Library Day in the Life, Day 1: Monday January 24th

Pleased to report that Day one of Library Day in the Life has a lot of significance to me. For almost two years, I have been lobbying for us to hire a full-time programmer. For the last year, I was extremely lucky to have an excellent student programmer, whose skill and accomplishments demonstrated just what could be done with a programmer on staff. Last fall, external review reports corroborated my desire to increase the number of library staff who have expertise in web development. Until today, I was the only person in a staff of about 60 whose job it was to tend, develop, and maintain our web presence. I started the day by picking up Christina, our new programmer, at her hotel, for her first day at work. Even better, after I picked her up, we headed to Kevin Taylor's at the Opera in downtown Denver for day one of the Webchick Drupal 7 Tour.

We're not alone in hiring a programmer; when we received the go ahead to conduct a search and hire last fall, I gave our director a handful of excellent job descriptions for library programmers. They weren't difficult to find, and two of the position descriptions that I liked were from the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut libraries. Many of these positions require not an MLS, but an undergraduate degree in Computer Science. I'm torn about this; on one hand, I think a non-librarian computer science perspective is sorely needed in library web development. On the other, does it devalue an MLS degree? I've been doing web development in libraries for nearly 10 years with my undergraduate degree in English and my MSLS.

So anyway, what's new with Drupal 7? These are just highlights of the Webchick presentation.

Many highly used features which were previously only available in modules are now included in core. Two great examples of this are Content Construction Kit (CCK) and image handling. CCK, which in 6 and previous versions was a separate module, is now included in Drupal core. Image handling-the ability to upload an image file to a page-used to require the ImageField module and some odd PHP libraries-and some type of magic I have never possessed-is now in core as well. Woo hoo! These two inclusions alone made me seriously rethink some of my theme choices; I wanted to find all Drupal-7-ready themes for my personal sites so that I could upgrade to 7 TONIGHT.

There are also a number of improvements in terms of web accessibility (Section 508/WCAG), one of my areas of research interest. For example, skip navigation is built into Drupal core now, and form fields come automatically with labels. Remember, even the simplest search box on a library site is a form, and we know that our users want to jump right in. All of those cool widgets we're slapping up? Forms. Make sure your form fields have labels, whether you use Drupal or not! One more: built-in JavaScript fallback options.

Another valuable part of Day 1 of the two-day tour was a walk-through of the upgrade process from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7. Angie shared some great modules that make this potentially daunting process easier:

  • Hacked!: Tells you if you've committed the ultimate sin: hacking core. Think of the kittens! Even indicates which core files have been changed.
  • Upgrade Assist: Provides a report of the Drupal 7 status of all of your themes and modules. When there are green checks next to everything, you're ready to upgrade! I installed it during the session today.
  • Backup and Migrate: "simplifies the task of backing up and restoring your Drupal database or copying your database from one Drupal site to another"
  • Backup and Migrate Files: Extends Backup and Migrate by including file backup.

If you can catch Webchick and her Lullabot colleague Joe Shindelar, in New York, D.C., or Atlanta, I highly recommend it! Think this isn't a very librarian-y post? I'll close by saying how redonculous the Colorado librarian representation in the audience was today-so much so that Angie made a joke about it. Drupal holds a lot of promise for web development in libraries.