Thursday, March 15, 2007

Library as Platform

Another phrase that I caught at code4lib was "the library as platform." It came from Terry Reese via Jeremy Frumkin, I think.

This got me thinking about all the web applications that we run here at Watzek and how they hang together. There are a couple reasons to be thinking about this now, especially. One is that there are now two (three if you count the Law Library) programmers working on the coding and database creation. And two, we're thinking of redesigning our website soon (even though we just we're named the "College Website of the Month" by ACRL's college library section).

We're pretty small scale here, but I still think that it is productive to think of our digital environment here in terms of a platform. My idea is that we should identify the large building blocks of our environment so that we're not reinventing things every time we create a new application.

Some components of the platform:
  • LAMP (throw postgres in there)
  • An up-to-date XHTML based web design and corresponding set of CSS classes that can be applied to a wide range of situations. This will let us spend our time building applications rather than tweaking design details.
  • Some form of template system (currently dreamweaver + PHP includes) for applying the design uniformly
  • databases:
    • the ILS database
    • serials knowledgebase
    • databases which are subsets of the ILS like our newbooks database and our A/V database
    • database of electronic resources that drives our subject web pages
  • Campus LDAP authentication applied via PHP and Apache mod_auth_ldap
  • PHP classes and conventions for common tasks (like authentication via LDAP, passing data about a citation from one application to the next)
  • common Expect scripts (mainly for data extraction from the ILS)

Many applications (ReservesDirect, our homegrown CMS for e-resources, new books database, etc.) are running on the platform and leverage its resources.

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