From Plone to Plinkit to Public Libraries: A Tale of Four States

Darci Hanning, Oregon State Library, Sharon Morris, Colorado State Library, Kristi Lindsey, Penrose Community Library District, Beverly J. Obert, Rolling Prairie Library District, Tine Walczyk, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Plinkit is a program for developing database-driven web sites for libraries, that uses open-source software, and is free to the libraries who use them. Individual library projects are created with training and support by librarians from statewide/regional library organizations, using statewide funding. They work together to bring this resource into existence for the benefit of small towns, particularly in rural areas. The presenters all find it gratifying to help small libraries develop web sites with the Plinkit project.

Each of the presenters gave a description of Plinkit from a different perspective. We heard viewpoints of trainers, administrators, and a librarian from a small town; all who are involved in using the Plinkit in different ways.

Darci Hanning, Oregon State Library Technology Development Consultant at OSU
Topic: Plinkit overview

Plinkit for libraries, background info:

The Problem for Libraries (particularly in small towns)

· Many libraries have no web site at all, or just contact information through a town web site.

· The web site might be entirely a brochure format, but without enought options for change to the site or program news.

· IT departments that oversee an entire city may not provide enough support to library staff

· Control of the library web site might be external to the library, so that development is difficult.

· The web site is created by volunteers; perhaps in a program that the existing library staff can’t update, so that it doesn’t entirely function as needed.

Solution! Plinkit

· Advantages: library staff can update everything using a word.doc like editor, wysiwyg

· Libraries get a pre-built web site that they can use as they need to

· No cost to individual libraries: Plinkit staff provides training and support.

· Create content types that add value to the library.

· Links for authentication of statewide databases, so that residents in rural areas can use statewide sources at any time and place.

Terms and definitions:

· Plone: a zope application using templates and css

· ZMI: Zope management interface – allows for customization

· Plone is written in python script

· Plone has numerous content types; photos, portlets for news of current events of the library. Library staff add new items, and the portlet publishes the most current 3 items.

· Upcoming events – the most current 3 items are always on view in the library web site.

· Photo album – creates a thumbnail view.

Security:

· Levels for administrators, content editors, and publishers for security.

About Plone, the CMS System that Plinkit uses:

· Open-source cms with add-on products for media, we blogs, polls/Surveys, etc.

· Plone uses a template with css that you can easily alter.

· There is a chat room for real-time help, forums and user-groups, a conference yearly.

· Improved documentation in the last few years. Online user’s manual, a new book coming out soon.

· Search features work for the entire website, every search result creates a dynamic RSS.

· RSS can be created for any areas of site

· Plone offers: a weather widget, Spanish language option, a calendar, a community organizations list

· Darci Hanning created custom portlets: an image portlet for new building photos; a library catalog search box, a quotation widget, a research help box, plus customizable content portlets for local library staff to use for new content.

Designing for Two: Darci and Oregon libraries work together to create Plinkit sites. Darci Hanning, as Plinkit administrator, provides libraries with a package to work with:

· OSU Plinkit staff send libraries a Plinkit site pre-loaded with content.

· One step publishing

· Staff-only area

· Different access levels

· Additional functionality

Library staff add content:

· local items and local content, all types of media

Tine Walczyk – Texas State Library
Topic: Collaboration among 4 states using Plinkit

A timeline:
2003: Plinkit started as a grant for Multnomah County Library, in Portland, Oregon

2004: 10 libraries were using Plinkit in Oregon, and now there are quite a few more

2006: Colorado, Texas, Illinois join Oregon to form a consortium for Plinkit support

2007: Admin manual and other documentation for Plinkit libraries.

Currently nearly 100 libraries are using Plinkit in the US among the 4 states in this collaborative system.

Structure of the Plinkit organization: they are building on what they have created thus far:

· A steering committee was formed to plan development of the Plinkit system for libraries

· Where do they want to take Plinkit? What kinds of templates/skins do they want, what added functionality? Add a live reference section? Recurring events on the calendar?

· They get feedback from library staff who use Plinkit, requesting changes. The steering committee helps implement these changes that are requested.

· Another goal is to have a Plinkit users group for discussion.

Documentation: they are writing all of the documentation:

· User’s Manual, Administrators’ Manual jointly created by the collaborative.

· An initial Plinkit.org template that libraries receive. Each state takes the template and customizes for the entire state.

· They are working on support for library staff. Darci provides great support to the group.

· Plinkit.org is the repository for all changes including archives.

Comments from the presenters about how Plinkit works in their state:

Beverly Obert, Executive Director, Rolling Prairie Library System, Decatur, Illinois
One of the library administrators liked Plinkit, and wrote a grant so that they could use it. Their goal is to have 60 web sites for libraries by the end of June, 2007. Illiniois Library administrators looked at the Plinkit site to customize it to match what they needed for Illinois, for laws, for what are required for Illinois libraries, to link to state databases, such as Worldcat, and other needs. They used the Plinkit sandbox to create a manual for Illinois state library staff. Starting with a meeting of 9 libraries, this was enough, and from here libraries took off! They were immediately building their library websites after the training. They found Plinkit easy enough for library staff to use with a minimum of training. Libraries now have great-looking web sites, created by staff who don’t have much training in web site development.

Darci Hanning: Technology Development Consultant, Oregon State Library
Darci brings libraries into the Plinkit system 1 library at a time; they sign an agreement, and she sets up trainings with the library staff person – by phone for convenience – and they work together to create the new library site.

Sharon Morris: Technology and Digital Initiatives Consultant, Colorado State Library
Sharon Morris does all the training for Plinkit libraries. She goes to conferences and arranges for a computer lab for interactive learning among Plinkit libraries. She goes out to Plinkit libraries to help them get started. She takes her digital camera and helps get them started. She helps them structure information in a web environment to help them get started. There is a statistics program so that libraries now have statistics on web site use, a new way to evaluate their services. Plinkit is ADA compliant: built-in alt tags; instructions on how to use the site with keyboard strokes instead of a mouse.

Tine Walczyk: Continuing Education and Consulting Manager, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

The State Library brought staff in from the regional library systems, who in turn helped their local libraries create Plinkit web sites. Tine goes to regional systems for training.
They have written numerous agreements (memorandums of understanding) to formalize policies. Plinkit is needed: currently there are over 200 libraries in the state of Texas that have no web site or minimal sites that are not updated. Interest is shown by library staff of small libraries in Texas, who have driven over 500 miles to take the Plinkit class.

Kristi Lindsey: Director, Penrose Community Library District, Colorado
Penrose is a small community of 500 people with a small library, with a small-town feel. Simple city services, no traffic light in all of Penrose. Their current library is 1800 sq. ft, and they have a building project, raising funds from local residents. Penrose is unincorporated, with a population consisting primarily of prison employees, since prisons are nearby, plus inmate families.
Reaching their community is not easy: there is no local newspaper, no local community radio station, high-speed internet access became available just 2 months ago. Technology is very new in this community. Most people have a computer at home, but only recently with high-speed internet access. No real tech support for the library. The first web site they had was created by local teen volunteers. Their original web site has now developed into a Plinkit site that all of their library staff can use. They now create new content daily.

Contact the speakers for more info about Plinkit.