seaurchininterpreterInternet and Web Development

Dec 7, 2013 (4 years and 5 months ago)


Running  head:  DRUPAL  
Drupal as an Open Source
Content Management System
Solution for Libraries

Anne Gresham

ILS 534
S70: Library Technology

Dr. Jinging Liu

Fall, 2011

October 16, 2011


Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS) with several advantages for
s. The platform began as a personal project, but has since expanded to include an
immense international community of users and developers. Drupal may be installed in an entirely
open source server environment, and its licensing requires continued adherence

to the open
source model. This has allowed significant development and extension of the platform by its
users. Drupal works as a CMS by separating form and content. Content is stored as “nodes,”
which are separate from HTML coding and even from HTML pages
. Nodes are presented using
, allowing developers to change appearance of content without altering the content
itself. Drupal includes taxonomies and menus to assist in organizing and managing content. It
also fosters collaboration and interacti
vity through workflow management and social media
integration, and adding content requires no programming skill. Drupal has been used in libraries
to create public websites, staff intranets, catalog discovery layers, library database organization
and searc
h functionality, digital collection management, and manuscript submission capabilities.
The use of Drupal in libraries has positive implications for libraries’ continued relevance and
ability to provide virtual services.

Open source software is becoming an increasingly popular option for libraries, from ILS
products to institutional websites to staff intranets. Library websites, formerly static entities
composed by either an in
house “web master” or a third party contracto
r, are now expected to be
portals of information that provide an interactive, user
friendly experience enriched with social
media and Web 2.0 technologies. Drupal, an open source content management platform, is a
powerful tool for creating these sorts of o
nline environments. This paper will provide an
overview of Drupal, outline its capabilities, and discuss its utility in libraries.

Overview of Drupal

Drupal was created in 1999/2000 by Dries Buytaert, as a way for a group of
college friends to stay in to
uch. From its beginning as a simple message board, Drupal evolved
into a full fledged platform, which was publically released as open source software in 2005
(Wiersma, 2009). Since then, Drupal has grown into an enormous international user and
developer co
mmunity, including 228 countries and 181 languages as of October 10, 2011.

Drupal is a web
based content management system (CMS). Webopedia defines CMS as

software or a group or suite of applications and tools that enable an organization to seamlessly
eate, edit, rev
iew and publish electronic text” (2011). Other open source CMS products include
Wordpress and Joomla, and commercial CMS products include IBM Lotus and Micros
Sharepoint. Libraries
publish several different types of content authored by va
rious library
departments, including bibliographic data, policies, events, marketin
g materials
, and staff
documents. CMS products have the potential to assist libraries in organizing and managin
g this
diverse content
. However, Drupal supports a wide range
of activities in addition to basic CMS
functionality, many of which are highly relevant to libraries.

Drupal may be freely
downloaded under a GNU General Public License, meaning that
anyone is free to make changes to the source code provided they make thei
r modifications
available to others (Drupal, n.d., Wiersma, 2009). This has resulted in a highly extensible
platform; Drupal users share their modifications as “modules,” 8,845 of which are currently
available on the Drupal website. These modules include e
xtensions for e
commerce, project
management, syndication, and more. Thus, new Drupal users may immediately benefit from the
creativity and technical skill of the vast Drupal development community.

Developing in Drupal

powered sites differ from traditional HTML websites in that content and form are
entirely separated; instead of including content between HTML tags, Drupal uses server
scripting to store content in a database and inject it into HTML code, which

then works with CSS
to present that content in the presentational theme of the user’s choice or design. This allows
developers to drastically alter the appearance of the site without altering the content itself (Austin
& Harris, 2008).

As a CMS, Drupal
allows presentation of both static and dynamic content on a single
page (Farkas, 2008). It accomplishes this by using content “chunks”, referred to as “nodes” in
Drupal, rather than using fully formed HTML documents (pages) as its base units of content.
des are highly flexible and may appear on multiple pages or share a page with other unrelated
nodes. The default “content types” (node types) are pages and stories, but there are many other
more complex content types, such as polls, RSS feeds, or shared ca
lendars. Developers may also
create new content types as needed (Austin & Harris, 2008).

Drupal also includes means of manipulating and organizing content through taxonomies
and menu structures. Taxonomies may be hierarchical or freeform. For example, Li
brary of
Congress Subject Headings might be imported as a hierarchical taxonomy, or author names
might be used in freeform taxonomies, which would allow all works by a particular author to be
viewed on a single page (Austin & Harris, 2008). Taxonomies coul
d also be used to provide
multiple views of database records, e.g. alphabetically or by subject (Rosenthal & Bernardo,
2010). Menu structures in Drupal provide an additional layer of organization in that they can be
configured to appear based on permission
s. This allows a single site to provide multiple services
to its user groups and deliver information based on user profiles (Austin & Harris, 2008).

