plinkit: scalable solutions to library tech rollouts

One of the problems that library consortiums have frequently solved is technology centralization. While I am not denying that consortiums have caused other problems, having one central go-to technology platform, software set, team of trainers and help desk has made many non-tech savvy librarians able to provide a higher level of service to their customers. For tech savvy librarians, this has sometimes come with a downside of lack of control of their own technology, or dumbed down interfaces to robust tools. We’ve been looking for a happy medium solution.

Two newish projects have been getting talked about lately in the states of Iowa and Oregon. Oregon is using Plinkit, a web authoring tool that is built on an open source CMS called Plone. This tool allows libraries to create nice looking professional websites with some standard modules (calendar, lists of links, links to electronic resources) and some standards compliance. Here is a list of libraries using it. Iowa got money from the Gates Foundation and is using it to provide web hosting for libraries along with an email hosting service (please don’t let it be an Exchange server) and a helpdesk person available by email and phone (and I bet chat by the end of the grant period) for all state libraries. One of the best things the Vermont Department of Libraries has done is to make sure every library in Vermont has a fixed and memorable email address that either forwards or links to an easy to use webmail interface. They have had this for years and it’s done a lot to help libraries stay connected and feel like part of the larger library system, even when they’re up a mountain serving 600 people. I’m not usually one to jump on the “technology builds community” bandwagon, because I think there are certain irreplacable virtues to face to face interactions. However when done properly and effectively, technology can help support communities that are already built, and help them put their best face forward.

One Response to “plinkit: scalable solutions to library tech rollouts”

  1. Scott Gallagher-Starr Says:

    I was the reviewer for the LSTA-grant funded Plinkit project. My opinion of Plinkit is that it is an excellent, as you say, “happy medium solution.” The people behind this project (one Eva Miller of the Multnomah County Library was coordinator) really put some good thought and implementation into the project.

    Plone itself provides the ability to customize the “web presence” that Plinkit provides. The Plinkit folks took it upon themselves to set up a comfortable library-ish template and then package the whole thing for easy installation.

    The people who put all this together, the Plinkit community, use resources from the Plone community, which draws from the Zope community (Plone is built on Zope). All of these communities are smart and aggressive in their approach to providing and “selling” web services.

    What this means in practical terms is that the library community is being handed a tool with some powerful leverage attached. I love to see this sort of thing happening, and I hope that many libraries find packages like Plinkit to be helpful.

    And, by the way, thanks for your blog! Another fan.

    Scott