Tag Archives: websites

Hire awesome people, make rad stuff (by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)

Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale. I had a few thoughts. First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person. Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field. Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:

Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu

I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens. My thoughts with that product were:

1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.

The outcome? I did not buy that product.

It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.

The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.
The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.

Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out. But don’t think about that. You can always try again. But what if the investment in awesome people works out? You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.

Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.
Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.

A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org. About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site. We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it. Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it. Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page. All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team. The best part? It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site. Another great part? If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.

Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams? To me, that’s the way forward. Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community. A win in every area.

(please note: This post originally appeared over at justinthelibrarian.com)

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

An Unformed Thought

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:

I asked Eli Neiburger to describe how the always cutting edge Ann Arbor Library District does this. He wrote:

“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