or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

A Couple WordPress Resources

   July 19th, 2011 Brian Herzog

WordPress logoFor anyone who uses WordPress, here are a couple resources you might want to check out:

Using WordPress as a Library Content Management System
A recent Library Technology Reports covers using WordPress to run your entire library's website. My library uses WordPress just for our two blogs right now, but are looking to migrate the entire site to a CMS. Thanks to Michael Stephens for highlighting this, and linking to the full-text of the first chapter.

2011 WordCamp Boston
For those in the Boston area, WordCamp 2011 is happening this weekend at BU. I'm looking forward to it because I've never actually attended an official WordPress-devoted event - I'm going to attend sessions everywhere from basic introduction to advanced fanciness. It's $40 for the weekend, which is less good than free, but I think it's still well worth the price. And for people who can't make it to Boston, look for a WordCamp in your area.

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NELA-ITS Spring Workshop 2009 – CMS Day!

   June 12th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Website 2.0! slideToday's workshop is all about CMS - why use them, and what's available. I'll try to provide useful notes - also follow #nelaits09 and/or #nelaitson Twitter.

CMS Day: Building a Better Website with Content Management Systems
Drupal, Joomla, Plone, and WordPress

June 12th, 2009, Portsmouth (NH) Public Library

Keynote: Jessamyn West - Website 2.0!
--Slides & Links

  • Old style web maintenance: people give content to one person who updates the site (bottleneck) - relies on ftp and requires expertise
  • New style (with CMS): everyone can update all the time - quicker and more efficient, and doesn't require heavy-duty tech skills

Your website doesn't need to be special and unique, just useful to your patrons. Timesavers like CMS software, and good ideas that other libraries are already doing, are your friends. You can include a calendar, catalog, links and databases, programs, "about us" and local history, contact info - every has these things, and you can too.

Static v. Dynamic content (the C in CMS): dynamic content means websites are built on the fly by pulling information from multiple places

What is a CMS (content management system)

  • creation of content - lets the right people do it
  • management - easier to get info out (and remove it when old)
  • distribution - send out (or bring in) via rss
  • publishing - much easier, and more standards compliant
  • discovery - you learn, everyone learns

All cms share similar tools: themes, calendars, rss feeds, blogs, uploading images/files - don't get too hung up on these. All have online demos/versions to try out. There are also user communities that offer development and support.

Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Library Network

  • Using Drupal for staff intanet
  • Goals was to facilitate communication (which staff wanted), web 2.0 features (rss, comments, etc), calendar, printer-friendly versions (because it will be a source of documentation for member libraries)
  • Why Drupal? free, open-source, large community support, robust and room to grow
  • Install was kind of techy, so not completely smooth and flawless - but they managed with little knowledge + documentation
  • "Drupal is a very elegant and yet very hairy beast"

Getting it going:

  • Drupal Core contains a lot of core functions (do not hack core modules)
  • Also lots of contributed modules to extend capabilities - two good ones: Content Construction Kit (CCK - lets you define different kinds of content types [blog post, calendar event, etc]) and Views (allows tweaking of content output). Others in use are Calendar, Minutes module, Signup, Interest Groups
  • One challenge with Drupal is learning its terminology
  • Great thing is that menus are dropdown and easy to universally manage from one location
  • Themes: use standard, customized, or borrow one http://themegarden.org/drupal6
  • Lots of support online, plus O'Reilly books, Library Technology Report

Kate Sheehan, Dairen Public Library

  • Kate's not a coder - has used WordPress, but now specializes in content
  • Lots of thought when into architecture of Drupal site - used it to pull all sorts of library content (static pages, multiple blogs, etc) together into one place and organize it logically and usefully
  • Staff did struggle with terminology until they got away from using blog terminology
  • Community: patrons can contribute to website and catalog (using sopac, which is a Drupal module) - anyone can create an account to participate
  • Using tags to specify age range/reading levels for kids, which helps both patrons and staff
  • Website has content pulled in from other sources (flickr, et. al.) so policies had to be reviewed on licensing, citing and the technical how-to aspects - they try to use a lot of photos to make things more interesting
  • Found that using Google calendar for events was easier than Drupal module

Randy Robertshaw - Tyngsborough Public Library

  • Chose Joomla because it is very easy to learn and has a low learning curve
  • Randy is only librarian in his library, so he does all the maintenance himself
  • View website as real electronic branch - staff contributing to it is same as creating book displays or answering questions in the library
  • When considering Joomla, only look for v1.5-native components
  • Lots of for-pay modules, which can be $5-20, and are professional looking right out of the box, instead of spending time reinventing the wheel - http://extensions.joomla.org and http://joomlacode.org
  • Prefers Google calendar to events module - uses rss to feed events to homepage. Others are JcalPro and Eventlist - but prefers "outsourcing" tools like gcalendar and flickr (using iframe) to embed content back into library website
  • Joomla allows multiple themes, so children's site can look different from adult portion
  • One plugin is a PDF indexer - lots of others - some simple, some complex
  • Content can be timed, so it will automatically go up and come off - is also archived to use later use, and stats show on each post on the backend

More considerations

  • Remove copyrights for programs
  • Review the reviews of extensions before you choose them
  • Stay away from "beta" software (no release schedule)
  • Make sure to cache your website so you're not hitting the database every time
  • Is CMS search engine friendly? Always a problem with dynamic content
  • Security and backup of CMS and website and content
  • Use distributed content lets you share the work among staff but make things easy and centralized for patrons
  • Always keep an eye on development - Joomla is available now, but things always change


Rick Levine - C/W MARS
"Home on the Web" [pdf] project uses LSTA grant to enable small MA public libraries that currently have no website (or were part of the local government website). Goals were kept simple and cheap - single template, promote databases & local programs, forms-capable, "harvestable" calendar (for down-the-road state-wide zip code based calendar).

The Plinket program offers a lot features, and creating library websites is quick. The time investment comes in creating content - which is where time should be spent.

Backend input forms, content types, and management is very simple - does provide security levels to control what people can do and what html code they can use.

Examples: Bolton Public Library and East Brookfield Public Library and Thayer Memorial Library (uses fanciest features in iframes)

Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) Public Library
Chose WordPress because it was free, NOBLE offered some support, staff had some knowledge of it, large community base (easy to search for answers online), lots of free themes and plug-ins and widgets, easy to customize.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org - wp.com is hosted and has limitations, whereas wp.org is downloaded and installed on your server. .org offers more features and control, but you're responsible for backups and maintenance

Don't need a lot of tech background, but some html helps. It's easy to modify page templates to customize or use different theme for kid's page. WP lets you use hierarchy (using Parent and Child) to make website look like web pages and less bloggy.

Can use multiple blogs (news, events, book reviews, etc) and keep them separate. Posts can be automatically posted (but not deleted), and they use comment moderation to check before they go live - and people do expect answers.


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Time To Try Twitter

   June 11th, 2009 Brian Herzog

The Twitter Book coverI'm going to be at a CMS workshop Friday (sponsored by NELA-ITS), and I was planning on blogging the workshop like last year. I also got the idea that this might be a good opportunity for me to try Twitter, too.

So if you're curious, follow me at http://www.twitter.com/herzogbr - I've never done this before, so I make no promises. And hash tags: do I just make it up myself? If so, then I declare #nelaits09 #nelaits

And here's my nerd note for the day: so what does a librarian do to get ready to use Twitter? Why, research it, of course.

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Upcoming Workshop: CMS Day!

   May 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

website designer comicI'm a member of the IT section of the New England Library Association, and we're holding a workshop on popular CMS software. If you're thinking about redesigning or updating your website, or would are just curious about what CMS' are and what they can do, then this workshop is for you.

CMS Day! Build a better website with Content Management Systems: Drupal, Joomla, Plone, & WordPress
Keynote by Jessamyn West

Date: Friday, June 12, 2009
Location: Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, NH (directions)
Cost: NELA members - $50; Non-members - $60
Registration Fee includes lunch & a NELA USB hub!

To Register
Secure online registration & downloadable mail-in registration [pdf] are both available at http://www.nelib.org/its/conference. Registration Closes Monday June 8.

