Create your own LibGuides with WordPress

The librarians here at UMW’s Stafford Campus have been experimenting with UMW Blogs to create their own version of LibGuides. Jami Bryan and Paul Boger came to me almost a year ago and showed me LibGuides (a subscription CMS for libraries using Web2.0 features) and its various features—you can see it in action at DePauw University.

Jami noted that most of those features could be reproduced in WordPress, so they went about creating their own LibGuides using WPMu. I would like to say I helped with the process, but usually I would get an email from Paul asking me about a particular feature, and by the time I replied—often far too late—he had figured it out.

Picture 1And what Jami and Paul did is pretty amazing. You can see their WordPress hacked LibGuides here, here, here, and here. And they have incorporated just about every feature LibGuides has using widgets and a few hacks, and this without the investment in the LibGuides service which ranges from $1,000-$3,000. I really love the way they themed their LibGuides knock-off with the same header as the Library site, and actually included all the class resources within their sites/blogs. Take a look at how they are using SlideShare to share class presentations, a page to share instructional videos, a Meebo Chat widget, a Twitter widget, and a tag cloud of relevant subjects covered. And that’s just a few of the features. You can also see they have embedded an EBSCO Article quick search, as well as widgets with relevant subject news if you go to the Business LibGuide homepage, for example.

And don’t mistake this post as a slam on LibGuides, because I have to admit I never used this service and from what I can see from the outside it does a fine job of integrating Web 2.0 tools. That said. it’s nice to know we have the possibility to hack our own within our preferred publishing platofrm. So, kudos to Paul and Jami for pulling this off, and now if they would just blog the process we would be that much richer 🙂

This entry was posted in WordPress, wordpress multi-user and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Create your own LibGuides with WordPress

  1. Jim Doran says:

    I logged onto the Jim Groom today and learned how to make my own LibGuides with WordPress. I even learned what LibGuides are.

  2. Reverend says:

    The Jim Groom just keeps on giving 🙂 Looking forward to NYC Jim, the Jim Groom will see you there!

  3. Jim Doran says:

    I can’t wait, Rev. @zgordon and I are going up Friday, if you guys are around. If not, we’ll cause trouble on Saturday.

  4. Pingback: Nice practical app for Wordpress users « julian

  5. Hi Jim,

    Slaven Zivkovic, the creator of LibGuides, here. Thanks very much for mentioning our system, we appreciate any free advertising we can get 🙂 Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as the saying goes.

    In the interest of the fairness towards your faithful blog followers, I hope you don’t mind me offering a few counter-points, mainly dealing with the statement that (Jami and Paul) “…have incorporated just about every feature of LibGuides” in their WP hack. Please do not take this as a knock on their efforts – what they have done using WP is more than admirable, and while it may serve your needs very well, to say that it incorporates just about every feature of LibGuides is a stretch by any means.

    From what I was able to glean based on your examples, some very important features which LibGuides has while their version lacks are:

    -LibGuides has flash-based widgets and facebook apps, which are proving to be very important in increasing the use of library resources, given that you can easily embed our widgets into any CMS, LMS, blog, etc.

    -LibGuides has a full-blown API which enables anyone (without any technical knowledge) to take data out of LibGuides and insert it anywhere, again for the purpose of “spreading” the content and meeting the patron wherever they are.

    -LibGuides has built-in collaborative features which enable librarians to re-use any link/content box/page/guide – not only within their institutions, but within the entire LibGuides community.

    -LibGuides has dedicated content boxes for easily embedding any type of outside data (other than videos, which you showed in their hack) – this includes rss feeds, podcasts, items from your catalog, polls, dates/events, google scholar/books, etc. (and we are adding new content box types all the time).

    -Detailed usage statistics (including historical statistics/trends) for just about every aspect of the system, including the outgoing link statistics so that you can see exactly which links/resources are being used and how much.

    -Bookmarklet for adding resources from anywhere.

    -Link Checker for making sure your links stay current and valid, even after you add them.

    -Email alerts/twitter integration for publishing new content.

    -Upcoming A-Z list integration (about to be released shortly).

    I could go on, but I don’t want to turn this into “us vs. them” discussion because my point is not to knock on great efforts of Jami and Paul, I just wanted to point out the inaccuracy in claiming that their version has just about every LibGuides feature. These things I mentioned above, which are unique to LibGuides, have been very important in such widespread adoption of our system (almost 1,000 libraries on board, to date).

    The most important difference, perhaps, could be in the fact that what Jami/Paul came up with is a hack – not in a bad way of the meaning of this word, but in a “it’s rather complicated” meaning of it. While you guys are obviously blessed with a great tech team (give these guys a raise, before we steal them 😉 I wonder how many librarians can do what Jami and Paul did. What LibGuides does is it makes it easy for any librarian to create content-rich, web 2.0, interactive research guides, widgets, API, facebook presence, etc. without needing to do any hacks or know any programming.

    Thanks very much for your time and attention, and for allowing me to offer an opposing view point. Again I hope nobody takes this is a knock on the (great) job you guys did with your project.

