A couple of months ago I posted briefly on Libguides just as my library began a trial subscription. I played around a little bit with it then, and liked what I saw. A couple of weeks ago our trial became a permanent subscription, so I’ve been spending some time creating, or really recreating, my philosophy and religion subject guides, which are now live, though definitely in beta. What I have so far is something of a data dump from my previous guides, which I’d been waiting for Libguides to update. Here are the new beta philosophy and religion research guides if you’re interested.
After spending a few days working on these guides, I can say that I like Libguides even more than I did before. It’s just all so easy. First, the data dump itself was easy. For the initial conversion I wanted to drop things in as quickly as possible, and I just copied text and links from various library web pages and when I pasted them in they looked more or less Libguides uniform. I did this for the database pages especially. Eventually I want to use the different linking features that let you rank the sites and have rollover popups with the descriptions. This is also easy to do, but it must be done link by link.
It’s also very easy to copy content from one Libguide to another, so that when I created a generic portion for the religion guide, I could create a box in the philosophy guide and just have it duplicate a box from my other guide. You can also do this for boxes of information from anyone else’s published guide in your Libguide system, and I used this feature to borrow some great content from my colleague Steve Adams, who I think has done some impressive work with his guides and just in general works hard at communicating with his clientèle. I mentioned that I wanted to use some of his stuff, and some of what I wanted to use he had taken from another colleague, John Hernandez. Libguides makes it very easy to share and borrow good content throughout your entire system. In addition, since we three all have our pictures on our profiles, Libguides lets the world know that many of the Princeton librarians aren’t exactly formal dressers.
Libguides also makes it easy to see, but not so easily import, content from other users of Libguides around the world. There’s a “community” tab that lets the users browse other libraries and take a look at their guides. Many of them are course specific guides or are still in even more beta than mine, but I found some good ideas this way for further revisions to my sites. Particularly relevant for me are the very nice philosophy and religion guides by Fred Rowland at Temple University. I’ll definitely be borrowing some ideas from those. (Though he’s just down the train line from me and seems to be my counterpart at Temple, I’ve never met Fred, but if you work at Temple feel free to give him my compliments. Or Fred, on the off chance you read this blog, I’ll just say “great job, and don’t be surprised if I steal your best ideas”.) I’ll be browsing other sites for ideas.
One thing you might have noticed if you clicked through on my guides, or those of Steve or Fred for that matter, is the easy way Libguides allows communication from library users. If you’ve actually visited this blog site recently, you will have seen the Meebo Me widget on the right. I put that in at the same time I put in the one on the Libguides profile. It’s very easy to drop in the Meebo code. It’s easy to set up IM contacts. You just drop in the info and Libguides does the rest. Also, all the boxes have a comments feature that allows users to send comments from any page.
The ease of getting usage statistics is another nice feature. Without bothering to put in separate tracking software, I can now find out if anyone at all is looking using the guides and which pages and features are the most used.
All the content on my sites needs an overhaul. Eventually I want to more to integrate blogs and other feeds into the site, and it looks very easy to do. I haven’t found anything yet that couldn’t be done by someone who knows how to point, click, copy, and paste, and has at least a very basic understanding of how wikis and rss feeds work.
The only thing I didn’t like was the picture portion of the profile. You can’t just make it go away as far as I could tell. You either need an image there or it has a blank white space that says “no photo available.” I’m not keen on having my picture online, but I don’t mind that much for this purpose, though I did consider putting up a picture of someone a lot more handsome just for fun. However, I can see where some people, such as people who might fear stalkers or who are uncomfortable with their looks for some reason, wouldn’t want to put their picture online. Not being able to eliminate that box makes it seem those people are just unfriendly or unwilling to help, whereas that might not be the case at all.
Other than that, my experience so far has been great. The ease of creation, duplication, copying, sharing, and communicating make this a great resource as far as I’m concerned.