I need to ask a favor of you, my kind and generous readers.
I recently offered to redesign the website for the Brown Public Library in Northfield, VT, which is definitely due for an extreme makeover. Since one of the most important requirements is that it is easy for someone who knows no HTML to edit, I thought that a WordPress blog might be the ideal solution. I love Drupal, but for a small library’s website, it’s like swatting a fly with a bazooka. I’m so familiar with WordPress since I’ve been using it for 3 1/2 years in various capacities. And I already have two WP blogs that I have to upgrade for work, so a third won’t make my life much more difficult.
I was wondering if you knew of any really good examples of libraries that are using WordPress
for as their website. I know of a few, but I’m sure there are a ton out there that I know nothing about and that could provide me with great ideas for making the BPL website something special. So, if you do know of any, please share them in the comments.
I’m really excited about this project. Public library websites are so different from academic, and I’m looking forward to playing in a new sandbox. It’s also just great to engage more with my local community. I absolutely can’t wait to get started!
The Northeast Kansas Library System has been working with smaller libraries in Kansas to create nice, functional websites using WordPress. They call the project Kansas Libraries on the Web, and they wrote a good blog post about it, listing a number of the libraries they’ve developed sites for.
We’re using it at Utah State University, along with some CSS that imitates our other library pages. It’s kinda ugly, actually. 🙂
Josh, thanks so much for the tip! That looks incredibly useful. Kansas is probably very similar to VT in that many libraries may still not have websites or, if they do, they are not very sophisticated. WP is a perfect solution.
I guess I wasn’t super clear in my post that I’m looking for libraries using blogs AS their website, not as an OPAC or as a blog addition to their site.
Oooh, I will be watching this discussion closely. I am about to “take over” (heh) a library that needs a new webpage – pronto. We are a small library, so I was definitely leaning toward WP as a tool. I haven’t used WP in two years, but I think I should be able to figure it out quickly enough.
I did look into Joomla (Drupal is just too much for my brain), but even still, it seemed like overkill for our library.
Can’t wait to see what others have to say/suggest!
Well, it still might be worth hitting up Casey Bisson (Scriblio dev). Stands to reason he’d know of library sites that use WP alongside Scriblio.
Aaron Schmidt uses WordPress at the North Plains Public Library:
Thanks Dorothea! Great suggestion!
Hi Meredith – I know the Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA uses wordpress. There site isn’t huge or complex, but I think is a nice example of a simple and clean way to use a staff-friendly tool to make a patron-friendly website.
Meredith, doesn’t the Cook Library in Tamworth use WordPress with their Scriblio?
I also have to put a word in for Drupal. We had a web designer to switch our existing site over to Drupal and it’s so easy to get my staff to blog, and have information automatically sent where it needs to go! I don’t care if it’s got all sorts of stuff I never use — I just love that my Teen Advisory Board puts new stuff on it!
Drupal… “it’s like swatting a fly with a bazooka”
No it’s not, no it’s not, no it’s not. It’s like driving a lamborghini for the price of a tricycle.
Hi Blake. Maybe that wasn’t the best analogy, but for this library Drupal doesn’t make great sense for a few reasons:
1. There’s only one person who will be updating and adding content.
2. We already use WordPress here, so if I leave Norwich, it will be critical that someone know how to deal with WordPress. They won’t need to be familiar with Drupal. Someone at Norwich will need to maintain this site, because no one can at the public library. We already run their catalog, so this wouldn’t be too strange a responsibility for someone else to take on.
3. Drupal is not as easy to set-up, customize and use. Maybe you disagree, but I’ve had a lot more problems with Drupal than I’ve had with WordPress.
I’m a big fan of Drupal and have used it for several projects, but it’s not a good fit for this project. Sometimes it’s better to pick the tool that’s easier, simpler and that you know will be a sustainable solution for when you are long gone.
Stephanie, your site is gorgeous! I love it! 🙂
Do you know anything about Joomla! (exclamation point is a part of their official name, apparently)? It looks really interesting and there are some pretty well-designed sites out there created using it, but I’m wondering if it can compete with WordPress’s ease of use.
Using these sorts of tools for library website redesign is a great idea, something definitely worth exploring.
forgot to link to it…
I don’t know of any examples off the top of my head, but about a year ago I built a demo site for my library system, which has six branches, using WP. It was good enough for what we needed, but I did encounter some serious limitations that would make it difficult to use for larger sites. I don’t know if I’ve still got the complete files, but if I can dig them up I’d be happy to put them somewhere you can find them if you like.
Main language is dutch, but also french (part of the Belgian population speaks french) and english. And we ought to put german on there as well, but time flies – not in my diraction.
It’s been a smart move by WordPress to include more CMS features in the recent releases, I think it’s ideal for small sites. As much as I love Drupal, I don’t love having to set up so many modules for a 10-15 page site.
As well as libraries, here’s a great list of websites using WordPress as a CMS.
