Let’s Talk About E-rate

E-rate isn’t new news. Established almost 20 years ago (I feel old, and you’re about to too) by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, E-rate provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.

What is new news is the ALA initiative Got E-rate-rate_logoe? and more importantly the overhaul of E-rate which prompted the initiative- and it’s good news. The best part might well be 1.5 billion dollars added to annual available funding. What that means, in the simplest terms, is new opportunities for libraries to offer better, faster internet. It’s the chance for public libraries of every size to rethink their broadband networks and  make gains toward the broadband speeds necessary for library services.

But beyond the bottom line, this incarnation of E-rate has been deeply influenced by ALA input. The Association worked with the FCC to insure that the reform efforts would benefit libraries. So while we can all jump and cheer about more money/better internet, we can also get excited because there are more options for libraries who lack sufficient broadband capacity to design and maintain broadband networks that meet their community’s growing needs.

The application process has been improved and simplified, and if you need to upgrade your library’s wireless network, there are funds earmarked for that purpose specifically.

Other key victories in this reform include:

  • Adopting a building square footage formula for Category 2 (i.e., internal connections) funding that will ensure libraries of all sizes get a piece of the C2 pie.
  • Suspending the amortization requirement for new fiber construction.
  • Adopting 5 years as the maximum length for contracts using the expedited application review process.
  • Equalizing the program’s treatment of lit and dark fiber.
  • Allowing applicants that use the retroactive reimbursement process (i.e., BEAR form) to receive direct reimbursement from USAC.
  • Allowing for self-construction of fiber under certain circumstances.
  • Providing incentives for consortia and bulk purchasing.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest going to the source. But it’s a great Friday when you get to celebrate a victory for libraries everywhere.

To receive alerts on ALA’s involvement in E-rate, follow the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) on Twitter at @OITP. Use the Twitter hashtag #libraryerate

 

What is a Librarian?

 

steamman-black

When people ask me what I do, I have to admit I feel a bit of angst. I could just say I’m a librarian. After all I’ve been in the library game for nearly 10 years now. I went to library school, got a library degree, and I now work at FSU’s Strozier library with a bunch of librarians on library projects. It feels a bit disingenuous to call myself a librarian though because the word “librarian” is not in my job title. Our library, like all others, draws a sharp distinction between librarians and staff. Calling myself a librarian may feel right, but it is a total lie in the eyes of Human Resources. If I take the HR stance on my job, “what I do” becomes  a lot harder to explain. The average friend or family member has a vague understanding of what a librarian is, but phrases like “web programming” and “digital scholarship” invite more questions than they answer (assuming their eyes don’t glaze over immediately and they change the subject). The true answer about “what I do” lies somewhere in the middle of all this, not quite librarianship and not just programming. When I first got this job, I spent quite a bit of time wrestling with labels, and all of this philosophical judo kept returning to the same questions: What is a librarian, really? And what’s a library? What is librarianship? These are probably questions that people in less amorphous positions don’t have to think about. If you work at a reference desk or edit MARC records in the catalog, you probably have a pretty stable answer to these questions.

At a place like Strozier library, where we have a cadre of programmers with LIS degrees and job titles like Digital Scholarship Coordinator and Data Research Librarian, the answer gets really fuzzy. I’ve discussed this topic with a few coworkers, and there seems to be a recurring theme: “Traditional Librarianship” vs. “What We Do”. “Traditional Librarianship” is the classic cardigan-and-cats view we all learned in library school, usually focusing on the holy trinity of reference, collection development and cataloging. These are jobs that EVERY library has to engage in to some degree, so it’s fair to think of these activities as a potential core for librarianship and libraries. The “What We Do” part of the equation encapsulates everything else: digital humanities, data management, scholarly communication, emerging technologies, web programming, etc. These activities have become a canonical part of the library landscape in recent years, and reflect the changing role libraries are playing in our communities. Libraries aren’t just places to ask questions and find books anymore.

