Measuring the SharePoint Mood at #IL2011

I’m reporting from Internet Librarian in fog-cloaked Monterey, fresh from a SharePoint development talk by Danielle Pollock of the Sandia National Laboratory Library. In fact, SharePoint has come up in a number of unlikely venues at IL2011, surfacing (briefly and with much ridicule) even in the CMS Smackdown held yesterday. Clearly, this platform is emerging in library-land.

At my library, SharePoint was chosen by Campus IT before I came on board in 2010 and word has it that our IT project team is prepared to guide us out of Serena Collage and into SharePoint within a few weeks of my return from California.

Meanwhile, our revised plan within the library is that a parallel beta site will be available for public testing in January in concert with a public beta test of WorldCat Local. We hope to switch over permanently in the Spring Quarter.

It’s all exciting stuff: our library portal is an unusable mess of fractured platforms and siloed collections (as is the case with a lot of libraries) relying on the stability of an unsupported CMS. So we’re very happy to move.

But will SharePoint really fly?

I’ve got lots of doubts. Specifically, I doubt that it will be as easy or as ideal as other CMS choices. In yesterday’s smackdown, in fact, the panelists ranked a variety of major CMS used by libraries and Drupal came out on top, with WordPress a close second. Clearly, these are the preferred options, but unless SharePoint fails outright in our library, we won’t be able to choose a preferred platform.

Most librarians smirk, shriek, or express their heartfelt sympathies, when I mention our move to SharePoint. Often they just don’t believe it’s possible. Others see a long, tortured path ahead of us as we are forced by SharePoint’s limitations to adopt highly unworkable work-arounds. I happen to think this will be the case, in fact.

Enforcing my doubts, last month, a web services librarian at another institution contacted me about my experience thus far with SharePoint. She has recently been tasked with making SharePoint work as her library’s CMS. After doing her research and failing to integrate her many external web services and platforms into SharePoint, she was now beginning to put forward the argument that it could not be done. Her strategy now was to document all of the things she would not be able to do and recommend a move to Drupal or some other technology.

My hope is that her example and the year-long conversation I’ve been having with IT will get us the kind of access in SharePoint that will be required to accomplish what I see as my main focus: to integrate as seamlessly as possible our various platforms, which include the site itself, our catalog, room booking system, chat, libguides, digital commons IR and contentDM.

This was also a common meme at IL2011: integration. This is, without a doubt, a titanic task no matter what CMS you are using. Doing it successfully with a system that was actually designed more as an Intranet collaboration platform rather than as a true CMS will be even more challenging.

And so, as I wrap up here in Monterey, I will certainly have my work cut out for me. Expect more updates as the process begins. And pray for us as we charge ahead.

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