Thanks for the Joomla tip, Gabriel. Since I don’t have a lot of time to devote to this, it was important to use a tool that I’m very familiar and comfortable with and that I thought others who may have to maintain it after me are familiar with. Since I’ve never personally used Joomla, I didn’t feel like this was the right project to learn it on.
Thanks for the link, Fiona.
@bookbuster, what were the serious limitations you encountered? This is a very small website, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine, but I’m curious what you found.
Wow Stephanie! Stowe Library site is very fine – Drupal, you say?
Very exciting Meredith. You’ll have to share the url when the site is up and running.
I would love to implement a WordPress or Drupal website for my library, but am having a difficult time convincing I.T. to allow open source software on “their” server. Has anyone out there successfully convinced a reluctant I.T. department to do something similar?
Yep, the Stowe Free Library site runs on Drupal; the design was done for us previously, on a static site. We integrated our Google Calendar, which we use for all our scheduling, so that our events on the home page automatically cycle through. So much easier!
Hi there – i recently teamed up with the Utah State Library to get 12+ sites up and running for all of their small rural libraries, many of which had one or two full time staff, and little or no tech expertise. For the reasons you suggest, we went with WP, too. Drupal is fantastic, but a little more than these folks needed or could wrap their heads around. You can find links to those that are up and running at http://www.utahlibraries.org
Basically, i just set them up with a handful of themes to choose between, and showed them how to get new ones if they wanted. They’ve been no end of pleased with it. Oh, and my first WP library site:
Fantastic Shelly! Thank you so much for sharing these with me! The libraries you’ve designed these sites for sound very similar to the one I will be working with.
For those interested in this thread, the Park County Library System in Wyoming is another great example of a WP website.
I run the Kansas Libraries on the web, I can tell you that there are about 140 libraries in kansas who use (or have requested) sites that use WordPress as the base CMS. It has worked very, very well for us.
In fact, http://www.nekls.org is a WP site, using the newest version.
We like it.
The Utah State Library and BCR are using WordPress to host the sites for 13 rural public libraries: http://utahlibraries.org in our Website-in-a-Box initiative that our Continuing Education Coordinator, Colleen Eggett, is managing.
The sites are certainly not fancy, but the librarians are excited in using it and the WordPress platform is a good introduction to them in using templates and mashing gadgets and web services.
We’ve also set up a demo site for our Digital Library in Joomla! which is much more intuitive than Drupal. I’ve installed 1.0.x probably six or seven times with different templates and it takes less than 15 minutes to get set up. I’ve now installed the 1.5 code base and am in the process of discovering the module options and templats that will work under 1.5.x.
I think both WordPress and Joomla! are excellent platforms for libraries. Some Joomla! libraries that come to mind are the South Carolina State library, http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/, the Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library, http://www.lib.utc.edu/joomla/, and the Royal Oak Public Library in Michigan, http://www.ropl.org/. Joomla! in Libraries is a good resource for more information: http://joomlainlibrary.com/.
The Mississippi Library Association http://www.misslib.org and the Millsaps College Library http://library.millsaps.edu both use WordPress for their sites.
The preceding comments provide plenty of examples. Besides, I didn’t know any anyway. But I have a doubt: I’m not sure WordPress is really the right tool for the job. It makes pretty blog sites, and it can certainly be used as a CMS of sorts, but it’s not (at least, IMNSHO) really designed for the job. I’m not sure any blogging tool is really optimal. I’d look at something like Joomla, Mambo, or Drupal – they may be more arcane, but things like scalability, multiple authoring, all that are built right in, along with many different ways to present content, etc.
It’s not to say that a quick makeover with WP is a bad move, but…it strikes me as imposing limits from the outset, that don’t need to be there.
Ooh, bad form posting twice in a row, but here we go:
@Jonathan (comment 23), with regard to convincing IT about open-source software: where does the reluctance come from? Is it support (I assume it is; they want to be able to lift the phone and get something fixed, rather than allocate personnel to supporting something on their own). Where I work, we have an advisory group that does evaluations on software packages for enterprise-wide stuff (wikis, blogs, digital repositories), based on a set of benchmarks/features we develop together. We’re working on repository evaluations now, in fact. But generally, if we can demonstrate that OSS still exceeds the agreed-upon benchmarks, we can get it set up (although there is a general aversion to OSS no matter what).
Do you have a similar process available to you? It might be slow, but it’s better than incurring the wrath of IT!
Chris, did you look at the current site? Just sayin’.
Our system encourages use of wordpress by paying for each library to have a self-hosted blog. Many of our librarians find it easy to use as their coding experience is nil. Our library in particular serves a population of about 6500 people.
So, our library uses a self-hosted wordpress, but we also use a regular wordpress for two special occasions: Summer Reading (in the works) and a Read-a-thon (sleeping until November)…
I’m sorry, I’m not sure what comment you’re referring to (and I may have missed some context earlier, in which case, my bad), but which current site? The Brown Public Library? If so, yes – it needs help.