The issue as I see it now becomes how we can reconcile the “What We Do” with the “Traditional” to find some common ground in defining librarianship; if we can do that then we might have an answer to our question. An underlying characteristic of almost all library jobs is that, even if they don’t fall squarely under one of the domains of this so-called “Traditional Librarianship”, they still probably include some aspects of it. Scholarly communication positions could be seen as a hybrid collection development/reference position due to the liaison work, faculty consultation and the quest to obtain Open Access faculty scholarship for the institutional repository. My programming work on the FSU Digital Library could be seen as a mix of collection development and cataloging since it involves getting new objects and metadata into our digital collections. The deeper I pursue this line of thinking, the less satisfying it gets. I’m sure you could make the argument that any job is librarianship if you repackage its core duties in just the right way. I don’t feel like I’m a librarian because I kinda sorta do collection development and cataloging.

I feel like a librarian because I care about the same things as other librarians. The same passion that motivates a “traditional” librarian to help their community by purchasing more books or helping a student make sense of a database is the same passion that motivates me to migrate things into our institutional repository or make a web interface more intuitive. Good librarians all want to make the world a better place in their own way (none of us chose librarianship because of the fabulous pay). In this sense, I suppose I see librarianship less as a set of activities and more as a set of shared values and duties to our communities. The ALA’s Core Values of Librarianship does a pretty good job of summing things up, and this has finally satisfied my philosophical quest for the Platonic ideal of a librarian. I no longer see place of work, job title, duties or education as having much bearing on whether or not you are truly a librarian. If you care about information and want to do good with it, that’s enough for me. Others are free to put more rigorous constraints on the profession if they want, but in order for libraries to survive I think we should be more focused on letting people in than on keeping people out.

What does librarianship mean to you? Following along with other LITA bloggers as we explore this topic from different writers’ perspectives. Keep the conversation going in the comments!

Learning to Master XSLT

This semester, I have the exciting opportunity to work as an intern among the hum of computers and maze of cubicles at Indiana University’s Digital Library Program! My main projects include migrating two existing digital collections from TEI P4 to TEI P5 using XSLT. If you are familiar with XML and TEI, feel free to skim a bit! Otherwise, I’ve included short explanations of each and links to follow for more information.

XML

Texts for digital archives and libraries are frequently marked up in a language called eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which looks and acts similarly to HTML. Marking up the texts allow them to be human- and machine-readable, displayed, and searched in different ways than if they were simply plain text.

TEI

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium “develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form” (i.e. guidelines). Basically, if you wanted to encode a poem in XML, you would follow the TEI guidelines to markup each line, stanza, etc. in order to make it machine-readable and cohesive with the collection and standard. In 2007, the TEI consortium unveiled an updated form of TEI called TEI P5, to replace the older P4 version.

However, many digital collections still operate under the TEI P4 guidelines and must be migrated over to P5 moving forward. Here is where XSLT and I come in.

XSLT

eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Transformations are used to convert an XML document to another text document, such as (new) XML, HTML or text. In my case, I’m migrating from one type of XML document to another type of XML document, and the tool in between, making it happen, is XSLT.

Many utilize custom XSLT to transform an XML representation of a text into HTML to be displayed on a webpage. The process is similar to using CSS to transform basic HTML into a stylized webpage. When working with digital collections, or even moving from XML to PDF, XSLT is an invaluable tool to have handy. Learning it can be a bit of an undertaking, though, especially adding to an already full work week.

I have free time, sign me up!

Here are some helpful tips I have been given (and discovered) in the month I’ve been learning XSLT to get you started:

  1. Register for a tutorial.

Lynda.com, YouTube, and Oracle provide tutorials to get your feet wet and see what XSLT actually looks like. Before registering for anything with a price, first see if your institution offers free tutorials. Indiana University offers an IT Training Workshop on XSLT each semester.

  1. Keep W3Schools bookmarked.

Their XSLT page acts as a self-guided tutorial, providing examples, function lists, and function implementations. I access it nearly every day because it is clear and concise, especially for beginners.

  1. Google is your best friend.

If you don’t know how to do something, Google it! Odds are someone before you didn’t have your exact problem, but they did have one like it. Looking over another’s code on StackOverflow can give you hints to new functions and expose you to more use possibilities. **This goes for learning every coding and markup language!!

  1. Create or obtain a set of XML documents and practice!

A helpful aspect of using Oxygen Editor (the most common software used to encode in XML) for your transformations is that you can see the results instantly, or at least see your errors. If you have one or more XML documents, figure out how to transform them to HTML and view them in your browser. If you need to go from XML to XML, create a document with recipes and simply change the tags. The more you work with XSLT, the simpler it becomes, and you will feel confident moving on to larger projects.

  1. Find a guru at your institution.

Nick Homenda, Digital Projects Librarian, is mine at IU. For my internship, he has built a series of increasingly difficult exercises, where I can dabble in and get accustomed to XSLT before creating the migration documents. When I feel like I’m spinning in circles, he usually explains a simpler way to get the desired result. Google is an unmatched resource for lines of code, but sometimes talking it out can make learning less intimidating.

Note : If textbooks are more your style, Mastering XSLT by Chuck White lays a solid foundation for the language. This is a great resource for users who already know how to program, especially in Java and the C varieties. White makes many comparisons between them, which can help strengthen understanding.

 

If you have found another helpful resource for learning and applying XSLT, especially an online practice site, please share it! Tell us about projects you have done utilizing XSLT at your institution!

Share Your Committee and IG Activities on the LITA Blog!

The LITA Blog features original content by LITA members on technologies and trends relevant to librarians. The writers represent a variety of perspectives, from library students to public, academic, and special librarians.

The blog also delivers announcements about LITA programming, conferences, and other events, and serves as a place for LITA committees to share information back with the community if they so choose.

Sharing on the LITA blog ensures a broad audience for your content. Five recent LITA blog posts (authored by Brianna Marshall, Michael Rodriguez, Leanne Olson, Bryan Brown, and John Klima) have been picked up by American Libraries Direct – and most posts have been viewed hundreds of times and shared dozens of times on social media. John Klima’s post on 3D printers has been shared 40 times from the LITA Twitter account and another 40 times directly from the blog (a cumulative record), Bryan Brown’s post on MOOCs has been viewed over 800 times (also a record as of this writing), and Michael Rodriguez’s post on web accessibility was shared over 60 times direct from the blog (another record).

Anyone can write a guest post for the LITA Blog, even non-LITA members, as long as the topic is relevant. Would you like to write a guest post or share posts reflecting the interests of your committee or interest group? Contact blog editor Brianna Marshall at briannahmarshall(at)gmail(dot)com or Mark Beatty at mbeatty(at)ala(dot)org.

Out of Control

Image courtesy of Flickr user Eric Peacock

Image courtesy of Flickr user Eric Peacock

Last week I found myself in a grey area. I set up a one-on-one tech appointment with a patron to go over the basics of her new Android tablet. Once we met in person I learned that what she really wanted was to monitor her daughter’s every move online. It felt like a typical help session as I showed her how to check the browsing history and set up parental controls. She had all the necessary passwords for her daughter’s email and Facebook accounts, which made it even easier. It wasn’t until she left that I realized I had committed a library crime: I completely ignored the issue of privacy.

I’m still mulling this over in my head, trying to decide how I should have acted. I’m not a parent, so I can’t speak to the desire to protect children from the dangers of the Internet. Chances are her daughter can work around her mom’s snooping anyhow. But as a librarian, a champion of privacy, how could I have disregarded the issue?

