Archive for Tips and Tricks

Tips for Designing LibGuides for Children

The look and design of your LibGuides will change depending on your audience. If you’re designing LibGuides for adults, graduate students, or advanced learners – you’ll focus more heavily on library resources, advanced searching techniques, and information literacy skill reinforcement.

When designing LibGuides for children, think bright, colorful, engaging, and entertaining.

No matter what children are doing online, whether its entertainment or education, they’re looking to have fun. Your LibGuide should be simple to use and exciting. If it’s not, you run the risk of them going elsewhere – to a webpage that can hold their short attention spans and fulfill their instant gratification needs.

So, when designing your LibGuide – dig deep and think back to when you were a child. Let’s cover a few tips for designing LibGuides for children.

1. Design for Appropriate Ages

Remember when you were 12 and someone gave you a gift meant for a 7 year old?! Gasp, the horror! You’re a pre-teen, not a baby!! Well, the same principle applies to your LibGuides. One size does not fit all, so consider creating different LibGuides for each age group. Furthermore, what holds the attention of a 7year old is going to be totally different than what attracts a 10year old. Create LibGuides CMS groups to customize the look & feel of each group of guides for each age group.

Example Guides Customized by Age Group

One great example that comes to mind is the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District LibGuides System. They’ve created different groups for PreK, K-5, and 6-12 age groups that all have a different look and feel.

Las Vegas County Public Library LibGuides

Las Vegas Clark County Public Library has different customizations for each age LibGuides CMS age group

2. Use Bright Colors & Images

Children respond to bright primary and secondary colors. Think red, blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange. Avoid muted colors and think bright saturated color schemes. Don’t skip over accessibility concerns, because if an adult can’t read purple text on a yellow background, then a child won’t be able to either.

3. Use Images to Create a Call to Action

Try to avoid lots of ‘copy’ and consider using images to create a call to action. There are loads of free tools you can use to create beautiful icons, and you don’t need to be a graphic designer to use them!


Trinity Grammar School Uses Large Icons to guide Students

Canadian International School uses awesome icons to communicate library resources to students.

4. Incorporate Interactive Elements

Children want to play, plain and simple. Even when they’re learning, they learn better in a game’ified environment. Consider adding interactive polls, embedded videos, interactive widgets and activities to enrich their learning experience.

Moffat Library of Washingtonville adds interactive poll assets to every book asset to create a ‘Battle of the Books’ environment.

5. Consider ‘Characters’

Young children respond to characters and storylines. Creating a rich ‘story’ helps to create a connection between them, your content, and the learning outcomes. Consider using LibGuides blogs to create ongoing blog posts around a library character or story element.

The Harker School’s blog features the Harker Eagle, the school’s mascot.


Above all, when creating a LibGuide designed for children – have fun with it! Unleash your inner child and think big, bold, bright, engaging, and entertaining.

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” 

Back to School Checklist

The telltale signs are starting to show. Campus orientation tours are rolling past office windows. Freshmen are enrolling in classes. The energy on campus is starting to build. These are all signs that school is about to start! It’s time to spruce up those guides, ready the study room sign-up, update the FAQ, and give a lift to the digital branch.  We’ve put together a quick check-list to help you get organized.

  • First things first: guide cleanup time!
    • Summer’s come to a close; time to unpublish LibGuides about summer programs and readings.
    • Update your student employee/volunteer LibGuide with this year’s shifts and policies. LibGuides CMS users: remind students and volunteers to sign up for email alerts, then send out alerts any time you update the guide.
  • It’s time to kick that E-Reserves program into high gear!
    • Remind teachers and faculty to send in their E-Reserves with our handy E-Reserves Request Form.
    • Get those E-Reserve items and courses loaded; check out our help guide for tips!
  • It’s a great time to freshen up LibAnswers, too!
    • Review any policy-related LibAnswers, to make sure they’re up-to-date.
    • It’s a great time to advertise your LibAnswers service! Post an ad in the student newspaper, create promotional materials, check out our session on Advertising LibAnswers, and grab more tips on Advertising your SMS service.
  • Get those dates and schedules in order with LibCal!
    • If you’re using the Room Booking tool, now’s a great time to post fresh QR codes outside available study spaces – they make booking with mobile devices super easy!
    • Make sure your personal scheduler is up to date & publicized – make it easy to consult the experts!
    • Create a calendar for special events, & publicize it – share the iCal subscription link, and anyone who subscribes will see newly added events automatically!
  • Make sure your LibAnalytics data collection is ready to go! Check out our Dataset Ideas for suggestions on what types of data to capture.

