Sunday, March 30, 2008

Free and Open Source Options for Creating Database-Driven Subject Guides

Issue no. 2 of Code4Lib Journal has just come out and it includes an article entitled Free and Open Source Options for Creating Database-Driven Subject Guides.

At the Supreme Court of Canada Library, I have created close to 2 dozen topical research guides in the past year or so (environmental law, constitutional law, intellectual property, etc.). Periodically, I review them, adding new, relevant material, pruning old stuff or obsolescent sources, rearranging the sections, all of this in static HTML files.

Very time-consuming.

We have discussed scrapping everything and transferring the material into a database system that would make maintenance and updates more efficient and less time-consuming. But we don't have the help of programmers right now.

This article provides a lot of suggestions:
"Productivity is enhanced primarily by improving the process of updating style and content. For example, a popular electronic resource may appear on many subject pages, meaning that updating links would involve multiple edits. In a database-driven world, where content is pulled from a central location in real time, that same update is made once. Graphical user interfaces allow librarians with little or no knowledge of HTML to add resources, thus encouraging increased staff participation. Opportunities for participation and collaboration can also be made available to students and faculty through the use of Weblogs, Wikis, and social bookmarking software (...) In addition to improved workflow and collaboration, database-driven subject guides may give us a way to provide the personalized features and customizable content that users have come to expect. Thanks to work done by libraries to create open-source subject guide applications, the availability of open-source course management systems, and the proliferation of free Web 2.0 tools, the option to create cost-effective, database-driven subject guides is available to all libraries."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:29 pm

3 Comments:

Blogger Neil said...

Is the implementation of one of these systems dependent on getting programmer assistance, and is there any plan for getting that assistance?

6:36 pm  
Blogger Michel-Adrien said...

Some of the software listed in the article requires programmer assistance. Also, some institutions (such as the Court) may have difficulties with open source software that requires running on Linux.

However, I want to look at how we may be able to use social software tools like del.icio.us etc.

12:59 pm  
Blogger Neil said...

Is the difficulty with Linux because the Court's systems are currently Windows-based, or just a lack of Linux expertise by those who would maintain the systems?

Social software tools do seem like a good idea - they're lightweight, move much of the maintenance offsite, and are easily accessible. Availability outside of the Court could also be interesting - if del.icio.us subject guides were generally available, and lawyers and legal academics aware of them, it could make for an interesting experiment in legal crowdsourcing.

Good luck!

4:27 pm  

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