#EAHIL2012 CEC 1: Drupal for Librarians

5 07 2012

This week I’m blogging at (and mostly about) the 13th EAHIL conference in Brussels. EAHIL stands for European Association for Health Information and Libraries.

I already blogged about the second Continuing Education Course (CEC) I followed, but I followed a continuing education course at Mondays, one day earlier. That session was led by Patrice Chalon, who is a Knowledge Manager at KCE – Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre.

The first part was theoretical and easy to follow. Unfortunately there were quite a few mishaps with the practical part (some people could not install the program via the USB-stick, parts of the website were deleted and the computers were slow), but the entire session was instructive anyway. Even though I was about the only person (of 6) lacking CMS or HTML knowledge (but rereading the course abstract I now realize that was a prerequisite….)

Drupal is a freely available, easy to use,  modular content management system (CMS), for which you don’t need to have extensive programming (or HTML) experience.

Drupal was created by a Belgium student (Dries Buytaert) in 2000. It evolved from drop.org (small news site with build-in web board to share news among friends)  to Drupal (pronounced as “droo-puhl”, derived from the English pronunciation of the Dutch word “Druppel” which means “drop”). The purpose was to enable others to use and extend the experimentation platform so that more people could develop it further.

Drupal.org is a well established and active community with over 630,000 subscribed members.

This web application makes use of PHP as a programming language and MySQL as a database backend.

In Drupal every “page” is a node. You can define as many nodes as you need (news, page, event etc) and create “child” pages if you like (and move them to another parent page if necessary).

The editing function is easy: you can easily edit the format without needing HTML (looks quite like WordPress) and add files as if were email. Therefore it could easily have a wiki function as well.

Drupal is fitted with a very good taxonomy system. This helps to organize nodes and menus.

Nodes, account registration and maintenance, menu management, and system administration all are basic features of  the standard release of Drupal, known as Drupal core.

But thanks to the large community, Drupal benefits from thousands of third party modules, to tailor Drupal to your needs. When choosing modules it is important to check for longevity (are modules still being adapted for new Drupal releases, how many downloads are there: the more downloads the more popular the module, the more likely the module is going to stay).

There are also different themes.

Drupal is used a lot by libraries and libraries in turn have developed specific modules apt to use for library-purposes.

The view-module enables you to provide a view of the metadata and you can use metadata as a filter to create lists. Patrick was very enthusiastic about the bibliographic function (“the ENDNOTE within the context management system). He showed that it was very easy to import and search for bibliographic records (and metadata) from PubMed, Google Scholar etc (and maintain correct links over time), i.e. just enter the PMID, DOI lookup etc. Keywords like MeSH are loaded correctly.

Forgive me if I don’t remember (and even may be wrong about) the technical details, but it really looked like a great tool with many possible forms of  uses.

If you need more information you can contact Patrick (Twitter: @pchalon) or consult Drupal and especially the Drupal Group “Libraries”  and Drupalib.

And as said, there is a large active community. For Drupal’s motto is “Come for the software, stay for the community.”

Examples of Drupal Websites:
 http://www.cochrane.org/. The new face of the Cochrane was created by its webmaster Chris Mavergames, and it is far more inviting to read and more interactive then it’s boring predecessor. As a matter of fact it was Chris’ enthusiasm about Drupal and the new looks of the Cochrane site which raised my interest into Drupal. Chris has a website about Drupal (& web development, linked data & information architecture in general) and a Twitter list of Drupal folks you can follow.

Another example is http://htai.org/vortal, created by Patrick. Here is a presentation by Patrick that shows more details about this website (and Drupal’s versatility to create library websites).

This blogpost is largely based on the comprehensive course notes of Patrick Chalon’s “Drupal for Librarians” (CC), supplemented with my own notes.