What are you doing to get ready for school? Share your suggestions and strategies in the comments!

A Two-Way Street

Good afternoon SpringyFans! It’s not a conversation unless you hear from us and we’re hearing from you. This post covers just that!

Hearing from Us:

Check out the latest edition of SpringyNews – Going for Gold. The 2012 Summer Olympics, but our opening ceremony featuring LibAnalytics will dazzle and impress anyone looking to solve their data dilemmas. Our Olympians, Jenica Rogers and Stephanie Rollins share their real-life stories of how they’re using LibAnalytics to improve and streamline their libraries. Also, be sure to check out fan favorites Springy Tips & Tricks and our latest Product Updates! Borrowing the Olympic motto, Springshare supports “Swifter Service, Higher Standards, Stronger Statistics!”

Read SpringyNews – Going for Gold!

Hearing From You:

SpringyCamp is back y’all and we’re looking for presenters for our November, 2012 Virtual Conference on Focusing on UX (User Experience): Understanding & Meeting the Needs of Users. So we want to know:

  • How are you using Springshare Products to:
    • Meet users where they are?
    • Understand their needs?
    • Provide an outlet for user-driven content/services/resources?
    • Capture user experiences or assess library success?
    • Reduce degrees of separation between the library and the user?
    • How are you making it easier/faster/efficient for library staff to meet user needs?
    • How are you able to streamline work for the library while still meeting the needs of the users?

Program Level: Designed for all Audiences

Note: Springshare understands that your time is precious. Therefore, selected presenters will receieve an honorarium for their time and effort. It’s our way of saying thanks!

Interested? Submit your proposal today!

Spring Is In The Air!

I’ll tell you a secret; Spring is my favorite time of year. It’s not the fresh-faced daffodils and tulips, or the Sparrow’s returning song, nor is it the return of reasonably priced berries in the grocery store. Hands down, the absolute best part of Spring is the super energizing phenomenon of Spring Cleaning. If you’re like me (giddy about cleaning and passionate about lists), read on for ideas on doing a bit of Spring Cleaning in your guides!

  • Are you using the same content over and over in your guides? Now’s a great time to come up with a Reusable Content Strategy for your links to resources, content boxes, and even entire pages.
    • Create a centralized “Storage“, or “Template” guide, and create “linked” versions of that content throughout your guides
    • Any future changes to your storage content will automatically update in all the “linked” versions across your site!
  • Thinking about a site redesign? Check out the Best Of Customizations for a bit of inspiration!
  • Been holding on to outdated, unpublished content? Spring is a great time for weeding and decluttering!
  • Looking for ideas on new goodies to embed in your guides? Check out Using Interactive Tools in your Guides for some fresh ideas!

Have more ideas for bringing the Spring Cleaning mindset to your guides? Share them in the comments!

Introducing the LibAnswers FAQ!

We’re happy to announce a new way for you to get help with your LibAnswers questions – the LibAnswers FAQ! On this new site, you’ll be able to look for commonly asked questions and submit new questions that will be answered promptly by our Community & Training team.

Not sure what to expect from the FAQ? Here are a few questions that are in our system already…

Q: How do the SMS auto-responders work? What happens if someone texts us when our library is closed? (Answer)

Q: How do I add a LibAnswers search box to our home page? (Answer)

Q: What alert options are available to tell me when there’s a new question? (Answer)

We also want to let you know that we’ve given the LibGuides FAQ a face lift – it’s not just for LibGuides anymore! You can also find answers and submit questions about CampusGuides & CommunityGuides. To reflect our new purpose, we’ve renamed the site – it is now the Guide FAQ.

Want to see new questions and answers? Follow us on Twitter! You can also submit questions by tweeting @libanswersfaq or @guidefaq.

Promoting your LibAnswers SMS/Texting service

Our client libraries will really like this new thing we’re doing – namely, we have started creating marketing/advertising/pr materials to help our clients promote the wonderful things they are doing with our products – LibAnswers, LibGuides, and CampusGuides.

The first marketing/advertising “how to” we put together is for LibAnswers – It’s full of great ideas and practical advice about how to encourage patrons to use your LibAnswers SMS service – things like tear-away flyers with your SMS number, business card stickers, adding your SMS number to your databases, using keywords in classroom instruction, etc. There are many *free* templates you can download and customize for use within your library. Use it, and don’t lose it! 🙂

If you don’t have our SMS/Texting module for LibAnswers, check out what you’re missing!

