A few weeks ago the director of my library asked me to design and produce a website for a small community group, the North Shore Business Development Foundation (NSBDF). I was happy to be given the opportunity (I start getting the shakes if I don’t get to design a website ever-so-ofter). I had about a week to look over their logo, handouts, mission and vision statements, previous event flyers, etc. and around 7 more days to actually build the website. Time was short because of an upcoming program which the group wanted to use to make attendees aware of the new website. The website was built with a day to spare using the Drupal content management system (CMS).
While designing the website for the NSBDF, I gave a speech about the Drupal CMS to patrons of the Skokie Public Library. Happily, quite a few people came. One was the accidental webmaster of The Talking Farm, an organic, educational urban farm in the Skokie area. Following the instruction session we set up an appointment to look over the website (done in Joomla) and introduce her to some basic skills/tricks such as using Firebug and the basics of CSS. Talking with her a few weeks later I learned that they will probably be going with Drupal sometime in the future.
These two occurrences so close to one another caused a light bulb moment: what if the library offered to build and host websites for local organizations? Wouldn’t this bring significant value to the community? Could we fill this techie role in every community and become invaluable … forever?
I might not include organizations such as a Park District ( especially after that Parks and Recreation episode) or the Village Government or Public Schools because of their size. But groups like a local historical society or the Chamber of Commerce would be ideal. An open source content management system such as Drupal is excellent for these sorts of websites. It makes it possible to give the content creators enough flexibility to create without having to worry about the mark-up and all that other CMS goodness.
A few libraries are already doing this in one form or another:
“The Ann Arbor Library District hosts web content for several local projects in different ways depending on the capabilities of the group. Some sites are AADL products, developed and maintained by AADL’s production librarians, and are presented as sub-sites of aadl.org. Examples are http://aapd.aadl.org, an online exhibit of the history of the Ann Arbor Police Department, or the Making of Ann Arbor, http://moaa.aadl.org, a product developed in cooperation with the University of Michigan. The Ann Arbor Street Exhibits project presents online the content developed by the Streets Exhibit project. In addition, AADL also hosts arborwiki.org, a vibrant wiki for the city of Ann Arbor and surrounding area; this project is not part of aadl.org and is instead hosted on AADL’s community projects server. The Arborwiki moderators, who are not AADL employees, maintain and enhance the site along with the contributions of the public.”
Darien Library in Connecticut provides hosting for local non-profit organizations. They do not design or maintain the websites though.
But why not offer to do the same for locally owned for-profits? Their are many small companies in a public library’s community that do not have the time, money, and skill level to build their own websites, but these same companies bring jobs, goods, and make the town a nicer place to live. If libraries would build and host these websites their small companies would stay more viable, the community would be a better place to live, and world peace would soon follow… well perhaps just the first two.
I have not considered what this process would look like and imagine it would be different for each library. The Library Success Wiki would be good place to share the processes chosen, forms designed, etc.
Now I have mentioned Drupal fairly often in this post, but that is just my weapon of choice. Many other excellent options exists such WordPress, or even WordPress MU, Webs.com, Google Sites, and straight HTML/CSS websites.
Does this seem doable? Is anybody else already doing this?
I mentioned this idea to Kyle Jones via Twitter and he, as he normally does, came up with a brilliant direction to take it, which will be posted in the near future.
TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen