Project Spork: Putting the LAB back into FAIL!lab

Fresh from the CMS Smackdown at Internet Librarian, a severe case of Sandbox Longing struck me and so I proposed to the Libraries’ Administration that we start mucking around (technical term: experimenting).

Project Spork is a multi-pronged solution for Sandbox Longing, but it also serves a couple other discreet purposes:

  1. Experiment with a variety of CMS like SharePoint, Drupal, WordPress and (yes!) even LibGuides.
  2. Understand the strengths and weaknesses between different CMS
  3. Generate insights that will lead to more fruitful and informed discussions with Campus IT during our CMS migration (slated for next year).
  4. Keep our professional skills up to date with the latest technologies in the library field.

And, oh, there is one more: Delays in migrating from our current CMS have left us vulnerable as our current CMS is Serena Collage, a product that is no longer supported and which routinely fails. Indeed, we’ve had some scary moments where we thought the whole site was breaking down. So, Project Spork will provide one additional solution: getting the Libraries a back-up website that we can switch to in a pinch.

LibGuide as Library Home PageThat part of Spork is done: I’ve built an alternative site within LibGuides that actually works fairly well and even looks nice (that is, it doesn’t suffer from the boxiness that characterizes most LibGuides sites). To pull this off, I had to use a lot of custom CSS, but also some rather unscalable manual hacks such as making the main content box borders and header text match the white background. Alot of that CSS customization included setting various elements on the page to display:none so that the page would look nice and clean.

These pages are currently unpublished, so I’m providing a screenshot in this post. If we ever had to switch over to LibGuides as our main website, I think we could do this quite easily. Sub-menus could easily be built once and then added to appropriate pages as left-column boxes with pre-defined navigation links. My colleague Jim LeFager even got JQuery libraries uploaded into LibGuides which we can draw from for more advanced functionality. In sum, this worked quite well and I could see this as a very viable (though less-than-ideal) solution.

That’s Project Spork thus far. