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.

Exciting Announcement

I have been working hard back and forth with a copyeditor at University of Toronto Press to put the finishing touches on my paper entititled “Subject Guides in Academic Libraries: A User-Centred Study of Uses and Perceptions,” which will be published in the December issue of the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science. You can read this pre-print pdf if you are interested. I presented this paper at the Canadian Association for Information Science, and it was ranked as one of the top abstracts submitted to that conference, and I was invited to publish in their journal.

This is quite exciting for me as it is my first sole author publication.