive online look and feel.  (NNPL uses LibGuides for its overall online site.)

Be sure to check out the library’s use of tabbed boxes on each of the pages of its teen guide to keep the content compact and organized.

Walk in My Shoes: Exploring Cultures in AmericaWalk in My Shoes: Exploring Cultures in America
Akira Toki Middle School
This guide, created by teacher-librarian Madge Klais at the Akira Toki Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin, supports the study of multicultural literature for teens.  It’s a companion to her 8th grade course in the school’s Unified Arts Program, and it’s filled with information, illustrations, and resources.

Madge hopes to have students add additional content, including book reviews, Animoto videos, and other items to the site as they proceed through the course.


Just for Teens Just for Teens
East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Louise Hilton at the East Baton Route Parish Library in Louisiana designed this guide as a “one-stop shop” for area teens to find resources on arts and crafts, gaming, writing, teen reads, music, and more. It’s full of books, databases, websites, online classes, and creative ideas.

The guide also connects to the library’s social media presence, including Twitter and Instagram plus a Facebook page and Pinterest board just for teens.

Like all the best guides, “Just for Teens” is a work in progress, with new and changing categories and content to keep it fresh and fun.

Congrats to all three for these great guides. We’re looking for more Best Of examples, so if you’ve created or know of a guide that’s a cut above—in this category or any other—let us know!