A friend of mine put it best when he said that situations like this devalue what we do. We’re here to help people access information, not create barriers. Being a parent in the age of the Internet must be a scary thing, but that doesn’t mean that any regard for privacy goes out the window. At the same time, it’s not our job to judge. If the same patron came in and said she wanted to learn about parental controls for a research paper, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. You can see how the issue gets cloudy.

Ultimately, I keep going back to a phrase I learned from Cen Campbell, founder of Little eLit at ALA last year: “We are media mentors.” We are not parents, and we’re not teachers, rather we are media mentors. It’s our job to work with parents, educators, and kids to foster a healthy relationship with technology. Regardless of right or wrong, I was too quick to jump in and give her the answers, without going through a proper reference interview. I suspect that she was afraid of all the things she doesn’t know about technology; the great unknown that her daughter is entering when she opens her web browser. That was an opportunity for me to answer questions about things like Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, instead of blindly leading her to the parental controls. After all this, one thing I know for certain is that the next time I find myself in this situation, I’ll be slow to act and quick to listen.

I would love to hear back from other librarians. How would you act in this situation? What’s the best way to work with parents when it comes to parental controls and privacy?

LITA Interest Group Events at ALA Midwinter

Are you headed to ALA Midwinter this weekend and curious about what the LITA interest groups will be up to? See below for a current listing of LITA IG events!


Saturday, January 31, 2015

10:30am to 11:30am

Imagineering Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick Adler/CC 24C

The Imagineering Interest Group will meet to plan for future ALA Annual programs and meetings. We will also talk about future group endeavors, such as creating online resources. Please attend if you are interested in working with the group.  Additional Information: Librarianship, Adult Services, Collection Development, Popular Culture, Reader’s Advisory

Open Source Systems Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick Burnham/CC 23C

Meeting to discuss future projects for the Open Source Systems Interest Group.

Search Engine Optimization, Hyatt Regency McCormick Jackson Park/CC 10D

Attendees will have an opportunity to share their experiences with search engine optimization. We will also discuss the SEO Best Practices Wiki entry in Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki as well as the latest SEO tools.

ALCTS/LITA ERM Interest Group, MCP W194a

The ALCTS/LITA ERM Interest Group will host a panel entitled “Data-Driven Decision Making in E-Resources Management: Beyond Cost per Use.”

1:00pm to 2:30pm

Library Code year – Saturday 1/31, 1-2:30pm, MCP W175c

Are you ever in a meeting where people throw around terms like front-end,back-end, Bootstrap, git, JavaScript, agile, XML, PHP, Python, WordPress, and Drupal, but you are not sure what they mean in the library context (even after you looked the terms up on your phone covertly under the table)? If so, please join us for an informal and lively discussion about decoding technology jargon.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

8:30am to 10:00am

LITA/ALCTS Linked Library Data Interest Group, MCP W192b

The ALCTS/LITA Linked Library Data Interest Group is hosting three presentations during its meeting at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Chicago. The meeting will be held on Sunday, February 1, from 8:30-10:00, in McCormick Place West, room W192b. To read the speaker abstracts, go here.

Nancy Lorimer, Interim Head of Metadata Department at Stanford University Libraries will speak about the Linked Data for Libraries project: The Linked Data for Libraries project: An Update

Kristi Holmes, the Director of Galter Health Sciences Library at Northwestern University and a VIVO Project Engagement Lead will speak about VIVO: Opening up science with VIVO

Victoria Mueller, Senior Information Architect and System Librarian, Zepheira: BIBFRAME: A Way Forward. Moving Libraries into a linked data world!

10:30am to 11:30am

Drupal4Lib Interest Group, MCP W186c

The Drupal4Lib Interest Group was established to promote the use and understanding of the Drupal content management system by libraries and librarians. Join members of the group for a lively discussion of current issues facing librarians working with Drupal at any skill level. Bring your questions and meet your colleagues!

