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Wheaton College

Wheaton College, located in Wheaton, IL, is a highly accredited liberal arts college founded in 1860 by abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard. The campus is home to nearly 2400 undergraduate and over 550 graduate students. Wheaton's library, Buswell Memorial Library, currently boasts one of the largest liberal arts college libraries in the state of Illinois with over a million items in its collection. Doctoral programs in fields such as psychology and theology have resulted in intensified collection development over the last several years, and education's increased reliance on the Internet for access to scholarly resources provided a challenge for library staff.

Buswell Memorial Library staff found that their previous content management system could not handle the demands placed on it by enthusiastic scholars seeking knowledge and research materials through online resources. In 2003, staff began searching for a new content management system that could provide their users the power they needed.

“The user community is active, industrious, very creative, and international.”

Search for a Solution

Wheaton library staff had a number of specific criteria in mind when they began their search. They desired a content management system that provided separation of site style and content to maintain a consistent site appearance no matter who managed the content. This tied into their desire for a CMS that was easy enough for non-technical staff to master. In addition, they sought a CMS that could dynamically generate links to electronic resources from existing databases, and allowed any customized code that was created in-house to be reused throughout multiple areas of their site.

Over twenty other content management systems were reviewed in the library's search, but none provided the flexibility they were looking for. WebGUI provided an open source solution that could be easily integrated with the library's existing underlying database structure while still following standard programming and design principles. Primarily, WebGUI allowed the library to reuse MyLibrary data by doing little more than writing an SQL query. MyLibrary is a database designed by librarians for presenting library resources to library patrons. WebGUI's platform, Apache, and its programming language, Perl, were standards, a plus for the library since they could not afford to recreate or convert their existing database.

The staff also found that the built-in applications in WebGUI provided virtually anything they could need. The dozens of content applications allowed staff to create calendars, FAQ's, forums, wikis, a request tracker, photo galleries and display RSS Feeds. This, added to WebGUI's active user community and aggressive development, finalized their decision.

“The lead developers and the community push and adhere to an aggressive development schedule.”


Buswell Memorial Library has achieved great success in implementing WebGUI. Currently, the library's intranet is powered with WebGUI, and contains a Report a Problem feature for reporting campus computer lab problems. The library has also built an extensive Flash tutorial library for training student computer lab assistants, with plans to further develop more training and documentation resources that will be housed on the intranet.

An evaluation of content management systems was published in 2006 by Robbins, Engel and Bierman for the University of Oklahoma Libraries. In their results they suggest that the main challenge in building an intranet that is vital to employees within an organization, “...requires an organizational commitment to developing tools that are easy to use and vital for the development of the website.” Staff at Buswell Memorial Library feel that WebGUI is a tool that can readily be adapted for use by library staff. They point out that the wide range of content applications and functionality contained in WebGUI have provided them everything they could want in a CMS, and the ability to create templates and reuse content through the use of prototypes has been very helpful.

Staff have also created a custom faculty-staff database for contact details that can be queried using WebGUI's SQL feature, along with a custom SQL Report template. In addition, library users can use the customized search application on the library's homepage to search for books and articles, as well as access frequently used databases. The search feature is integrated with WebFeat, which is a Federated search engine that can simultaneously search over 400 subscription resources.

The library did not purchase professional support from WebGUI's parent company, Plain Black, so a steep learning curve was at times apparent. However, staff have actively attended the WebGUI Users Conference each year from 2004 to the present, and note that the experience has been very beneficial. In particular, attendees appreciate the interaction between community members and developers, and the opportunity to openly discuss and collaborate on WebGUI's future development. Library staff also participated in the WebGUI Workshops offered before the 2007 users conference and state that the hands-on training and one-on-one interaction with developers greatly increased their knowledge. The library has also purchased all of the WebGUI books published by Plain Black Corporation and, “...are finding them invaluable resources.”

Buswell Memorial Library's remarkable success is an excellent example of how WebGUI can be used effectively in educational institutions.  The staff at Buswell Memorial Library have demonstrated the ability to customize and create the powerful, dynamic web-environment their staff and students demand by continuing to integrate more databases into their website and further develop their intranet with plans for future expansion. With WebGUI, the library and college will continue to grow and offer online resources to meet the needs of the entire campus community.

Request Information WebGUI Demo Download Data Sheet

At a Glance

Buswell Memorial Library at Wheaton College

Wheaton, IL


Buswell Memorial Library sought a CMS that:

  • supports increased demand for accessing all types of resources
  • keeps style and content separate
  • enables non-technical staff to update content
  • maintains site consistency during content updates
  • dynamically generates links from existing databases
  • allows custom applications to be reused

Using WebGUI, the Buswell Memorial Library at Wheaton College is able to have a robust content management solution that is easy to use and integrated with the library's existing applications and database structure.

Gray Bottom

“The seemingly boundless energy of the developers, combined with the global perspective of the WebGUI community, reaffirms the belief that WebGUI is in good hands.” Mary Carrington, Media SpecialistWheaton College