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Migrating to Drupal: Open Source Library Intranets



Internet Librarian preconference session by Nina McHale, Catherine Baird, Jason Battles, and Rachel Vacek, October 23rd 2010

Internet Librarian preconference session by Nina McHale, Catherine Baird, Jason Battles, and Rachel Vacek, October 23rd 2010



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  • -I’m here to present our first intranet case study today about McMaster University Library’s intranet site which we call Libstaff-I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all in person today and hope that this virtual presentation serves as an adequate replacement-just so I don’t remain a faceless ghost in your minds for the rest of the conference, I’ll quickly add a visual to this slide-the collaborators on this project were myself and Amanda Etches-Johnson, McMaster’s User Experience librarian up until very recently -just to give you a bit of context about our organization-we have just over 100 staff members in McMaster University Library-after decades of a static organizational which consisted of very traditional areas such as Collections, Public Services, IT, McMaster was going through a period of drastic change with frequent reorganizations and an org structure very much in flux-this had many implications for the organization, one part of which was the library’s staff intranet, aka libstaff
  • -let me start off by talking about the legacy intranet, which was experiencing two main problems-to say the least, it was a neglected internal communication tool with access and security issues becomingly a daily frustrating for staff-increasingly out of sync with an organization very much embracing web 2.0 technologies
  • -here’s a screenshot of the old homepage of our staff intranet-it was a collection of dreamweaver created pages which were accessed from this single index page (if you were lucky)-issues? There were many: no search, no consistent site architecture, no global navigation, no breadcrumbs, often no way to get back to the homepage once you started digging around, no standard document format, no one in charge, difficult for individuals to update unless you were in our IT department and/or one of the few designated web editors, intranet site open to anyone with a campus IP address and there was no off-campus access to the site without the use of VPNEssentially, we were breaking every rule of user-centred web design you could think of, and probably a couple of moreAs an organization, we clearly weren’t thinking of our own staff as users - we were letting them fend for themselves.
  • Here’s an example of one of the most visited areas: an A-Z list of library committees, groups, projects, teamsanything new got added to this A to Z listEverything was on this page from a project to implement a new discovery layer for the catalogue to a new department that had been formed due to reorganization to internal documentation for our IM chat serviceSome attempt to keep it organized by at least creating a separate A to Z list for old stuffOnly consistency of information was the lead or key contact
  • -many of the library staff had participated in a Learning 2.0 project, led by our User Experience Librarian, Amanda Etches-Johnson, where they played and learned about many web 2.0 tools and increasingly started to use them in their daily work-this resulted quite positively in a 2.0 explosion at the library: any self-respecting library committeee from that jpoint on had a blog, a wiki, a Facebook page, and a static page on the library intranet to boot-this was really empowering for individuals and groups of library staff, but in terms of communication and clarity, in caused increasing confusion-so it was decided that the intranet had to change
  • So, let’s chat for a minute about planning the project. Who was the team, how did we engage staff in this initiative and what was the basic requirements list that we arrived at.