I’m not arguing that using WordPress will be a disaster or anything, just that I had a doubt. Some of it stems from the fact that the websites all look like blogs (but then, convergence toward that sort of look may be a trend).
Of course, WP is easier to use than a CMS…
When we went to IT with the proposal for an open source CMS solution for the library website, we were told all of the things we want to do can be done with Sharepoint (which the campus already has). I’ve really tried to work with Sharepoint but in my opinion it’s a nightmare to use as a CMS — very counter intuitive if one is used to using things like WordPress or Drupal.
Your situation (with the advisory group) sounds like a nice way to handle things. Perhaps we can get a similar group formed.
@Chris, yeah, I just meant that a site like that would seem to show that they have pretty limited needs, limited local web knowledge, and that the benefits of a more robust solution like Drupal would be mitigated by the extra complexity. It makes sense to prize ease of use in this case.
Interesting point about the sites looking like blogs, though, because that doesn’t seem like it would have to be the case.
@Steve: I see what you’re saying – given that, WP is a good choice based on what needs to be done. As for the convergence of web design, I think it is interesting – it’s anecdotal, of course, but it strikes me that more and more websites end up looking like blogs. Now, this may just be because blogs are common and are (as one blogger I saw put it) having a big impact on general trends in web design, or it may be because that’s an effective way to present information online.
Of course, WP-based websites don’t necessarily have to look like a WP site (and a few of the examples in the comments above really don’t look like a blog), but it strikes me that it often ends up that way.
There are a lot of hits on Google for using WP as a CMS, though, so I’m sure even limitations of the blogging software have probably been overcome.
Chris, sorry I was a little flip the first time around, but yes, now you are feeling me.
I wonder if anyone is putting out “CMS Themes” for WordPress, so you can get away from the bloggy feel with a simple change of theme?
Also, the systems librarian at my library hacked TextPattern to create a CMS for us: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/library/
I just looked at Stevens Memorial Site, and I hope this does not offend anyone, I mean it in fun, the first headline reminds me of a Jay Leno headline – Summer at Stevens starts soon – Good luck all.
There are a number of non-blog themes out there, apparently (most seem to fall into what they call “magazine” themes). There’s a list of some of the “best” here.
I think they’re more complex than what many libraries need, but they’re cool!
I’ve been looking at using a magazine style theme for a library website, Branford is the one I’ve been looking at: http://blog.pafa.net/archives/151
Also, I love what Troy Public Library has done with cusomizing their WP CSS to get an elegant, simple look: http://www.thetroylibrary.org/
What great suggestions in your comments here.
I’m the person who runs the Park County Library System site so graciously referred to by Meredith. I did a lot of behind the scenes work to take out some of the bloggier aspects of the sites appearance (no dates appear on the static pages, and I hacked the heck out of the sidebar.php file). I think the result is pretty good. It still looks sort of like a blog, but I think on the whole it works pretty well. So it’s not a CMS. So I live in a town of 351 people and don’t have a separate teen room for my library. I try not to let these things stop me from having a good looking website or planning library events.
The biggest problem I’m having at the moment is that I’m not sure how to handle the upgrade to WP2.5. The back end has changed enough that it will be very confusing for many of the site’s contributors. I found a “classic look” plugin (okay, well, actually Steve Lawson found it), but I haven’t been able to get it to work yet. Of course, this may be a good excuse to learn some screencasting in order to make a tutorial.
Anyway, Meredith, thanks for putting this question out — now I’m excited all over again by all these great examples.
I recently finished developing a beta site for the CSUEB library– the main site is built based on a highly customized version of WordPress, and the librarian subject guides are built using multi-user WordPress. All pretty straightforward for library staff to update and manage. The catalog doesn’t use WP.
A couple of the libraries in my system are using wordpress, here’s one really nice example
I didn’t know WordPress was so popular for library websites. I am just finishing a WordPress plugin that shows book data including covers from Open Library. When I mentioned it on Ning, one librarian thought it would be handy for library websites. The plugin should be out next week if you’re interested.
Very cool! Thanks for letting me know about it, John. I don’t know that they’d want to use it for this site, but I’d definitely like to be aware of it for future projects.
I’ve done quite a bit of research and testing on how to do this. I’ve got lots of notes and been looking for a library to work with to test this out. If you want some tips and tricks, I’d be happy to offer some help. Page templates can really change things up so that the site doesn’t have to look like a blog at all. Plus some custom widgets would enhance the site for sure.
Hi Meredith – I’m from Christchurch City Libraries in New Zealand and we’ve been blogging using WordPress for just over a year.
We’ve got a distinctive local look and feel that is unique to the blog and doesn’t look the same as our website.
Oops, sorry I didn’t read the “wordpress” AS their website caveat … but I’m interested to see how many of you are using it this way.
The Dartmouth Public Libraries have a WordPress Library website using K2 as the theme – helpful for making it more of a CMS site. It was unveiled a few weeks ago.