Drupal and Libraries

One of my goals for the summer is to get a handle on Drupal. I’d like to incorporate it into LIS753 Internet Fundamentals and Design at Dominican. I’d like to assign workgroups the task of creating a library Web site with the OSS app. How’s the learning curve folks?

I missed this presentation, but luckily Ellyssa Kroski, who just got a great review for her book in LJ, put up “Drupal & Libraries” from CIL2008 at Slideshare – complete with audio track:

http://oedb.org/blogs/ilibrarian/2008/drupal-and-libraries-at-cil2008/

To get started, I’ll be listening and watching tomorrow in my office. Then, I’ll ask Blake for a sandbox. 

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8 thoughts on “Drupal and Libraries”

  1. The learning curve isn’t steep at all. I used it for my LIS class this term and it went really well. The students *way* preferred it over setting up blogs on wordpress/blogger themselves and really appreciated that the course had a central online “home”. Of course, mine is a distance course, so that really matters. My one recommendation would be to give yourself plenty of time to get used to the language and to the way it works out-of-the-box, and you’ll get around to loving it in no time. I’m smitten.

  2. My experience hasn’t been quite as smooth. Depending on the modules you have installed, the nomenclature can be confusing. Knowing the difference between “content,” “content templates,” and “content types,” for example, can be tricky to get the hang of. Once you get through that, there’s no real limit to what you can do with Drupal.

    Some folks from the university of Minnesota did a usability study on Drupal, and in their slides they talked about how the “suck factor” is something the designers need to work on – e.g., they need to make it so you spend less time sucking at first and more time actually accomplishing what you want.

    If you’re interested, the information on the usability study (including slides and eye-tracking video) can be found here: http://groups.drupal.org/node/9339

  3. We use Drupal extensively at the Idaho Commission for Libraries, in various projects. There is a learning curve to Drupal that varies in its steepness depending on what you want to do:

    1. build a simple site, using existing core themes > not too steep. need to learn some Drupal jargon, much of which can be figured out using Drupal.org’s handbooks or by watching a screencast (there are a lot of them out there). The rest is clicking buttons and filling out forms.

    2. build a site using add-on modules and downloaded themes > steeper. requires an investment in time to identify which modules to use (there’s something like 2k contributed modules to Drupal), and to troubleshoot bugs or issues that may arise with those modules or the theme, and to straighten out user workflows.

    3. build a site with custom modules and custom theme > steep. It’s not that any one of the tasks involved in this is that difficult, but just that there is a lot to learn – API’s, how to do stuff you’ve never had to do before, like tweak settings in a .htaccess file. Folks who’re already comfortable with PHP and MySQL obviously will have a leg up, but even there, it just takes time to absorb it all.

    Once you get going with Drupal, you’ll want to keep up with ongoing developments. And that means reading a lot of news and posts related to changes in modules/apis/etc. You want to make sure you’ll be able to upgrade your site without issues when that next security update or version release comes out.

    Additionally, to use open source right, you contribute back to the project as you’re able – bug reports, etc. – and derive some amount of support from that community as well. That means time spent learning the norms and mores of the Drupal community so you don’t irritate others or become too irritated yourself.

    I don’t mean to sound discouraging or to insinuate that Drupal is overwhelming. It’s not. You can phase yourself into it depending on where you set your sights.

    Drupal _does_ have a low barrier to entry when you consider what you’d have to learn to accomplish all of the things you can do with Drupal if you were to do it under your own lonely efforts. All the user handling, RSS feeds, SQL queries, javascript, session handling, ajax, etc…

    There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t say, “Thank goodness for Drupal. I’d never have been able to do this on my own.”

  4. Well it looks like mlsamuelson hit upon the same points that I was going to make. However, he did not mention that there are great Drupal sub-groups out there. Search around http://groups.drupal.org, and you can find a group on just about any topic, including libraries. Quite possibly, there might be a local Drupal group in your area that you could tap into as a local resource.

    Also, there is a LISTSERV, DRUPAL4LIB, that has quite a few people subscribed to it and has proven to be a good place to bounce ideas off of other people, ask for help about configuration/setup, and to glean some information about library specific modules (OPACs and such). See http://tinyurl.com/2f4xma for more information.

    As mlsamuelson stated, depended on your needs/desired outcomes, you will need to keep up with the developments in Drupal. The problem is, there are several lines of communication that happens in Drupal. The main channels are the forums, the issue queues, the mailing lists, and the IRC chatrooms (on Freenode in #drupal, #drupal-support, and others). Some people may see this as a bad thing, but I personally don’t. It just shows my how vibrant the community is and how willing people are to make better software.

  5. Hi Michael,

    I’m doing some volunteer work for a child counselling place.

    They have about 500 books and need them catalogued and want an electronic borrowing system (at the moment they are using a book)

    I’ve found some free software like Koha and Evergreen, but it’s too sophisticated…I’m after something really simple.

    Scriblio sounds great – but waiting to hear back to see if it has a borrowing feature (circulation)…if not, any recommendations

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