    Regards,
    -Slaven Zivkovic
    slaven@springshare.com
    Springshare – web 2.0 for library 2.0

  6. Reverend says:

    Slaven,

    Thanks for the comment here, and I really think your joining the conversation speaks wonderfully for you and your product. And as to your list of features, I think it opens up some space for discussion about just what WordPress can and can’t do, so I’ll take your list of features and respond point-by-point below:

    -LibGuides has flash-based widgets and facebook apps, which are proving to be very important in increasing the use of library resources, given that you can easily embed our widgets into any CMS, LMS, blog, etc.

    Actually, Paul used the Widgets from WidgetBox to get a tremendous amount of possibilities, and I believe there is one for Facebook, Flash Video, Twitter, etc. More than that, the development community around WordPress has developed a tremendous amount of these as well, which gives Jami and Paul a wide arrange of choices from a variety of services and developers. Hence the power of using an open application driven by the sharing of others.

    -LibGuides has a full-blown API which enables anyone (without any technical knowledge) to take data out of LibGuides and insert it anywhere, again for the purpose of “spreading” the content and meeting the patron wherever they are.

    WordPress is actually open source, which allows all that same content to be exported and re-imported into a number of other services using XML. It’s a great features, and the fact that LibGuides is a total credit to the application.

    -LibGuides has built-in collaborative features which enable librarians to re-use any link/content box/page/guide – not only within their institutions, but within the entire LibGuides community.

    I like this features, and while we can allow others to collaborate through republishing parts of a blog, I’m sure this feature is far more fine-tuned in LibGuides. Also, the fact you have a community of users sharing between and amongst one another is a total benefit.

    -LibGuides has dedicated content boxes for easily embedding any type of outside data (other than videos, which you showed in their hack) – this includes rss feeds, podcasts, items from your catalog, polls, dates/events, google scholar/books, etc. (and we are adding new content box types all the time).

    Yeah, WP (and WPMu) has this as well. The are called widgets, and the include RSS feeds, embed code, audio, video, polls, rating systems, etc.

    -Detailed usage statistics (including historical statistics/trends) for just about every aspect of the system, including the outgoing link statistics so that you can see exactly which links/resources are being used and how much.

    We have this through Google Analytics on a blog-by-blog basis, so that Jami and Paul can get a very clear idea of who is using their sites and how.

    -Bookmarklet for adding resources from anywhere.

    -Link Checker for making sure your links stay current and valid, even after you add them.

    Here is the WP plugin for that: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/

    -Email alerts/twitter integration for publishing new content.

    Jami and Paul cannot only integrate Twitter to their site, but they can also post to it via email if they wanted. Check out this feature: http://www.downloadic.com/38104-Postie-1.3.1.html
    Very useful!

    -Upcoming A-Z list integration (about to be released shortly).

    Not sur what this is exactly.

    Another cool feature in WP we have is that the LibGuides Jami and Paul created are actually automatically optimized for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android with the WPTouch plugin.
    http://www.bravenewcode.com/wptouch/

    And there are many, many other features built into our WP install that give Jami and Paul that much more room to roam in terms of innovation that is not necessarily dictated by a paid service.

    All this to say, I think LibGuides was the standard out there, they saw it, but our school simply didn’t have the funds to take advantage of your service. So, like any good hack, Paul and Jami decided to try it themselves. And while you are right, the features are not one-to-one, I think we can get enough of them to make a case for it being at least comparable. As for the difficulty of use and hacking, well, I’d have to defer to Paul and Jami on that one because they did all the heavy lifting. But, as is always the case, it gets easier for everyone the more we share the work we did along these lines.

  7. Thanks, Jim, for the kind words. We definitely want to be part of any conversation (especially where our products our mentioned :), and I think one of the reasons for LibGuides’ success to date is due to the fact that we are always eager to listen to what people say and what they want, and then make it happen.

    The bottom line is that, in terms of any features, the devil is always in the details. I have been working with libraries on the issues of information access and web technology for the past 15 years, so I think I understand the issues (and needs) pretty well, and – together with the rest of our team at Springshare – we implemented everything we know about these issues, which is why libraries have adopted our system so well – it solves many of the issues they deal with, on a daily basis, and it solves it in a way that is effective, efficient, and it looks good and saves time and effort.

    While my mother may disagree with the following statement 😉 it is no secret that I am no genius and that pretty much anybody who does web programming – with enough time, resources, and effort, can do something similar to what we did with LibGuides. But the devil is always in the details, and how you implement certain functions and features, and then how much time and effort you spend maintaining it, implementing new things, etc.

    Then there are issues whether it is better to “outsource” this aspect and have a company like Springshare (or anybody else) take care of all the technical issues, which would also ensure that you always have the latest and greatest in terms of features, functionality, etc. What happens if Jami/Paul get a better gig elsewhere, how much will be lost in the transition period, who will continue maintaining this locally, etc? These are some of the issues that come into play when deciding whether a library should go with LibGuides, with their own solution, or with open source, etc.

    While you point out some neat things that the WP can do, for example, API, XML, different content boxes, etc. (I know all these very well, btw) there is a huge difference in “ease of use” i.e. how would your average librarian go about utilizing these (in terms of things they would need to know/do) as opposed to doing them in LibGuides. The devil is always in the details.

