LibGuides vs LibGuides CMS Building Websites and Guides

LibGuides (basic version) and LibGuides CMS are Springshare products that allow librarians to easily make web-based guides and websites. There are a few key differences between these products, including the ability to customize with CSS and JS along with LTI integration with Canvas.

What are these?

LibGuides (basic version) is primarily used as a platform to host library services and subject specific content guides online to the campus community, and as a directory for databases. LibGuides CMS offers everything the basic platform does with added functionality.

LibGuides (basic version):

  • Host library guides: services, subject specific content

  • Responsive web design built-in

  • Librarian Profiles

  • LibGuides Community

  • Widgets for embedding content into web interfaces allow custom HTML/Javascript.

  • A-Z Databases List

What makes LibGuides (basic version) desirable as a content management system over others out there is the simplicity of guide creation as well as the integration of library-specific resources: databases, books, and films. That being said, its simplicity can also leave something to be desired in terms of visual appeal and even functionality.

LibGuides (basic version) uses variable-sized columns (which you can customize at any level within the guide). And, you can add content to these columns. There are many problems with using columns instead of rows as the base for web design. Columns are great for reading, but less so for the way a user interacts with a website. There is no helpful way to align content from one column to the next. And, though it is responsive (meaning when you move to a smaller sized screen, the multiple columns eventually become stacked into one), the content is stacked by column. So, everything in the first column gets stacked before everything in the second column.

2 Column Layout:

3 Column Layout:

LibGuides CMS offers everything the basic LibGuides platform does with the added functionality of being able to:

  • Fully customize with CSS and JS

  • Host your library's website with a unique url

  • Embed content into an LMS via LTI in addition to web interfaces

  • Use the surveys/forms tool via LibWizard Lite

  • Manage users at a more granular level

  • A-Z Database Community

Quick Evaluation

If your library uses other Springshare products, and/or has a library presence at your college (website or on Canvas) where you don't have much customization, support, or control, then you may want to consider upgrading to Libguides CMS. The additional cost for most institutions is reasonable for the added value offered by the upgrade. Details about each follow.

LibGuides (basic version)

The basic version of LibGuides is a web platform primarily used to curate and organize content for specific subjects, classes, or other areas relevant to library services.  Librarian profiles can be used to highlight librarian-specific information, from subject expertise to contact information, and social media. Content from LibGuides (basic) can be shared and embedded as single parts or an entire guide into web interfaces that allow custom html or javascript.  Knowledge of HTML/CSS/JS is not necessary, since content can be entered through the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, and embedded through the use of customizable widgets through a guided interface. A subscription to LibGuides allows you to search and copy public guides shared on the LibGuides Community into your own guides. The information added to LibGuides will also be discoverable on web search engines.

The A-Z Database List tool allows you to manage databases that your library subscribes to in a scalable and searchable method. Proxy syntax can be edited and appended to database links and globally changed instantaneously, product trials can be set up and scheduled to be taken down from public view automatically, new databases and trials can be featured, internal notes, librarian reviews, and the ability to categorize databases by subject, type, and vendor offer a means to simplify the process of identifying relevant databases for reference and research.

LibGuides CMS

The main advantage LibGuides CMS has over the basic version is the ability to fully customize the look and feel via CSS and JS. However, if you do not have a person on staff who can make CSS and JS changes, then the out-of-the-box features of basic LibGuides may be sufficient for your needs. Keep in mind that LibGuides CMS is more expensive than the basic version, but if you have the capability to make even partial use of what LibGuides CMS offers, the return on your investment will be high.

If your library is interested in being more robustly integrated with Canvas, the LibGuides CMS option is worth the additional cost. Many institutions have found that LTI integration with Canvas has led to better overall Library use by students.

One of the features that some libraries may find useful is the ability to have a URL that matches that of your institution. Instead of a domain, you’ll be able to specify exactly how you want your URL to appear.

There are other advantages to LibGuides CMS, in particular, the ability to integrate Guides into learning management systems (LMS). LibGuides CMS LTI offers integration that is compatible with Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, Desire2Learn, and other LMS that utilize Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). This process can be done manually or through the use of what Springshare refers to as “automagic” integration.

Manual integration allows for individual elements to be embedded as well as entire pages or complete guides. The automagic tool, on the other hand, integrates an entire guide. The distinct advantage of the automagic integration is that it makes it very easy to target all classes of a discipline, such as Communications, and deliver subject-specific resources to those specified course shells.

The LTI tool also makes it easier to include content that would be difficult or impossible to add into Canvas. For example, Canvas doesn’t permit inline html JS code, which makes adding a search box for ExLibris to a Canvas course impossible.

If your library subscribes to other Springshare products, LibGuides CMS allows you to push those services into it's LMS integration as well. This makes it possible to integrate LibChat directly within a Canvas experience, as well.

Managing access to databases via the A-Z Databases List is simplified further through the A-Z Community site. The A-Z community site aggregates and shares metadata such as librarian reviews, database descriptions, add databases from the community site to your local A-Z list, and provides information for benchmarking your holdings against peer institutions.

LSP Interoperability

Ex Libris Primo VE can be set up to integrate LibGuides CMS content in the search results. Some LibGuide tools that can be integrated include:

  • A-Z Databases in search results

  • LibGuides in search results

  • Library Hours in search results

Springshare Integration with Discovery Layers:

SUNY LibAnswers:

ExLibris Developer Blog


Both LibGuides (basic) and LibGuides CMS allow registered users to create content that is accessible for end users. If you use many of the out of the box features in LibGuides, it should be fully accessible. It’s when you start customizing and adding more in depth content that it becomes more difficult to ensure things stay WCAG compliant. There are no accessibility checkers built into LibGuides at this time. VPAT as of July 15, 2020.


There are two aspects of privacy worth considering; those that have login access to the backend of LibGuides (basic) or LibGuides CMS (registered users/account holders), and the end users who utilize the public-facing guides.

For registered users/account holders, there is some basic information collected including any information you provide to login and incorporate in your system. This includes: contact details, for example, your full name, institutional affiliations, phone number, email address, social media handle, and postal address, Information about educational and professional background; login information used to access Springshare Services, professional interests and communication preferences, your status with Springshare (e.g., customer, prospect, vendor, partner, etc.), comments and questions about Springshare or Springshare Services. There is additional information that is automatically collected, which doesn’t identify you directly, and includes: your IP address, computer and device identifiers, general geographic location, browser cookies, and information about the devices or software you use to access Springshare Services and websites.

Springshare is very good about making their Privacy Policy readable and accessible, including information about GDP Compliance.


While many features come with the basic LibGuides package, the LibGuides CMS product allows librarians to take their website to the next level, with customized CSS and JS, for an additional fee. In addition, LTI integration of LibGuides CMS into Canvas makes embedding content into courses easier.

Related Links

Content Providers

If you have any experience with this product, please leave a comment and rate its appropriateness for use in a community college environment.

† The offers and trials information are password protected. Actual prices are confidential between the vendor and the consortium.

For access contact Amy Beadle, Library Consortium Director, 916.800.2175.