  • -the Marketing, Communications and Outreach Librarian (that would be me) was put in charge of the project, in particular because of my role faciltiating internal communication at the library-there was one co-op student who worked part-time on the project and was able to do a lot of the behind the scenes work in Drupal as well as migrating or copying and pasting existing content-we had the support from our User Experience Librarian who was responsible for our public website and had previous knowledge working with Drupal-it should be said that though I and the co-op student had some web design experience, we were pretty green and neither of us had worked with Drupal or a content management system beforeTimeline was very tight. We began the project in late Fall 2008 and knew it had to be completed by April 2009. With only a small team and little time, we definitely ended up taking shortcuts that we would have preferred not to have taken b/c of this tight timeline, but I’m sure that’s not an uncommon situation for most of us in that room.What we did to prepare:Inventory: needed to know what all we had so that we could figure out what we could group together, including the file format in the inventoryTook a look at what staff were using and solicited more staff feedback through a surveyMocked up wireframesThis process was particularly important for us because it helped us define the content types we would require for the site – will talk a bit more about that later
  • In addition to doing an analysis of current usage statistics, we also implemented a staff survey and presented at two all-staff forums in order to engage staff in the design process.The online survey asked the following questions:Why do you visit the Libstaff website?What do you like about the current Libstaff website?What don't you like about the current Libstaff website?What features would you like to see on a redesigned Libstaff?Do you have any other comments you would like to share about Libstaff?The all-staff forum events provided an occasion for us to show the “work-in-progress” intranet and get informal feedback on what staff liked and/or didn’t like about the work we were doing. At these forums almost all of the approximate 100 members on staff took advantage of the opportunity to comment.Basic requirements list we ended up withglobal navigationsite searchsite authentication using existing staff login credentialscustomizable permissions with different levels of access rightssimplification of content creation and maintenancedynamic contenta flexible underlying architecture that would allow the site to grow and evolve in keeping with organizational changes
  • Drupal was free with a large community supporting it and we could customize it to work the way we wanted to.For us, the choice was pretty easy. We had just finished a major redesign of the public library website using Drupal. With that experience and the ease of having both websites running on the same platform, a second Drupal installation was created and the work on the intranet began.
  • Mapping requirements to Drupal functionality:global navigation > themessite search > nodessite authentication using existing staff login credentials > Drupal’s built-in authenticationcustomizable permissions with different levels of access rights > Drupal’s user managementsimplification of content creation and maintenance > Drupal’s content types and user permissionsdynamic content > RSS syndicationa flexible underlying architecture that would allow the site to grow and evolve in keeping with organizational changes >
  • Modules: Content Creation Kit (CCK): Allows site administrators to create templates for different types of content. E.g. our committee template contains the following fields: committee name, chair/lead, links (optional), mandate, membership, start/end date, minutes (optional), additional information (optional)FCKEditor: WYSIWYG editor that allows site authors to format content using recognizable formatting icons (no knowledge of HTML required to add/edit site content).Filters: allowed us to H2 and H3 headings anchors and subsequently Tables of ContentsMenu: Allows site administrators to easily customize and maintain global navigation.Path & Pathauto: Allows users to rename URLs and set up predetermined paths for certain types of content.Related Links: Displays links related to content.Upload: Allows individual site authors to upload files to pages. Particularly useful for committee minutes, etc.
  • Let me talk for a minute about how we created our global navigation. At first we used a combination of content types, taxonomies and views.
  • Departments, Services, Projects, Committees, Staff Training and Development, Policies and Procedures and Old Stuff: the labels of our global navigationContent types were very similarly labelled: Departments, Services, Projects, Committees, Staff Training and Development, Policies and Procedures
  • Here’s an example of one of our content types in action – the committee:For committee content type, we specified a number of mandatory fields such as committee name, chair/lead, mandate, membership, start date; Also optional fields such as links (where you could link to the project blog/wiki), end date, and additional information.You can see how this would bring consistency to all of our committee pages.Also, we can set the permissions on the intranet site so that only certain users can create and modify committee pages, I.e. librarians and managers
  • started with 3 taxonomies: browse all, old stuff, departmentsYou can see that on the left hand side of the pageAs we added more and more pages to the site using content types, we would tag it using these taxonomiesFor example, we created a policy using the p&p content type - see right hand side of pageTagged it under the browse all taxonomy as a policy and procedure and then under the departments taxonomy as the Organizational Analysis departmentBoth are hyperlinked: if you clicked on the p&p link here, you would get a page listing all of the policies and procedures on our intranet regardless of what department they are associated withIf you clicked on the organizational analysis link here, you would get a page listing anything which had been tagged as belonging to this department (committee, project, regular page, etc.)Originally these 3 taxonomies helped us to generate the landing pages for our global navigation, but found that we didn’t need this extra layer of complexity and instead, used content types combined with views (The views module creates customized views of node lists) to accomplish this. Simplified the content creation for users. Old Stuff Taxonomy still being usedIn order to move an item into the “Old Stuff” section of the intranet, you use the Old Stuff taxonomy and a view.
