Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

From Static and Stale to Dynamic and Collaborative: The Drupal Difference

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

From Static and Stale to Dynamic and Collaborative: The Drupal Difference

Article excerpt

In 2009, the University Library of the University of California, Santa Cruz, moved from a static, Dreamweaver- and HTML-created website to an entirely new database-driven website using the open-source content management system (CMS) Drupal. This article will describe the interdisciplinary approach the project team took for this large-scale transition process, with a focus on user testing, information architecture planning, user analytics, data gathering, and change management. We examine new approaches implemented for group-authoring of resources and the challenges presented by collaboration and crowdsourcing in an academic environment. We also discuss the impact on librarians and staff changing to this new paradigm of website design and development and the training support provided. We present our process for testing, staging, and publishing new content and describe the modules used to build dynamic subject- and course-guide displays. Finally, we provide a list of resources and modules for beginning and intermediate Drupal users.

Why Change was Needed

Our old library website was created using static HTML and its organizational structure evolved to mirror the administrative structure of the library. The vocabulary we used was very library-centric and, though useful to library staff, could be confusing to patrons. Like many larger, older websites, we had accumulated a number of redundant and defunct pages. Many of these pages had not been updated for years, had inconsistent naming conventions, or outdated page design.

The catalyst for updating our web presence was predicated on several things. With more than one million visits per year and more than two million page views, our old servers were no longer able to handle this load, and we were about to begin a major project to replace our server hardware. In addition, we anticipated participating in an upcoming transition to a new campuswide website template.

We saw this moment of change as an opportunity to revitalize the library website's entire structure and reorganize it with a more user-centric approach to the menus and vocabulary. To do this, we decided to move away from Dreamweaver and the static HTML approach to web design and instead choose a CMS that would provide a more flexible and innovative interface.

Choosing Drupal

We had done research on commercial and open-source solutions and were leaning toward Drupal as our CMS. Many academic departments at our campus were going through a similar process of website redesign and had already explored the CMS options and had chosen Drupal. This helped move us toward choosing Drupal and taking advantage of a growing developer community on campus. Two of the largest units on campus both chose Drupal as their CMS and have since been great partners for collaboration and peer support.

Drupal is a free, open-source CMS (or content management framework) written in PHP with a MySQL database backing it up. It is a small application of core modules with thousands of add-on modules available to increase functionality. Drupal also has a very strong developer community and has been adopted by a growing number of libraries. We have found it to be very open and fluid, which is both a blessing and curse. For any one problem there can be dozens of differing solutions and modules to resolve it.

The Transition Team

The library created a core Website Implementation Team consisting of a librarian project manager/developer, a web designer from the IT department, and two librarian developers. The core team was supported by a server administrator and an IT analyst. The IT staff supported the technical aspects of Drupal installation, backup, and maintenance. The librarian developers planned the content migration and managed the user interface design, layout, content, scope, and architecture. They needed to know the basics of how Drupal works and needed to have much more access to the inner workings of Drupal (e. …

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