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

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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