Game Making Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick, DuSable/CC 21AB

The Game Making Interest Group will meet to discuss how we use games in libraries and to plan for our meeting and informal presentations at ALA Annual and future plans for the group. Please join us if you are interested in using games in libraries.

Library Consortia Automated Systems Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick, Jackson Park/CC 10C

Managing IT services in a consortium has its own particular challenges and opportunities. The Library Consortia Automated Systems Interest Group provides an informal forum where people working in a consortium environment can share ideas and seek advice.

Public Library Technology Interest Group, MCP W194a

Will meet to discuss trends in technology that are applicable to public libraries.

User Experience Interest Group Meeting, MCP W176b

The LITA User Experience IG seeks 2-3 short presentations (10-15 minutes) on UX and Web usability for the upcoming 2015 ALA Midwinter Conference. This will be a physical meeting, and so the physical attendance for the ALA Midwinter is required for the presentation and/or attendance for this meeting. The LITA UX IG is also seeking the suggestions for discussion topics, things you have been working on, plan to work, or want to work on in terms of UX/Usability. All suggestions and presentation topics are welcome and will be given consideration for presentation and discussion. Please submit your topic in the comments section in ALA Connect (http://connect.ala.org/node/231586). You may also e-mail us off-the-list. Bohyun Kim, LITA UX IG chair bkim@hshsl.umaryland.edu? and Rachel Clark, LITA UX IG vice-chair rachael.clark@wayne.edu

1:00pm to 2:30pm

Head of Technology Interest Group , MCP W176b

HoLT IG provides a forum and support network for those individuals with administrative responsibility for computing and technology in  library settings. It is open for anyone to give short presentations on a library technology project you might be working on to explore  issues of planning and implementation, technology management, support, leadership and other areas of interests library technology.

LITA/ALCTS Authority Control Interest Group – until 5:30pm, MCP W474b

The joint LITA/ALCTS Authority Control Interest Group provides a forum for discussion of a variety of issues related to authority control for online catalogs and for international sharing of authority of data.

Leveraging MOOCs for Fun and Profit

idee

 

Let’s Talk about MOOCs

If you are a current or recent graduate student or work in higher ed, you have heard of the disruptive tech du jour, Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs). While MOOCs are in their infancy, they are being scrutinized pretty heavily because of their potential to drink academia’s milkshake. While the course structure of a MOOC and a university course are fairly similar (a domain expert organizes a field and puts together a linear curriculum of lectures, readings and quizzes), the primary differences lie in the method of interaction (synchronous and personal vs. asynchronous and impersonal) and their perception of credibility (though certain platforms are experimenting with offering credentials, they don’t carry as much weight as a traditional university degree).

While it will probably be a while before MOOCs start poaching would-be university students, we can still enjoy and make use of MOOCs as they are. Classes, in person or virtual, are never meant to make the student a domain expert immediately. Classes give the student a high level overview of a subject and it is up to the student to move forward with the parts they find interesting, whether that’s with further courses or personal research. When I was in library school we had a kind of “Libraries 101″ class. Aside from gaining a general understanding of how a complete library system works, I learned that I find cataloging topics the most interesting. I took a cataloging class and learned that I like MODS/RDF metadata the most. I then did a lot of MODS/RDF research on my own which led to further interesting topics, ad infinitum. When viewed in terms of the progress and personal growth one can achieve, MOOCs and university courses aren’t so different.

 

For Profit

Professional development is a terrific reason to start taking MOOCs. No matter what your job is, there is a MOOC out there that will help you do it better. There are an incredible amount of MOOCs on technical topics like programming available from sites like edX and Coursera, so if you’d like to add a bit of programming chops to your professional skill set there has never been a better time. If you aren’t a tech person, there are still great classes (and even entire specializations!) to check out on topics like library advocacy, project management, marketing, business, and teaching. Growing your understanding in these areas could allow you to do your job better, net you better performance reviews, and possibly even a raise (hence the “For Profit” header).

