On January 7th, my library and employer — the Pollak Library at California State University, Fullerton — launched our redesigned website after a three year (yes, three years!) comprehensive website redesign project. Why three years? We had just about every challenge possible thrown in our path. But that’s the subject for another blog post or two or three, when I hop back on to my library website redesign series.
The finished product runs primarily on the OU Campus content management system by OmniUpdate, whose product is developed exclusively for higher education institutions. I will chat more about this product as I blog on specific features and use cases in our site, but this was not a CMS specifically selected by our library — it was chosen for us by campus, as part of an ongoing campus-wide website redesign. And it’s not a product I hear chatted about much in academic library circles. While many parent institutions might run OU Campus, I usually see their academic libraries running other CMSs — Drupal, WordPress, or a home-grown solution. Libraries tend to like to do our own thing, but in defense of libraries, we do have services and expectations that frequently require us to go with a web publishing solution different from what our parent institution uses.
Last year, our library also started working with Springshare — an industry leader in library web tools — with the launch of our LibGuides system in August 2012 after migrating away from our own in-house-developed guides solution. In December, we launched LibAnswers, their knowledge base and email reference product. Springshare’s customer service and support are simply excellent.
Our new website mashes together OU Campus, LibAnswers, and LibGuides quite nicely (at least, we think so!). I don’t see many other academic libraires (running both OU Campus and Springshare) doing the same yet. You’re missing out! So I am demonstrating our process at the OmniUpdate User Conference in March, as part of the Customer Showcase. I also plan to blog some tutorials.
Despite the use of OU Campus being a mandate from above, my library web team has been generally pleased with the product. As a web developer and systems administrator, I am thrilled with the quality and responsiveness of their customer service and technical support. As a library web developer, however, I have to admit that OU Campus does not fully meet the design and usability needs and expectations of library websites. IMHO, this is because libraries have been using, customizing, and raising the bar on CMSs far longer than higher education institutions — this is just the nature of our innovative and curiosity-driven profession.
It’s also due to our professional preference for and experience with open source CMSs like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, which have active developer communities that have spent years making it easier for non-developers to use these products to build websites. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla have rich libraries of widgets and plugins (modules in Drupal talk, extensions in Joomla talk) that make it very easy for non-coders to customize and extend their sites and content. Springshare’s products offer this same extensibility. So libraries expect this ease of functionality. OU Campus does not provide a similar experience. And this has frustrated me, and some of my fellow librarians, at times while developing our website. One quick example…with products like WordPress, LibGuides, Google Sites, and even horrid SharePoint, many of us CMS users are accustomed to being able to display an RSS feed on a web page by simply copying and pasting the feed URL into a widget (no coding necessary). OmniUpdate provides no similar out-of-the-box non-coding functionality — although their development team did late last year develop an add-on (at my request) to do this for PHP sites. However, OU Campus doesn’t provide developers with a toolbox of ready-made widgets and plug-ins.
In OmniUpdate’s defense, and to illustrate their fantastic responsiveness and customer support, their development and customer service team has been actively listening to my requests for functionality this last year of our redesign. OmniUpdate wants to learn about and meet the needs and expectations of their academic library clients. Also in their defense, I am guessing that the main contacts and decision makers at each of their client higher education institutions probably have not heavily partnered with their libraires when rolling out OU Campus…fortunately for my library, our key campus decison makers did enlist library involvement from the exploratory phase through development (a shout out to, CSUF!). I am confident that with help from their academic library clients, OmniUpdate’s CMS will certainly better meet academic library website expectations.
So if you are part of an academic library whose parent institution runs OU Campus, hit me up! We have started a dedicated library discussion board on their Ning customer community site. And if your library runs LibGuides/LibAnswers and OU Campus (or is thinking of going with OU Campus), be sure to follow my upcoming blog posts and tutorials discussing our own process for integrating these solutions. If you are attending the OmniUpdate User Conference, stop by the Showcase.