  • Collaboration: easy collaboration has been achieved but also consistency with defined fields in content types; don’t have to ASK someone else to put content up on a webpage for you anymore; provides staff with the familiar the collaborative space they are now accustomed to with web 2.0 toolsScalable: useful for large-scale and small-scale projects (not previously captured except on local hard drives!)Polls: fun and function, real polls like how do you like the new site, some new functionality, or just plain fun polls like where’s the best lunch spot on campusComments: changes, improvements, not yet the active watercooler we thought it might be, interesting to note is that we’re starting to see staff respond to one another’s comments and help each other outSearch: usability shows us how important this is
  • Relationship between intranet and staff blogs/wikisSuccessful incorporation in some areas (staff newsletter blog, flickr stream)not so successful in other areas (liaison blog/intranet pageMost definitely we have achieved a single starting off point for all internal library informationthough we may not see all of the 2.0 tools in use being syndicated and pulled into the intranet, there is at the bare minimum a link to show that such an online workspace is being used-people are gravitating towards using libstaff pages for new projects and committees rather than immediately starting a new blog, only to abandon it weeks later b/c all they really needed was one or two pages-we’ve reached a relatively happy 2.0 medium in our organization
  • -transition
  • -Who’s in charge:Roles and permissionsAdministrator (6)Committee/Service/Project Editor (36)Department Editor (21)Staff Training Editor (7)General Page Editor (18)
  • -small group sessions of customized training for the various “roles”-also provided general site orientation at this time-explained the roles concept with varying access levels to edit the site to all staff; new concept-took place in the weeks prior to the launch in Spring 2009-training wiki created as a reference tool, complete with step-by-step instructions and screenshots as seen on this screen-this level of training was essential because of the newfound editing power now in the hands of individual staff members
  • -results of post-launch survey: we asked the same 5 questions againstaff reported liking that the site was easy to use; the new design; that it was easy to access from home; that it was secure; that it provided access to the staff newsletter; the good content; and, new items such as polls, comments, photos and a search function.staff did not like that they still had problems finding information (though in contrast to the last survey, no one said the site lacked organization); some did not like the new layout, the labels and the fact that there were multiple navigation areas; some did not like the default font size and colours.one outstanding feature staff requested (that was not rolled into the redesign) was access to documents in shared staff drives, a feature we are currently investigating for phase two of the redesign.Usability testingeight staff members from departments across the library attempt to complete nine tasks on the redesigned site. Findings from the usability testing include some accessibility and design issues with regards to the colour scheme, as well as some confusion over labels in use in global navigation.Card sort exercise helped with labelling and rethinking the global nav
  • Collapsed Department and Service under one global nav view and renamed this Department and FunctionIntroduced user-generated tagging to help with some findability issues.Not visually represented on this slide: As explained earlier, we got rid of the redundant taxonomiesStarted to embed new library staff projects such as our LibrarECard reward program directly into the new site
  • Even with distributed editing, there needs to be central ownership of the intranet in order to realize complete adoption by individuals in the organization and become an invaluable tool. Since Drupal allows for distributed editing and content management, we naively underestimated the amount of post launch governance that would be required for the new staff intranet.Even with distributed editing, there needs to be central ownership of the intranet in order to realize complete adoption by individuals in the organization and become an invaluable tool. Since Drupal allows for distributed editing and content management, we naively underestimated the amount of post launch governance that would be required for the new staff intranet.Finally, despite everything we knew about the importance of resisting the urge to design an intranet around an organization's structure, we found ourselves frequently tempted to turn to the institution's organizational chart to inform our navigation and labeling decisions. On-going user testing and feedback from staff continues to help us resist this temptation, but it's a lesson we find ourselves learning over and over again on a daily basis.
  • Many thanks for your attention today. I’m sorry I couldn’t join you in person but hope that this presentation has been helpful and informative. At this point I’d like to turn it over to my co-presenters.

Migrating to Drupal: Open Source Library Intranets Migrating to Drupal: Open Source Library Intranets Presentation Transcript