Program Schedule
10:00 a.m. - Registration & Coffee & Library Tours
10:30 a.m. - Keynote: CMS options - Jessamyn West
12 noon - Lunch (provided!) and Library Tours
12:45 p.m. - Librarians share their real-life CMS experiences:
--Drupal - Darien (CT) PL (darienlibrary.org) & Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Network
--Joomla - Randy Robertshaw, Tyngsborough PL (tynglib.org)
--Plone - Rick Levine & CMRLS Librarians
--WordPress - Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) PL (beverlypubliclibrary.org)
3:30 p.m. -Wrap-Up!

Keynote by Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West is a community technology librarian. She lives in rural Vermont where assists tiny libraries with their technology planning and implementation. Her favorite color is orange. Jessamyn maintains an online presence at: librarian.net and jessamyn.info

NELA Program Refund Policy: A full refund shall be granted provided that the registered attendee has contacted the authorized representative of ITS responsible for taking registrations, at least ten (10) business days in advance of the program. In the event that notice is given less than ten days, a refund is not granted, however, they may send a substitute to the program.

For more information, please contact Scott Kehoe at 978-762-4433 x16 / [email protected]

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Welcome to SwissArmyLibrarian.net

   February 26th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Swiss Army Librarian logoFor the first official Swiss Army Librarian post, I wanted to mention a few things about my new home.

I upgraded from WordPress v2.0.1 (which is what herzogbr.net/blog ran) to v2.3.3, and a lot had changed - but happily, most of the changes were for the better. The major outward change is the new theme, but my real goal was to update my code. Now, it's all css-based, and the only code that doesn't validate properly is the flickr badge.

It took a lot of behind-the-scenes fiddling to make this transition happen (Chris, my thank you gift on the way). On my About page I list all the plugins I'm using, and a few other technical details. I also fully explain "why Swiss Army Librarian?," in two parts, but I'll just summarize here:

  1. I've had a Swiss Army knife ever since college, and I use it all the time. Most people who know me couldn't image me without it
  2. If I had to summarize the job responsibilities of a librarian, “swiss army knife” comes pretty close. We’ve got to be ready to handle any request that comes along, and be prepared with whatever tool is needed for the job at hand

During the migration, I found I really enjoyed playing with WordPress plugins and pages. It has gotten me excited to start seriously using WordPress as a CMS for a full website, and not just a blog. My library is looking to update the way we manage our website, so I'm going to be pushing and pulling WordPress to see what it can do.

Alright, that's that. I'd appreciate hearing what people think of the new look, and if you have any tips or tricks on using WordPress as a CMS. And now, back to the regularly scheduled postings...

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New Library CMS?

   December 18th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Kyle and his Drupal bookYou know how you mean to do something, and know you should do it, but you never get around to it? Well, that's me with learning Drupal.

But my friend Kyle (that's Kyle, in the hat) isn't a slouch like me. He actually went out and bough a Drupal book to learn from (while I, on the other hand, sit about twenty feet away from one every day, but have yet to crack it).

Anyway: my library uses Adobe Dreamweaver to manage our website. But dealing with static html pages is cumbersome, and stands as a large barrier to getting more staff contributing (easily) to our website. So, using a tool like Drupal would be a great improvement - not just for site management, but also in usefulness for our patrons.

I'm getting there. I'm also looking at expanding our WordPress installation, from running just our blog to containing our entire website. Or, we could use Joomla. Or Scriblio. Or Plinkit. Part of the problem is the myriad of tools to choose from.

And Kyle's no help. He writes:

One thing that I have been looking into for one of my clients is Omeka (http://omeka.org/). Omeka is a wiki/cms solution for museums and libraries to catalog information in an online format. It is being developed at George Mason University specifically for historical institutions.

Another tool. But from what I can tell (using it is invitation only, at the moment), it is neat, and they've got some interesting sites running it. I'm going to watch it and see where it goes.

I know I've been talking about these CMS tools for awhile, but perhaps that's what new year's resolutions are for. We will migrate the website to a new platform by the end of 2008. Ah, we'll see.

Oh, and one more thing: I recently read that there's a new drupal4lib group. Maybe with a support group, it'll actually happen.

cms, drupal, drupal4lib, joomla, kyle, libraries, library, omeka, public, scriblio, wordpress

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