Building a ‘blogliography’

I shall shortly be moving on to pastures new from my current role at The University of Auckland Library. Before I depart, I wanted to document a few of the projects that I have worked on during my (almost) three years in Auckland, the first of which is contained in this post: a project to build a new online bibliography for the New Zealand Asia Institute.

As a library, we host a lot of online collections, many of which are simple bibliographies of materials relating to a particular subject.  In this case we worked with the library’s Business and Economics subject team to build an online bibliography of materials concerning the business interactions between New Zealand and Asia.

Here is a list of some of the high-level requirements we were given:

  • Small scale (a couple of thousand records)
  • Import data from an EndNote library (initial import followed by periodic updates)
  • Multilingual content (English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean)
  • Additional static content
  • Provision of RSS feeds

Traditionally our library has used a product from http://www.inmagic.com/ to deliver this sort of site. However this time we tried something a little different… we built it using blogging software.  To be more precise, we built it using the WordPress blogging platform (the same software as powers this blog).

Here are some of the reasons that we chose WordPress:

  • WordPress sites can contain a mixtures of blog entries (in this case bibliography entries) and static content.  NZAIS has a static home page and other static content, along with lots of entries.  Each entry in the bibliography is a blog post.
  • Being a blogging platform, certain features such as word clouds and RSS feeds are part of the standard configuration.
  • Like all well-mannered systems, it defaults to UTF-8, meaning the multilingual content poses no problem.
  • WordPress supports themes.  It is very easy to choose a suitable theme, and then customise it for your specific needs (colour scheme, logo, etc).
  • The system can be extended using plugins.

The last point is one that was particularly pleasurable to work with: the majority of the requirements that could not be fulfilled directly with WordPress could be delivered using a third-party free plugin.  In order to turn a traditional blog into a useful online bibliography, we used the following plugins (in alphabetical order):

  • Breadcrumb NavXT:  Used to provide breadcrumb functionality to assit the user know where they are in the site
  • Bulk Delete:  Useful when developing to remove old content, or when performing a complete re-load of data
  • Custom Field Template:  WordPress supports ‘metadata’ through the use of ‘custom fields’ which can be set for each post.  This plug allows that metadata to be set via a template for each post
  • Google AJAX Translation:  Allows individual entries (blog posts) to be translated on-the-fly without the page being reloaded.  Useful for translating between English / Chinese / Japanese / Korean content
  • Google Translator:  Adds a translate widget to see the whole site translated into a different language
  • Search Everything:  Modified the search system to search all fields, including the custom fields
  • CSV importer:  Data from EndNote was exported to a text file, and a short Java script used to convert it into a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file which was then imported using this plugin.  We modified this plugin to support multiple values in some fields (for example to allow multiple authors to be inserted for a single item)
  • Custom Field Taxonomies:  Builds controlled vocabulary functionality into custom fields / metadata

The site can be viewed at http://nzais.auckland.ac.nz/

The following screenshot shows the use of metadata fields (custom fields) for an entry in the bibliography:

[This development took place in late 2009 / early 2010.  It was a successful project and proved that WordPress is a flexible platform for delivery a site such as this.  However the technology used to power this site is about to change, not because of any problem with the site, but due to a rationalisation of platforms in the library.  With an ever increasing number of similar collections needing to be developed each year, we decided to develop a single solution for those collections that don’t fit into our traditional repository offerings (DSpace research outputs repository or ExLibris DigiTool).  To this end we developed what we’ve called the Super Index.  More about that in another post…!]vzlom-facebook.com

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