    In addition, using “free” (you mentioned widget factory, for example) resources is nice as long as they are free, but at some point, depending on at what stage in the business model they are, these companies may decide to start charging for their free resources (freemium model works for some things, but not for everything).

    We feel pretty good about what we’re doing and we will continue to improve our system to make sure we remain the “gold standard” so to speak. It would be great to have LibGuides be a perfect match for every library, but I know that’s not possible, so in that sense we always welcome any alternatives because our goal is to promote libraries and promote information access and utilizing many underutilized, but wonderful, library resources.

    All we ask for is a “fair treatment” – i.e. that people checks out our solution (we always give free demos, and also always work with the client if pricing is an issue) before jumping to conclusions about what is better and why. And may the best solution win 🙂

    Thanks again for the opportunity. Now, can you please send me Jami’s/Paul’s email address, I’d like to make them an offer they can’t refuse 😉 (just kiddin’, of course).

    Best,
    -Slaven

  8. Ed Sargent says:

    Rev

    We at Lake Washington Technical College’s Learning Commons have been integrating our libraries databases and website using Delicious, Slideshare, YouTube, PBworks and WordPress for two years or so. I am personally impressed by your librarians hard work.

  9. Jami Bryan says:

    Glad that our research guides have sparked such interest! The credit really goes to Paul, who took an idea I had and ran with it. He created and maintains these guides with a little bit of assistance from Jim and me.

    As Jim suggested, we looked at LibGuides but simply could not afford the subscription (we were very impressed by LibGuides and the pricing is reasonable, but we just don’t have the budget for it). I had seen what Jim was doing with WPMU and had used UMW Blogs to create a site for a course I teach, so I thought maybe we could use WP to create our more jazzy research guides in the vein of LibGuides.

    I don’t want to diminish the effort Paul put into developing these guides but I think it is something that other interested librarians could do as well. And given that WP exists in an open source environment, there is plenty of help out there when you encounter a problem (and we are happy to share what we learned and the technical details of how we did it). Also, there are a lot of libraries and librarians out there doing wonderful things with blogging platforms so there are plenty of avenues for librarians interested in trying this kind of project to seek guidance.

    Yes, implementing LibGuides would have been easier and saved us a lot of time, but it wasn’t an option for us. Paul and I are not techies, just persistent librarians trying to make the most of our limited resources.

    Thanks again for the interest and do let us know if you have further questions about the project.

    -Jami Bryan
    Library Manager,
    College of Graduate and Professional Studies,
    University of Mary Washington
    540-286-8057
    jbryan at umw.edu
    http://www.umw.edu/library

  10. We’ve been using WordPress to build research portals which is similar to what you describe in trying to create something like LibGuides. Here are two examples:

    http://gmutant.gmu.edu/bioeng
    http://gmutant.gmu.edu/melange

    We beef up the WordPress piece with a database running under CWIS (from the Scout Internet Portal Toolkit) and then build “metafinders” using software from Deep Web Technologies. That last piece (the federated search engine) does come with a price tag but the rest of the software is open-source.

  11. ade says:

    hi there,
    I am ade, librarian working at the jakarta post, an english daily in Indonesia. Currently I deployed library’s blog (wpmu) in our local web (intranet).
    Since we already have what it is called a library portal, by using opensource project; ganesha digital library (gdl), and we also using Senayan library management system (Slims) for our library system, I thought it would be better for us, the librarian here, to memorize about daily activites in blog.
    By reading your posting here, and finding the facts that there are many interesting features in libguides, I get an idea to implement what your colleagues have done with the library blog.
    thanks, guys

    best
    ade

  12. Reverend says:

    ade,

    That’s awesome, we’d love to see your work. And I have to be honest that it was all Paul and Jami’s work, I’m just the messenger. Good luck with it.

  13. CD says:

    LibGuides seems awfully expensive.

  14. Andrew Walsh says:

    Hi all,
    I’m very late to this post, but excellent discussion. I use Libguides frequently for a departmental library at Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

    My favorite feature is the Books from the Catalog box which is easy to update and has great features like cover images from Syndetics.

    I think this might be another point to add to the discussion of whether WP or other open-source initiatives can or can’t replicate all features.

  15. Pingback: Thoughts just before Christmas | Bridging My Gap

  16. Pingback: INF506: Module 4, readings and links 2 « Bec in the library

  17. Pingback: An Anti-LibGuide Manifesto | Librarian In Training

  18. Why imitate LibGuides?

    Some organizations make LibGuides public.

    A self-updating “Dashboard” that consolidates public LibGuides makes sense for teachers that cannot afford ongoing subscription.

    Teachers need free and low-cost personal tools that…

    • They Create once, Use forever
    • Are Easy to Replicate and Share with colleagues (without cost)
    • Remain Evergreen, with Automatic Updates, so content remains current

    Teachers need targeted tools, not LibGuide Replacements for every subject taught at a university.

    And, once created, these resources should require little to no maintenance.

    WordPress seems to fit these requirements. A “Dashboard Theme,” pre-populated with self-updating links and a Plugin Package could fulfill this Wishlist. Seems do-able.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *