Content Management Strategy for a College Library Web Site

By Dahl, Mark | Information Technology and Libraries, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Content Management Strategy for a College Library Web Site


Dahl, Mark, Information Technology and Libraries


Watzek Library at Lewis and Clark College uses a dual strategy to manage the content of its Web site. Informational pages are created with a template system based on the following tools: Macromedia Dreamweaver and Contribute, PHP, server-side includes, and cascading style sheets (CSS). This system allows the site to be updated easily by several staff members and permits all pages to be presented with a graphical banner and sidebar or in a text-only fashion. Pages are presented that organize electronic and other research resources using the afore-mentioned system; a relational database is used to drive the content. This database is populated using locally developed PHP software that allows the building of pathfinders of resources organized by subject and category. Overall, this system provides for collaborative content upkeep, flexible presentation options, structured data, and reuse of data.

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Lewis and Clark College's Aubrey R. Watzek Library implemented a new Web site in 2003. Beyond the design and architecture of the site, a major challenge was developing a framework that allows several different staff members to update content on the site with minimal knowledge of HTML or complex Web-editing tools. This article will discuss the concept of content management in an academic library setting and then elaborate on the system that was chosen at Lewis and Clark. (1)

"Content management" is a term that refers to the collection, management, and publishing of information online. The concept of content management comes into play when creating and maintaining a Web site. It involves collaboration of multiple specialists, such as designers, programmers, writers, and editors.

Most commercial content management systems are software pack ages designed for the collaborative construction and maintenance of large Web sites. Generally, they support a separation of content from presentation, thereby allowing the look and feel of a Web site to be controlled centrally while content-updating duties are distributed. They tend to feature defined document schemas to allow for easy repurposing of documents to fit various presentation styles and document formats. They also typically provide access and workflow controls to specify who can view, edit, and approve content that is added to a site.

In the last few years, commercial and homegrown content management systems have made their way into the higher education and academic library world. At the college or university level, they are often implemented as second- or third-generation Web sites in order to decentralize the upkeep of the site. Oftentimes, they are put in place to address frustrations that stem from centralized management of a Web site. (2)

College libraries have a great deal of content to present on their Web sites. Their catalogs, online databases, and digital repositories can easily contain hundreds of thousands of bibliographic records, electronic articles, images, and other files. This content is typically managed using an integrated library system, vendor-supplied databases, digital library system software and increasingly, federated searching systems.

When one thinks of a traditional library Web site, one thinks of the pages on the site outside of the specialized Web services previously mentioned. It includes those pages that provide information about the library and links to the resources that the library offers. Some academic libraries now build their Web sites as a part of a college- or university-wide content management system. (3)

But many academic libraries still find it most effective to create a Web site that is independent from their parent institution's Web site. Some large academic libraries have implemented commercial content management systems to manage their own sites: For many academic libraries, this is not an affordable option. The solution used at Watzek Library, described in this article, demonstrates that many of the advantages of full-blown content management systems are available from a less expensive, smaller-scale solution. …

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Content Management Strategy for a College Library Web Site
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