Springshare is an innovative technology company that continues to garner praise from libraries everywhere. Its flagship offering LibGuides harnesses the collaborative power of libraries and puts it to work to enhance user experiences in the discovery of library resources.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Springshare’s CEO and Founder, Slaven Zivkovic. It was terrific to get his insight about the company, where it fits on the broader technology landscape, and his vision for the future.
MIKE: Where did the idea for LibGuides come from?
SLAVEN: I have been working with libraries for almost 15 years, and in my conversations with librarians one persistent theme was their search for more effective ways to reach out to patrons and share their knowledge and information. By the time we developed LibGuides in 2007, the technology pieces were there (web 2.0, social networks) to develop an effective and powerful platform for libraries and librarians to share knowledge and information with their users.
While our products (LibGuides, CampusGuides, LibAnswers) help patrons get the information they need, the primary driver behind our solutions is to help librarians get their work done quickly and easily. As such, we are also passionate about providing outstanding customer service and support for our library customers. We make a point of taking good care of each and every client and answering customer queries quickly and effectively.
MIKE – Who are the key users of LibGuides?
SLAVEN: Librarians – over 30,000 librarians at 2,300+ libraries all over the world. The majority of our clients are Academic libraries, but our solutions are just as applicable and just as needed in Public, Special, and K-12 libraries. I am very excited that we have seen a strong interest from non-Academic libraries in the past year and we look forward to serving their needs as well.
MIKE – Are there any applications of your solution that have been surprising to you?
SLAVEN: As libraries start digging deeper into LibGuides they discover all of the little things that make it so powerful and yet simple to use content management system – reuse of content, easy management of assets in the system, etc. So, they are starting to replace their website CMS systems and using LibGuides as their library website. Pretty cool, huh? Some good examples are University of Notre Dame Australia, Cornerstone University, and Ocean City Public Library.
MIKE: What are the most important benefits of using LibGuides for libraries?
SLAVEN: There are 3 important benefits I would like to highlight:
- Ease of Use – Librarians of any skill level, and without any knowledge of html and programming, can effortlessly create content-rich multi-media guides that look very professional and give the patrons the information they need. They can embed social media and networking elements by using our predefined widgets. In just a few hours, librarians can do something that would take days and a considerable amount of programming to create. And they have a lot more fun doing it. :)
- Collaboration –. While each institution has its own LibGuides system, all systems are networked together in a global network of 2,300+ installations with 150,000+ guides in the network. Anything in the system can be reused (with proper permissions from the original owners, of course) so these existing 150K+ guides are a wonderful resource for librarians to see what others are doing, to get ideas for their own guides, and to use other guides as templates when creating their own content. This is why the quality of guides in LibGuides is so high – the collaborative features and reuse/templating enables “crowdsourcing” to take place.
- Support – A hosted, continuously developed solution, with an unparalleled support structure, LibGuides is a hosted solution which means the libraries don’t have to worry about any technical issues or hardware – we take care of all of that for them. They just log on and create the content they need. Also, having a really powerful tool to play with is great, but what happens if you have questions? This is where LibGuides – and Springshare as a company – excels. Our customer support is second to none. This is incredibly important for librarians – they are busy professionals and we offer peace of mind that if something goes wrong or if they have questions we’ll resolve these issues quickly.
MIKE: What are some of the most interesting examples of how your solution is being used right now?
SLAVEN: Besides the use of LibGuides as a library website, another really neat application of LibGuides is to develop custom mini websites for current projects or current events. For example, the librarians at the University of South Florida are using LibGuides to develop and maintain an amazing resource about the Gulf Oil spill. Check out the GOSIC (Gulf Oil Spill Information Center) website at http://guides.lib.usf.edu/gulf-oil-spill
MIKE: What new capabilities are now available for your customers? Are there any exciting things planned?
SLAVEN: We continuously develop new features of the system, and every year we are adding at least 30 or so major new pieces of functionality and new capabilities. Going back in time, I am proud that LibGuides was the first library application with a full Facebook presence and app, and we were among the first to integrate with Twitter. Now, we are seeing that more users are accessing LibGuides on their mobile devices. So, we are putting more emphasis on mobile features, and in fact we are about to release the Mobile Site Builder module for LibGuides. This new module will enhance the already available mobile LibGuides access, in addition to giving libraries an easy to use, effective, and affordable way to build full mobile websites for their institution.
MIKE: What is your vision for LibGuides in the future?
SLAVEN: I believe that every library – small or large, academic or non-academic, has a need for a system like LibGuides. Content and resources offered by libraries are increasing every year by leaps and bounds. Even with improvements to discovery solutions and search technologies, patrons often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that they need to search through.
That’s where LibGuides comes into play – LibGuides enables librarians to share their knowledge and information with patrons about how to effectively do research, and how to find the information that they need quickly and easily. So, our vision for LibGuides in the future is the system being used by tens of thousands of libraries worldwide, and becoming an authoritative go-to source of information for any type of search… like a high quality wiki with authoritative information.
MIKE: What types of new solutions are on the horizon?
We have introduced a number of solutions which are complementary to LibGuides. CampusGuides (or CommunityGuides for non-academic libraries) – a content management solution — extends the features of LibGuides to add better access controls, more account levels, groups, a powerful surveys/form builder tool, and more – http://springshare.com/campusguides. We also have LibAnswers – an easy to use self-service, 24/7 reference system which enables libraries to create a powerful knowledge base of library information and service how-tos – http://springshare.com/libanswers. We are always working on new stuff, too, so you will be hearing about new stuff coming out of Springy Labs as well.
MIKE: Which social media applications are you using right now? Do you have a favorite application and why?
SLAVEN: We are big users of the social media – we actively use Twitter to stay in touch with our clients and convey important information, answer quick questions, etc. We have also created a social network specifically for the users of Springshare’s products – The Springshare Lounge – http://www.springsharelounge.com. It is an online community where thousands of librarians – users of Springshare tools – discuss best practices, exchange information, and ask questions related to their use of the platform.
MIKE: What do you see as the most interesting and innovative applications on the broader social media landscape?
SLAVEN: Of course, new social media apps are springing up every day and it’s hard to keep track of them all. The amount of information on Twitter, Facebook, various social networks, etc is multiplying rapidly and there is no end in sight. I think the key challenge is the curation of this content. Many social media systems and networks are hard to navigate effectively because of “signal to noise” issues. The services and apps which effectively curate the social media landscape are the ones to bet on.