DIY Intranet with Drupal (Cyber Zed Shed)

Rachel Bridgewater from Washington State University shared her experience using Drupal to create a reference department intranet. Prior to the intranet, the department had maintained a 3-ring binder as a procedures manual and communication tool. The amount of content was getting unwieldy and it was difficult to keep communication flowing smoothly on paper, so an electronic alternative was sought.

Rachel decided to use an open source content management system, since there wasn't any budget for a commercial product. The Library and campus IT are a merged entity, so she had easy access to the servers. This is not the case everywhere, so a good working relationship with IT is necessary if they are a separate group.

She chose Drupal because of it's flexibility, but also suggested Joomla and Plone as alternatives.  She suggested that Joomla offered less customization while Plone required more technical skills, specifically Python. Drupal requires Apache, PHP, and MySQL to be installed on the server. Set up is pretty straight forward. Most challenging is unpacking files and configuring for you local server's environment. Drupal's look can be customized through CSS. It comes with a lot of different modules out of the box, but there are a lot more available. It also offers good access control options.

Main benefit for her department was improved communication. Everyone knows where to go to to stay informed and can keep up to date via RSS feeds (e.g. printer on the x floor not working, already reported it.)

The main challenges are staff buy-in/comfort with change, keeping the software updated when new releases come out, and developing a plan to remove old/stale content over time.

Update 4/19: I forgot that PALINET was interviewing individuals giving Cyber Zed Shed presentations. Listen (MP3) to Rachel talk about her experience. 

Library related sites using Drupal: drupalib, TechEssence, L-net, and Northwest Central

Rachel suggested the following articles:

McBridge, M. (October 2004) Open Source Weblog & Content Management Systems for the Information Professional. Searcher, 12(9), 24-30.

Douglass, R., Little, M., and Smith, J. (2005). Building online communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress . New York: Springer-Verlag. 

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