While you can take these MOOCs by yourself, they work even better when you participate with a group. My first MOOC was “Copyright for Educators and Librarians” which I took as part of a copyright study group of librarians at FSU, and I gained a lot from our weekly get-togethers where we discussed how the course applies to our own work. I’m also currently taking an entire of run of data science courses with the Data Science Study Group, an open Google group for librarians to discuss the implications for data science in libraries. If you find a class that you think your coworkers might be interested in, I encourage you to set up a study group where you can discuss what you are learning in an open setting. You may be surprised how much more you get out of the experience.

MOOC study groups managed by libraries also have a lot of potential as programs for patrons or students. edX has lots of courses aimed at supporting high school students engaged in AP coursework. Public libraries might also be interested in offering study groups for those interested in health, nutrition, finance, or even happiness. Browse the course catalogs and see if you find anything you think your patrons would be interested in.

 

For Fun

Learning doesn’t always have to be about getting ahead in the workplace, though. There are plenty of MOOCs on topics one may take purely out of curiosity or as a hobby. For instance, I have enrolled in some upcoming classes on meditation, classical music and the poetry of Walt Whitman. If you are a sports nut maybe you’d like to learn about sabermetrics (the art of baseball analytics). Maybe you like Emily Dickenson more than Whitman. Whatever you’re into, there’s probably a MOOC about it that will deepen your knowledge. Learning (for free!) from an expert on a topic you are passionate about is a rare treat, so take advantage of these learning opportunities and see what all the hype is about!

Do you have a recommendation for MOOCs of particular value to librarians? Do you have a strong opinion about MOOCs that needs to be heard? Let us know in the comments!

Tech Tools in Traditional Positions

During this winter break, I’ve had a slight lull in library work and time to reflect on my first semester of library school, aside from reading for pleasure and beginning Black Mirror on Netflix (anybody?). Overall, I’m ready to dive in to the new semester, but one tidbit from fall semester keeps floating in my thoughts, and I’m curious what LITA Blog readers have to say.

Throughout my undergraduate education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was mainly exposed to two different sets of digital humanities practices: encoding and digital archive practices, and text analysis for literature. With my decision to attend library school, I assumed I would focus on the former for the next two to three years.

Last semester, in my User Services and Tools course, we had a guest speaker from User Needs Assessment in the Indiana University Libraries. As the title suggests, he spoke about developing physical user spaces in the libraries and facilitating assessments of current spaces.

For one portion of his assessments, he used text analysis, more specifically topic modeling with MALLET, a Java-based, natural language processing toolkit, to gain a better understanding of written survey results. This post by Shawn Graham, Scott Weingart, and Ian Milligan explains topic modeling, when/how/why to use it, and various tools to make it happen, focusing on MALLET.

If you didn’t follow the links, topic modeling works by aggregating many texts a user feeds into the algorithm and returns sets of related words from the texts. The user then attempts to understand the theme presented by each set of words and give reason to why it appears. Many times, this practice can reveal themes the user may not have noticed through traditional reading across multiple texts.

Image courtesy of Library Technology Consultants.

Image courtesy of Library Technology Consultants.

From a digital humanities perspective, we love it when computers show us things we missed or help make a task more efficient. Thus, using topic modeling seems an intuitive step for analyzing survey results, as the guest speaker presented. Yet, was also unexpected considering his more traditional position.

I’m curious where you have used some sort of technology, coding, or digital tool to solve a problem or expedite a process in a more traditional library position. Librarians working with digital objects use these technologies and practices daily, but as digital processes, such as topic modeling and text analysis, become more widely used, I’m interested to see where else they crop up and for which reasons.

Feel free to respond with an example of when you unexpectedly used text analysis or another tech tool in your library to complete a task that didn’t necessarily involve digital objects! How did you discover the tool? How did you learn it? Would you use it again?

Do You Really Need a CMS?