Drupal is also very conducive to collaborative and/or interactive site structure. Wiersma
(2009) notes tha
t Drupal installations tend to overturn traditional web master roles by allowing
greater staff participation in content creation. Workflow management in Drupal can facilitate
content review processes, and any staff with word processing experience would be
capable of
using the WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) Drupal content editor, thus extending
content creation beyond the web services department (Morton
Owens, 2011). In terms of
interactivity, developers may allow comments on every node element on
a site if they wish
(Austin & Harris, 2008). Furthermore, developers without advanced programming knowledge
can easily integrate blogs, wikis, share calendars, or forums into a seamless online user
experience (Farkas, 2008).

However, there are some potenti
al disadvantages to using Drupal. A steep learning curve
has been noted, especially with unique Drupal jargon. Additionally, while the modular,
driven design of the platform is usually an advantage, some modules may not be
updated with the same f
requency as the core Drupal system. Therefore, installing a system
update may cause some independent modules to crash (Nelson, 2010). Furthermore, as with any
open source product, “free” may not necessarily mean that Drupal is without cost. The Drupal

website includes a “Marketplace” area, containing contact information for commercial firms who
specialize in Drupal installation, design, training, and technical support. If a third party
contractor is not employed, Drupal may incur serious costs in terms

of staff time and effort.

Drupal in Libraries

Drupal has been widely a
dopted by libraries. 100 public libraries, 3
school librari
es, 57
academic libraries, 8

special libraries, and one library consortium are listed on the Libraries
Drupal Group page (201
1). This page includes 19 library
related modules, which include

Z39.50 protocol modules, link resolvers, ILS bridges, and more (Libraries, 2011). In 2010,
Druplicon (Drupal’s annual conference) included its first program targeted for libraries
ck, 2010), signaling its widespread adoption and interest in the library community.

Several prominent libraries and related organizations use Drupal to power their public
websites. The American Library
Association moved

to Drupal in 2010, and the organiza
described the use of Drupal as “align[ing] us with libraries’ community
focused values” (“ALA
Drupal Migration Company Selected,” 2010). The ALA Connect and MentorConnect pages also
use Drupal to great collaborative effect (Coombs, 2009). The Ann Arbo
r Public District Library
installed Drupal to foster interactivity between the library and its patrons (Rogers, 2005), and the
New York Public Library launched a Drupal
powered site in 2010, citing Drupal’s modular
design as a means of maintaining a contin
uously evolving web presence (Oder, 2010).

, libraries have found other uses for Drupal. Ann Ar
bor District Library

SOPAC (Social OPAC), a
catalog discovery layer. SOPAC is freely available
for other libraries, integrates with an
y ILS system, and some commercial firms support migration
and installation (Coombs, 2009). Similarly, McMaster University in Ontario uses Drupal not
only to provide access to its digital collections, but also to create and catalog digital items
(Coombs, 20
09). The University of Alabama Library uses Drupal for both its public website and
its staff intranet (Battles, 2010). The Florida Gulf Coast University Library developed a Drupal
module for searching library databases, which included content fields specif
ic to database
records, e.g. coverage dat
es (Rosenthal & Bernardo, 2010)
. Simon Fr
aser University


used Drupal to create a submission method for theses and dissertations (Coombs, 2009).

While a full
featured Drupal Integrated Library System has not yet been attempted, it
would be a feasible undertaking, especially given the sig
nificant Drupal library functionality
already in place. Web design firms who specialize in Drupal installations notwithstanding,
Drupal already competes with major commercial systems (Microsoft Sharepoint, other
commercial web design firms), and its growin
g library following may soon have implications for
the traditional ILS market.


Drupal is an excellent example of the power of open source development. It has inspired
a diverse development community to extend its application beyond that of a t
raditional CMS,
and its collaborative nature is reflected in its ability to deliver specific content and behaviors to
targeted users. Libraries have embraced Drupal as an electronic tool and repurposed it to suit
library needs. Future library involvement i
n Drupal appears to be inevitable, as Drupal offers a
proprietary platform for providing access to information in a world in which information
resources are becoming increasingly privatized. Drupal not only engages library patrons, but also
engages lib
raries as developers in a global effort to provide information access through online
user experience.


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Journal of
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