April 21, 2007

Computers in Libraries: Day 2 morning sessions

Using a CMS to Build Community: Rhumba with Joomla by Tao Gao and Catherine Morgan, South Carolina State Library.

This was a great session with lots of great ideas on how to use a CMS to build community among patrons. The idea is that the interactivity and customizability that you can build into your system with a CMS will greatly increase user buy-in to your set and get them visiting and contributing. The CMS the South Carolina State Library used was Joomla, an open source product. The advantages to Joomla are easy of set up, use and manage; separation of content and form; extendable and open source with a strong support community. It's also a very popular CMS package these days.

There were several reasons why the SCSL wanted to redesign their website including: static html, table based layout, only some basic perl, outdated content, incoherent navigation and others. They wanted standards compliant design, intuitive navigation, separation of form and content, staff collaboration, site search, online job board, community oriented and rss feeds. The first phase was a plan. They conducted a review of current content and performed an online survey. They used survemonkey. They got people to review subject pages and got together a qualified and dedicated team. In the design phase they did an agency rebranding and an interface design and review. They learned that you have to get a graphic designer who understands the core mission of the project and that you need a good project manager.

The development phase explored CMS options and dealt with the Joomla learning curve, they also did a content audit, review and migration. They identified and incorporated desired functionality. The deployment and evolution phase included going live. They were able to evaluate the project, plan for growth and refinement and discovered that few staff reviewed the new site before it went online. The reception was great.

The demo of the web site was very good, we got to see a lot of the great new features and see how good a tool Joomla is for building community systems. Active vs. static content, adding content with a simple wsysiwyg editor, listening to user input, training users were all part of the process. Joomla was a great tool that allowed a lot of social software features such as member profiles, discussion forums, calendars, rss, blogs, groups, photo galleries, book reviews, tag clouds and others.

Project Planning the 2.0 Way by Nicole Engard, Jenkins Law Library.

This was another inspirational presentation, showing how social software tools can be used to plan and manage internal projects, the example being a law library. Old school project planning meant lots of meetings, task lists, tons of documents flying around via email, phone tag, and filled up emain inboxes. With email lists being a bit inconsistent at times, it's always hard to know who's in the loop at any given time. You end up wasting time constantly worried about document versions and getting everyone up to speed. Ultimately, all the project status, details and history are buried in long forgotten emails and word docs no one can find anymore.

So, try a blog. At the library in question, each project has a blog, every staff member can see everything and contribute and there are many fewer emails going around. Staff feel included and the project blogs are the favourite part of the intranet. Email clutter has been cut down and everything for a project is in one place. When a project is completed, the blog is put in an accessible archive part of the intranet.

Project documents are part of a wiki, which is great becuase it's full text searchable, has history and is visible to staff. Wikis + Blogs = staff engagement.

Even the IT department is able to document their systems using a wiki. The intranet uses blogs and wikis to have to do lists, projects, calendars, wish lists. All parts of the intranet have comment buttons where users can send messages to the web team about problems or issues. People can put email watches on posts or pages so that they are notified of changes for projects that are important to them. With everyone able to contribute, there is a high level of trust about projects.

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