By Thecodeintellects (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Thecodeintellects (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

No, this post isn’t about another license, credential, or degree to put after your name. CMS stands for content management system, and in this case I’m referring to any of the applications that allow for publishing, editing, and organizing of content on web pages. Content management systems are powerful tools that make it easy to create, manage, and update websites and web content.

But do you really need a content management system for your website? Due to their wide range of capabilities, these systems can be very large and slow, which might not be a suitable trade-off if you’re trying to build a very simple website. Below, I outline some* considerations you should make before deciding whether to use a CMS.

Content

How much content will be posted, and how often? If you only have a fixed amount of content to post — maybe you just need the basics, like library hours, location, contact information, etc. — then you can get away with coding the pages yourself. However, if you’re planning on a lot of publishing activity, a CMS can be a time-saver in several ways. For one, most content management systems will provide you with a way to view a list of all the content you created, and let you perform batch actions such as publishing/unpublishing and deleting content. Furthermore, a CMS will provide a simple, familiar interface to input your content — whether it’s text, images, PDFs, video, etc. — which means your users won’t need any HTML expertise in order to make contributions to the website.

There are other benefits of a CMS’s graphical user interface (GUI). It allows greater control over content by enabling you to make certain fields mandatory, like a title and author name. Additionally, the CMS will automagically tag those fields in the rendered HTML, so you can customize the look of each field through the CSS stylesheet.

Another content consideration to ask is, Will you embed dynamic content from other sources, such as social media? Most popular content management systems have extensions (a.k.a. modules or plugins) that will display the content from your social media accounts directly on your website. However, if you will you do little more than post the occasional Flickr photo and YouTube video, then a CMS will be overkill if you already know how to embed externally-hosted photos and videos in HTML pages.

Users

How many users will post content? A CMS does more than content management — it also does user management. This is especially useful if you have several types of content and you need to assign user permissions based on content type. For example, you may want to give your reference librarians permission to publish blog posts, but you might not want them editing the page on computer use policy.

Resources

What are the web development and design skill levels of you/your staff? The benefit of using a CMS is that a relatively simple installation process lets you skip the development phase, and the theme marketplace lets you skip the design phase. You can have an attractive, functioning (if only basic) website up and running in less than a day’s work.

If you and your staff lack the technical skills, but have sufficient monetary resources to hire someone to develop and design a website, then you’ll also have to factor in the cost of maintaining the site once it’s live.

Another consideration is your users’ technical abilities. You may have some users who are very comfortable with embedding images, and you may have other users who have a difficult time even with a simple web form. If you care at all about accessibility — and you do, right?! — then you should also consider technical/web ability as an accessibility concern. Whether you decide to go with a CMS or not, cater to your users.

Alternatives

If you decide to use a content management system, there is no shortage of options, and the most popular today are Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. But I wanted to close this post with some alternative options.

The intrepid web developer may want to roll her own CMS, perhaps with the help of a web application framework such as Yii or Zend. For organizations that lack the technical skills or time and money, there are website builder services such as Weebly and Squarespace that will help you get a slick-looking website up with minimal time and effort.

If you really don’t have much content to post, and your discovery vendor allows access, why not piggy-back on your online catalog and add your custom pages there?

*This isn’t a complete list of considerations. Let us know in the comments what I’ve missed!

We Want YOU to Write a Guest Post!

Yes, you!

Are you looking for a platform to share your ideas with the library tech community? We’re a pretty friendly bunch in LITA and we hope you’ll consider sharing your intriguing library tech-related stories, plans, failures, hacks, code snippets – whatever! – here on the blog this year. There is a lot of room for contributor creativity, so get excited. You do not need to be a LITA member in order to write a guest post, though it’s great if you are!

To submit an idea for consideration, please email LITA blog editor Brianna Marshall at briannahmarshall(at)gmail(dot)com sharing a bit about yourself and a brief summary of your post topic.