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Drupal For Libraries

(L-R) Karen Coombs, Nicole Engard, Angela Boyd

(L-R) Karen Coombs, Nicole Engard, Angela Boyd

Drupal is a popular open source content management system for websites that is being used for a wide variety of applications.  In the library world, it has been used for Intranets and even public websites.  Angela Boyd and Karen Coombs talked about some of their experiences with Drupal.

Angela described Project Drupal at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) library.  Their website had become outdated, to the point where it had become an embarassment, and it needed to become more visual.  They chose Drupal as a platform because it is free and a large local pool of programmers was available to them.  A series of deliberate steps, which Angela characterized as vital, was taken to plan for the new site:

  • First, a visual site map of the existing site (which had over 15,000 pages) was developed.
  • Pages were defined and broken down into categories.
  • User opinions were collected through focus groups.
  • A new interim site was produced.  It focused first on the navigation system and content levels.
  • Staff was kept informed throughout the process and initial training began.
  • A Web Content Committee and a Web Redesign Taskforce were formed to examine each page and decide whether it should be transferred to the Drupal system.  Many of the old pages had never been updated or were just collections of links and were discarded.
  • Finally, an RFP for development of the new site was issued.

Karen Coombs described how the Intranet at the University of Houston (UH) was remodeled after it had become a hodgepodge.  Her development process was similar to Boyd’s; here are the functional requirements for the UH intranet:

  • A flexible, adaptable system
  • Content easily editable by all
  • Current awareness capability
  • Replace many of the existing tools (wikis, internal blogs, listservs, some file shares)
  • Unify user authentication across the entire site
  • Provide for the incorporation of external content

Karen said that it is critical to analyze current content on the site and the desired new content, and then create a group to oversee its implementation, which helps with buy-in.  Staff training is critical because Drupal is not the friendliest content management system.  The system may have bugs, and it is often necessary to choose between scaling back the development or working with it despite the bugs.  This decision is often difficult.  And it is important to spend time with the groups designing the pages.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today, and IL 2009 Blog Coordinator

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