IRLS 675 Unit 2: Content Management Systems

English: Does Your Website Need a Web Content ...

English: Does Your Website Need a Web Content Management System? This fun flowchart can help you decide which features you’ll need for your website, and whether or not you’ll need a content management system such as Joomla, Drupal or WordPress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Content Management Sytems Implementation
For this unit I had to pick an article in  a special issue of Library Hi Tech on content management systems (Vol. 24, issue 1, 2006), summarize it, and discuss it.

Michae Seadle’s editorial for the issue on content management states that Dr. Bradford Eden organized the special issue to “explore some of the key issues in implementing Content Management Systems or CMS’s. The articles in the issue range from developing home-grown CMS’s to migrating a library’s web site to a commercial CMS to change management issues.

Beyond HTML
I choose to examine the article by Doug Goans, Guy Leach and Teri M. Vogel on “Beyond HTML; Developing and re-imagining library web guides in a content management system.” The article reports on the implementations for a web content management system in Georgia State University Library (GSU) that was designed to “manage the 30 web-based research guides developed by the subject liaison librarians.” The system was designed using MySQL and ASP. The case-study by Goans et al describes the migration from a “FrontPage-based web site with minimal login security, site architecture planning, and administrative and editorial processes in place.” Before the implementation of the new system, “liaisons were given complete control of their guides as well as direct, barrier-free access to manage their pages on the web server.”

Content Management Features
The article describes some of the major reasons for using content management systems which are design consistency and limiting access to users for particular purposes. A website that has uncontrolled access could easily crash and not function well if, for instance, errors in coding were made on the website.

In my experience, moving a library website to Drupal, consisted of cleaning up HTML code that had been entered by non-expert librarians instead of the Systems or programming staff. The code could have crashed the new Drupal website. Examples of code entered by non-esperts included broken links, HTML with no opening and closing tags and so on.  This may be too common a scenario in some libraries where information technology staff is limited or non-existent. However, Goans et al’s article does not deal with this scenario.

Why are Gatekeepers Important?
As the article states, “Some libraries adopt CMS technology because they want to reduce the “gatekeeper”effect by eliminating barriers that limit library staff from contributing to the web site” (pg. 32). However, in GSU’s case a state comparable to the wild-west web existed. The lack of technological and managerial barriers led to a situation where the web guides were extremely diverse with different fonts, colors and layouts. The minimal security on the website which was implemented led to a situation where anyone could publish at any time and resulted in one case in  the deletion of the liaisons’sub-web which took many hours to restore. Librarians may want unlimited access to library websites in some cases but it is not a good practice to grant such access to librarians unless they have some expertise in technological issues. The article is a good illustration of what happens with the wild-west effect!

Advantages of a Database Driven Website
The main advantage of a database driven website is the ability to provide dynamic content which is more important in 2013 than when the article was written in 2006. Maintaining a static website which does not reuse content is also time consuming. The article discusses how moving to a database driven website improved workflow and gave the website a consistent design. As such, the article is a good case-study in the improvements that can be made with a database driven design.

Other Features
The entity relationship diagrams in the article could be very useful in helping web development librarians design similar websites. The emphasis on usability and on collaborating with the liaision librarians is also very helpful as is the design of a database based on technologies such as active server pages. Overall, the article is an excellent case-study in the main issues involved with CMS  implementation and development.

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