“No Cover Art” Placeholder Images for Books

Even though you have options to use cover art for books from both Syndetics and Amazon, there are some titles for which there are no covers available. So, we created a few placeholder images you can use instead. This is useful if you have 3 or so books in your Books from the Catalog box, and two have covers while the 3rd one does not. In order for all items to align nicely within a box, it would be helpful to have an image to use for the 3rd cover. Here are the cover art images you can use for this, depending on which cover placeholder you like, and what size you need:

Cover art url:
Cover art url:
Cover art url:
Cover art url:

This is where you should insert one of the above urls, depending on which you want to use:

Embedding Wolfram Alpha Search Widget Inside your LibGuides

You have probably heard about Wolfram Alpha by now. It is a new search engine/technology – a “computational knowledge engine that draws on multiple sources to answer user queries directly.” (quote from their website).  Some people think it’s the next big thing in search, others disagree, but one thing is true – it’s a neat technology. Recently, the folks behind it released the Wolfram Alpha widgets which can be embedded into any website to allow visitors to query the Wolfram Alpha search engine from anywhere.

We have prepared step-by-step instructions for embedding the Wolfram Alpha search widget into your LibGuides. You can find the instructions at the following url:


Item Linking and Reusing of Content

After a few months of working on this (thank you to all our clients who suggested and contributed to the idea), I am very pleased to announce a major step in the evolution of LibGuides: item-level linking and reusing of content in the system.

Say what? Here’s the scoop… Previously, you were able to “link to” (i.e. reuse) the LibGuides pages and the LibGuides content boxes. For example, you’d create a page (or a box) on one guide and then simply “link” to it on any other guide/page (i.e. make it appear on another guide). The neat thing about this is that any changes to the original page/box would be instantly reflected on all “linked” pages/boxes. That saved you a lot of effort when creating new content. Well, now you can do the same with individual Links and Documents – “add once use anywhere” type of thing. This is a rather major new functionality which will make creating and maintaining your guides even easier.


When you are adding a new link (or a new document) the dialog will look something like the screenshot above. If you want to reuse an existing link (or a document) click on the “Reuse Existing” tab and just start typing the name of the item you want to reuse. The system will search for it and give you the list of all matches to pick from. Pretty cool stuff.

As part of this upgrade we also added an administrative screen to “Manage Assets”. Admins can go to My Admin -> Admin Toolbox -> Manage Assets page, and see where each Link/Rss/Podcast/Video/Document appears and on which guides it is linked to (if any). This is a welcome addition to the administrative toolbox because it enables admins to get an instant overview of what appears where in their system (and where it is linked to, i.e. reused).

We didn’t stop there, either. In addition to this major new feature of reusing links and documents, we have also added a new feature when adding a  new Video/Rss Feed/Podcast item to your guide. Now, whenever you go to add a new video (or a new rss feed or a new podcast) you will be able to search the system for any existing videos/rss/podcasts to copy. For example, the new “Add Video” dialog looks like this:


You start typing the title of the video (or rss feed/podcast) and the system searches the LibGuides community to see if someone has already added it. Then, when you find what you were looking for the system automatically gives you the code to include inside your guide.

This means you can now search the LibGuides content database of web 2.0 media (videos, rss feeds, podcasts) to include inside your guides. Granted we’re not YouTube (yet 😉 but the amount of content created in LibGuides is growing by leaps and bounds (for example, there are over 800,000 links in the system already) and the more content there is the more everybody can benefit from it.

One last note on this new Video/Rss/Podcast search. The searching for Links and Documents (for reuse) is limited to your own system (i.e. no content from other institutions is included when you search for other links and documents), but the Video/Rss/Podcast search is community-wide. In other words, it will search the entire LibGuides community (the content from 500+ institutions to date). We figured that most, if not all, of these videos and other web 2.0 media are already publicly available (thru YouTube and the like) so there’s no reason why you couldn’t search for them in LibGuides as well, even though they are added by another institution in many cases. Please let us know what you think of this and if there is a concern about privacy (or any other aspect that we’re missing). We can easily limit these searches to your own institution only, if there are issues involved or if the majority of people would rather have it that way.

Thank you again for using LibGuides and thanks to all who contributed to this major new milestone in the development of the system. Many new exciting possibilities for the use (and reuse) of LibGuides are now within reach with this addition of the Item Linking and Reusing of Content. As always, let us know what you think – support at springshare dot com.