Why Libguides suck, and where do we go from here

I hesitate to go into too much detail about libguides because many people have heard my talk and/or read my recent paper or talked to me. But in academic conversations I find the need to hold back and not always tell it like it is.

The reality is this: Libguides are awful. They really suck for the students. They aren’t well designed, they aren’t fun to use, and they send students to another website assuring that they will get lost and not know how to get back to the main library website if/when they realize the libguide isn’t where they want to be or thought they would be.

And tab navigation. Seriously? Is this amazon 2004?

I think if we are completely honest with ourselves librarians love libguides because it solves a need for us, not because it is a well designed tool that provides an intuitive interface for students. I’m not even sure libguides are a service that students need.

If students don’t like libguides, and if they aren’t intuitive, why do we as librarians love them so much? We use them because they are easy to use for us. It appeals to the one of the worst character flaws deep down in every librarian’s soul. We love information. Lots of information. And I mean long lists of every single database that might have the possibility of ever helping a student (“oh ya and I’d better throw in a long list of relevant e-books from that expensive eBook package we just licenced while I’m in here).”

Furthermore, Libguides lets us off the hook. It’s a lazy solution to a complex problem. Obviously students are faced with information overload. So obviously we need to help “guide” them to the best resources in their discipline. The easy way to do this is to provide long lists of places they can find that information (psss.. this is not the solution students are looking for). Students don’t want it and we end up creating information overload to solve the problem of information overload.

Ok so Libguides suck and now you know why I hope the program is not still being used in a few years (or at least that springshare develops something that doesn’t suck I don’t really want anyone to lose their job). So what now? Where do we go from here?

Unsurprisingly, I think the answer is to build better websites. I know not everyone has the time to find the detailed solution (heck I don’t have the time to come up with the solution), and I don’t have the perfect answer. But I do firmly believe that we should not be sending students off to 3rd party web platforms that they do not want to use. I have been seconded (for lack of a better term) to help build the college’s new website, but starting next month I will be embarking on building a new website for the library, and I would love to hear suggestions on how one builds and intuitive and usable information architecture that makes libguides obsolete?

That is the goal I am setting for myself (one i must achieve because we canceled our license), and I’d sure love to hear feedback from anyone if they have it.

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6 Responses to Why Libguides suck, and where do we go from here

  1. dude mcbrah says:

    Don’t look at the code. Whatever you do. The WYSIWYG editor produces the messiest code on the planet.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I feel like they don’t have to suck, they just do. It’s what you get when old-fashioned people do web-design. Libguides should be clear, targeted, pared-down, and user friendly. Not blocks in 3 columns with endless amounts of text.

    You’re right about the tabbed navigation though…

    And probably everything. I just don’t see webmasters creating anything for library sites that are for the user either. .edu sites are all moving towards marketing splash pages and stuff. Not usable information.

  3. Karen Niemla says:

    There’s got to be a way to stop the disease of libguides from spreading. Libguides is pretty much a webhost. They don’t market themselves as one, but that’s what they are. If you already have a website and you also buy libguides, you’re /paying for your webhosting TWICE/. And that is stupid, stupid, stupid.

  4. ILibguides are a tool in our arsenal. Yes they are a gimmick. Would it be easier for the student to just go straight to the virtual library? Yes. However, they do not do that. Most students (people), thought-out history, have not wanted to perform significant research. It is not just a millennial trait. With that said, Libguides are just one more way to engage an audience that feels they need no help. They are consumers and have Google (which is pretty good by the way).

    I do admit that there are a lot of poorly designed library guides. I probably have a few (or all by some standards) myself. I am an info-packer! But many librarians are poor communicators. Many are not very tech savvy either. Again LibGuides fill a niche for those librarians.

    Best to keep your virtual library simple and direct; have not seen that yet!

  5. Pingback: Urgh, I’m going to talk about LibGuides | Heck of a Good Universe Next Door

  6. Susan Demasi says:

    Amen to you for writing this. I thought I was alone.

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