Building an Academic Library with Open Source Technologies
Sunyeen Pai, Wing Leung
University of Hawai`i at Manoa
Presentation at HLA06


Abstract: In 2006, the Univ of HI at Manoa Library used the Plone portal/content management system to implement an intranet. Thsi project is a convergence of open source software and some of the latest in dynamic and collaborative web technologies. This talk will cover the technologies, the challenges of making them work for people, the impact of the technologies on how people work, and what it is like to work within an open source environment.

will address organizational / cultural issues
what it is like to work in an open source community and environment

Open source technologies used to support our intranet
– Linux
– Apache
– Light Directory Access Protocolo (LDAP)
– Python (programming language underlying plone)
– Zope (object orienated database)
– content management framework built with zope

Have Plone software stack
– base: python software underlying everything
– zope: surrounds that
– content management framwork
– plone
– served by apache to the world

On top of Plone, we use the following open source add-ons
– LDAP Userfolder
– TextNG
– Plone Subscription
– PloneMaintenance (provides email notification service along with Plone subscription
– Kupu (default text editing system with Plone)
– GrufSpaces (provides additional group access control on workspaces)
– PlonePopoll (open source polling software – In combination, we can control who has access to what, lets us control access)

Linux+Apache = web server
LDAP = authentication control
Python, Zope, Content Management Framework, Plone + Add Ons = CMS (content management system, along with web interface and

Big benefits of plone
– highly interactive like blogging
– anything saved immediately indexed and searchable
– very dynamic and collaborative
– MS docs, PDFs, also indexed and searchable
– security: involves authentication and content security (private: individual/group)
– standards compliant, works with common technologies

By dynamic we mean:
– object oriented database
– database combines content and template with CSS to create a webpage on the fly

Plone calls the language “template attribute language”
– includes some HTML

Smart folders: can assign keywords and other characteristics for any content saved to the CMS

features live search, as you type content immediately responds dynamically to your search terms
– software by default is appending an asterik (wildcard) to the end

Advanced search options: and/or, title, author, keywords, description, news items since, item type, review status

Collaborative screen: has commenting and threaded discussions allowed

very granular security possible with Plone: LOTS of roles and rights
– is an object oriented environment, but you are dealing with inheritants (so sometimes your permission assignment is superceded by something else in another configuration)

You can setup workflows as desired: Draft document -> Pending document -> Publish -> Published

CSS is well supported in Plone, these are used to feed the templates
– can be used to address accessibility requirements and needs

Standards that are followed
– 508 accessibility
– W3c xhtml
– Dublin core
– I12n > over 35 languages, including left to right, eg Hebrew and Arabic)
– Good design practices: excellent nav tools (breadcrumbs), skins (with or without tables)

metadata record is created for every piece of content included in Plone

Works with Linux, Windows, Solaris, MacOSX, FreeBSD
– LDAP, FTP support, WebDAV

Challenges for making the technology work for people
– organizational culture: communications (problems like probably everyone has)
– technology: no background with CMS
– funding: no startup budget
– adoption: poor industry-wide rate of adoption for intranet

We spend a lot of time finding out what our users needed and did not want
– no more passwords!
– email accounts were stuffed!
– I like the way our listserv works, can you make the intranet as easy
– i don’t want anyone to see my stuff until I’m ready
– I only want my department to see my stuff
– I can’t find our staff information right now (old system was a real long webpage of links, hard to use and find)
– I don’t want to learn any new software

Some of the things we accomplished:
– no more passwords! (LDAP integration)
– making listserv work with the intranet
– individuals can work in privacy
– groups can collaborate in privacy
– better “clumping” of content for findability
– indexing and searchable content
– training for people for the skills they needed
– policies to govern the system (lots of concern about content fights on the Internet, how are we going to handle conflict?)

Had about 23 one on one trainings, ran 12 classes, 56 individuals (about one third of organization) attended
– 32 attended the intermediate level
– covered 16 departments
– offered training organization-wide, or departments approached for training
– had self-selected co-hort

Strategies to support the project
– legitimating the project: strong leadership support at higher levels of administration
– increasing communication with departments (lots of outreach to staff to win support)
– moving over / creating critical content
– making a smooth transition
– handling a wide range of IT skills with a variety of training options
– developing policies to address concerns

The need to address people losing documents, losing emails, etc was a big plus for the project
– letting people go to the intranet to search for a document they need, which exists “out there”
– users can “bookmark” things within the intranet for easy access

Parallel implementation: have both systems running at the same time, as we start working out the quirks

Is calendaring feature to Plone, but they already had a calendaring system

Better if technical people figure out technical problems in advance and then do training, rather than having users troubleshoot and figure out how to solve problems

Some adoption theories and concepts

Things people liked
– sharing info with groups
– ability to create own material
– security of workspaces
– ability to share with all the staff
– no need to send hefty attachments
– info is better chunked
– commenting

People are using the intranet for:
– polling
– group editing
– personnel and admin noticed
– conversations (commenting and threads)
– soliciting organization-wide input on documents (e.g. Centeniall planning)
– posting professional info about themselves
– sharing photos

Working with Zope/Plone and its community
– out of the box functionality was outstandning
– standards compliance and user interface excellent
– could not rely on “traditional” info sources (all the books we bought were about 50% out of date)
– one of the developers of Plone was just picked up by Google!
– issues with version stack
– rigorous and patient testing
– add-on software: test on a different site
– plone upgrade work
– was a lot like drug interactions in terms of add-ons
– the community united around one stack and started supporting it

working with multiple browser compatibility issue was big

culture thing: working with forms, be ready to be embarrassed

Most of my time was in the Zope management interface

Google is highly effective in locating issues
– problem though is if the person you are reading either has not tested what they are talking about on your system, or they don’t know what they are talking about!
– it takes time to figure those things out

Future work
– skinngin
– enhanced group spaces
– extranets
– maybe turning over the public website to a Plone CMS

Used extensively in deciding to support Plone

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