A Tool for Librarians: Drupal

A Tool for Librarians: Drupal

Libraries and archives have increasingly found Drupal to be a useful resource over the past few years. Public, K-12, academic, and special libraries are just a few of the unique organization types that find their needs met in Drupal.

In 2008, “Drupal in Libraries” was featured in Library Technology Reports, published by a part of the American Library Association. In the report, they mention Drupal’s unique ability to create powerful networking and community tools. It can be used to facilitate learning groups, resume assistance, event planning, mentoring programs, and more.

Furthermore, for those in need a low-cost, low-resource solution, Drupal is an obvious choice. Libraries like the Franklin Park Public Library, which had no IT staff, can easily create a dynamic website. A single user was able to cultivate an interactive and informative site through commenting and feeds.

Solidifying and Consolidating Resources

Libraries may use a number of different services at any given time to serve their users. Between blogging, library catalogs, and tools to search databases, it would be very unlikely to have a single site with all functionality contained inside it. Drupal can help consolidate these tools and provide library users with a simple interface.

The Ann Arbor District Library was one of the first library websites to include search functionality in the site itself. Reformatting their Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) to produce an integrated catalog, they enabled summaries and reviews on each item. Using Drupal, they easily had access to user management and commenting. Site traffic reportedly increased by 40%, with a 216% page view increase after implementation of the Drupal site. They even have an AADL Developer Blog to update as they continue to develop software and share it with the community.

The Extensible Catalog is an ongoing project led by Randy Cook at the University of Rochester. This open-source piece of software is meant to allow users to search in a single place for everything they need. Journals, library content, and item metadata are all drawn together, using a number of modules that are combined over a Drupal platform. The package also includes themes for Catalog sites to have them up and running quickly. With easy integration to any Integrated Library System (ILS), libraries can also show similar items, live circulation statuses and allow users to see account information and place requests. The Extensible Catalog is being used around the world, from Tufts’ Perseus Digital Library toKyushu University Library in Japan.

Social Libraries

In the ever-growing technology-centric world we live in, libraries struggle to keep children interested in books and reading. Rather than being seen as an antagonist to the online resources available, they want to take advantage of the new technologies available to increase traffic and interest in the library. One way to stay up-to-date with the digital world is to incorporate the social aspect of the Internet into their websites.

The Genesee Valley School Library System is using Drupal for their K-12 libraries to educate, develop reading skills, and foster an interest in books. By taking advantage of Drupal’s built-in functionality, site administrators brought social media to the library environment. Specifically, they included the ability for users to share and review books they read. This system increases the likelihood of reading both by incentivizing the experience and organically offering children books that others liked. In a trial run, about 60 students submitted over 500 reviews. It was used both inside and outside of the classroom and proved promising.

Many social networking features can be included on a library or reading site. For example, some have included a blog feature. Each person has a blog for reviewing books or sharing interesting thoughts. Not only is this feature beneficial to the writing and critical thinking skills of students, but it also fosters cross-pollination of ideas – commenting on and sharing blog posts via other social media can be easily enabled.

Furthermore, users owning a blog means they also have a profile, where they can share interests, favorite books and reading lists. Using tags or dropdown menus as interest selection in Drupal can make for a nice way to see who has the same interests, posts tagged with the same interest, or taste in books. Requiring interests may additionally allow administrators to easily make suggestion boxes.

Others have added bookmarking capabilities, the ability to send posts by email, upload boxes for videos and photos, easy-to-make polls, friends lists, live chat, and a calendar to sign-up for events. The Views module may also be used to list popular posts/tags, recent comments, and blog archives.

E-Branch in a Box

In the realm of public libraries, the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICFL) has set up a Drupal installation to provide websites for libraries around the state. Their “e-Branch in a Box” initiative is an attempt to standardize and simplify library site maintenance and training. Using Drupal, each library can customize their website and independently decide to retain uniqueness or community identity. However, they will all be working on the same framework, so logistics will be similar from library to library.

Some features included in the e-Branch in a Box are RSS feeds, blogs, WYSIWYG editing, Google Calendar embedding and commenting. Since the project’s inception, it has been used by 82 different libraries! Offering precise and straightforward documentation online, the ICFL is prepared for users with a minimal amount of technical knowledge.

Staff Intranets

Though many use it for their library website – a front-end user interface for patrons – Drupal is additionally utilized to easily create and maintain staff intranets. Such intranets do not have to be especially appealing, but they do need a minimal feature set, so using Drupal to get one operating quickly is an ideal choice. For example, the ability to allow collaboration and information sharing between departments in academic libraries is built into core.

The Oregon Libraries Network keeps track of system-wide reports in their 37 partner libraries. These reports can be edited, deleted, searched, and commented on using Drupal. The Network’s previous website combined a wiki, the main library website, and a WordPress blog - all of which now live in a singular location on their Drupal site.

Staff intranets may also be used to update public faculty pages, manage staff hours, create agendas or maintain an informal blog for news and updates. With a basic Drupal core installation, a full-featured staff intranet is not far away.

Drupal Library Community

Since Drupal is so popular with librarians and archivists, significant community support exists. The Libraries Drupal Group is an active resource that distributes tools to libraries thinking about using Drupal. Examples of this assistance include presentations, guides, and some helpful links.

In addition to the general Drupal camps and conferences, group events are organized and aDrupal For Libraries listserv communicates regularly. Subscribers to the listserv can post questions to the list, respond to others, or simply keep a watchful eye for interesting additions they can make to their own sites.

As always, the general Drupal IRCs and community base can be consulted as well. Those using e-Branch in a Box, for example, can easily look on Drupal’s own documentation and community pages.

ILS Modules

A number of modules port existing OPACs and ILSs to Drupal:

The Millennium OPAC Integration module can be used to access a library’s Millennium WebOPAC. Using this module, administrators can embed records and book previews. They can also import bibliography records.

Drupal integration also exists for the PMB (PhpMyBibli) ILS. The PMB Connector allows users to search and browse through a PMB catalog directly in the Drupal site. In addition, library patrons can access their OPAC account to see loans, reservations, and reading lists.

If no module already exists, librarians may look into the OPAC module. Meant to serve as a general solution, OPAC provides administrators with the ability to use mapping plugins included to communicate with a given ILS backend. Some more technical experience may be required to make PHP connectors. However, once connections are made, users can import records, get cover and item information, and allow OPAC users to view account information and carry out operations.

Additional Features using Modules

Apache Solr Search is a popular module used in many industries to provide more complex searching than that included in Drupal core. It supports faceted search using the Facet APIand allows customizable search pages. Apache Solr Search also creates blocks linking to relevant content automatically that can be included on node pages. This tool can be used to improve search performance on any library site.

The Bibliography Module is especially useful for any academic library. Allowing a number of import formats, including the popular MARC format, the module outputs any standard bibliography style (APA, MLA, etc.) as well as in-line citation references. Featuring a number of translations, this module will be exceedingly beneficial to students and other academics.

One last module worth mentioning for libraries is EZPoxy. Many libraries use the EZproxy service to allow members access to web-based content. This Drupal integration allows EZproxy to refer to Drupal to identify someone as an authenticated user.

Drupal allows libraries and other reference institutions to take advantage of technologies as they evolve. With minimal effort, staff intranets and social libraries can be created to maintain library patronage and interest in books and reading!