An exciting new journey for Curtin University Library’s Learning Success team

Staff member looking at the camera with thumbs up and UniSkills webpage open

Recently Curtin University Library decided to move away from its use of LibGuides, the proprietary content management system which, for many years, has hosted the Library’s learning resources.  In its place, we have created a digital space using static site generator technology (SSG), a simple, flexible, low cost system that empowers library staff to take greater control of the digital environment in which they operate. 

The shift away from Libguides to using static site technology follows on from the launch of the Library’s new-look ‘UniSkills’ site in 2021, which is now running as a static site using Gitlab. The Library Makerspace website, and the Library’s Research Toolkit, will soon be following suit.    

SSG is an innovative technology that builds each page of a website by applying data and content to templates, and then generating the resultant pages and assets. The tools and methods have improved vastly in recent years, making them accessible even to non-developers.  

Often at the forefront of innovative technological change, academic libraries are starting to use SSG in a wide range of areas such as digital publishing, Open Educational Resources, digital collections and exhibits, library websites, digital humanities projects and data analysis.  Specific examples have been described at Lib-Static, a community website created by the University of Idaho.  

There are many benefits to using SSGs, including faster load times, minimal infrastructure requirements, improved security, superior sustainability and preservation capacity, easier maintenance and updating, and lower costs. A key benefit is that we are not hampered by proprietary restrictions, which allows for iterative development of features and a more agile and responsive approach to developing the site.  Perhaps the most exciting benefit is the potential it offers to significantly develop the digital skills of the library staff involved in developing and maintaining the system.  

Undoubtedly, a high level of technical skill has been required to establish the UniSkills static site, and the Library has been fortunate to have library staff members Drew Fordham, Project Officer, and Matthew Robinson, Library Management Systems Analyst, at the helm of the project.  For the Learning Success team, who will be responsible for the updating and creation of new content as well as developing new features, this change is both challenging and exciting.  Whatever the digital skill or confidence level of the individual members of the team, there are opportunities to be involved and contribute to the development and maintenance of the site.  The team will be learning the necessary skills through supportive, hands-on, practical training sessions, working together to share our knowledge and experience.  

The implementation of an SSG system to replace LibGuides as the primary platform for provision of online learning resources is an exciting new development for Curtin University Library. For those staff involved, it is a journey of discovery as we gradually acquire the skills to build, implement, and maintain a flexible and responsive system, without reliance on proprietary platforms or specialised developers.  With more control over our digital environment, there is boundless scope to explore and develop new innovations for the future. 

Written By:
Karen Miller, Academic Skills Advisor
Curtin University Library

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