Battle of the CMSs: Drupal for libraries

Drupal cake
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This is the second part of our Battle of the Content Management Systems series, looking at library-specific tools and implementations of CMSs. You can catch up with part one, WordPress plugins and tools. While WordPress offers a welcome simplicity in both setup and management, Drupal throws simplicity to the wind and offers instead a ridiculous level of customisation and extension possibilities (all wrapped up in a very active user community). To see some of this customisation in action, take a look at some of the ‘Drupal success stories‘; from the Whitehouse site to Books for Keeps and incredibubbles somewhere in between. What I’ve covered here is really just skimming the surface of what’s possible but it will hopefully give you a few ideas to start with.

We’ve already mentioned the active WordPress librarian community, but Drupal also has its fair share of dedicated fans who congregate as the Drupal libraries group. Here you’ll find guidance about using Drupal, modules, presentations and a list of links to (mostly US) Drupal-run library websites. There’s also a ListServ for librarians called ‘DRUPAL4LIB’

The Drupal libraries group provides a series of ‘how to’ guides and will give you a heads-up about what library-related modules (comparable to WordPress’ ‘plugins’) are actively maintained. Unfortunately, quite a few of the library-relevant plugins are not yet compatible with Drupal 7 which was released in early 2011 and involved quite a large overhaul of the Drupal architecture. This means that the Link Resolver and Library modules have fallen into disrepair (though the creator of the Library module is seeking a co-maintainer so those with Drupal chops should get in touch). The MARC module, though still under active development, is currently only compatible with Drupal 6 as is the Lending module. Hopefully many of these will soon catch up with the latest version but it’s something to keep in mind when using external extensions to power your site.

For adding book data to your website, there’s ISBN2Node or Book post (which uses the Open Library API ). The Bibliography module provides a way to display lists of ‘scholarly publications’ in your Drupal site and will let you import and manage formats such as PubMed, BibTex, RIS and MARC.

There are a surprising number of taxonomy-related modules available for Drupal, the Taxonomy Access Control (TAC) module being one of the most well-known ones.

The MERCI (Manage Equipment Reservations, Checkout and Inventory) module is the complicated older sibling of the Lending plugin, both of which let you manage equipment and/or room reservations.

There are a few different options if you are looking at adding live chat to your website. Tribune works like IRC rather than the standard chatroom website add-on. There’s a demo site available if you’d like to try it out. Chat Room is the most widely used chat plugin  and has some library-friendly options such as the ability to set status and away messages, ability to archive and create private chats, staff roles and customisation of the open and closed messages.

Drupal really  leaves WordPress in the dust when it comes to 3rd party integration. You can integrate Drupal with existing library tools (such as LibraryThing for Libraries and EZProxy), import MARC records and much more. You can even use Drupal as the basis for a comprehensive OPAC – the Social OPAC (SOPAC) is Drupal-based, albeit, a heavily modified version used in conjunction with Insurge and Locum.

The eXtensible Catalog (XC) Drupal Toolkit is another 3rd party tool that you can use to embed library data into a Drupal site. This gives you a way of providing a Drupal frontend for your library catalogue and a series of ‘hooks’ for module development, although it’s quite a bit more involved then just activating a module or two.

So, if you are looking for a very comprehensive web publishing platform to deliver library content then Drupal has a lot to offer, though for the time being is worth considering sticking with Drupal 6 or carefully testing each plugin until more of the specialist modules catch up.

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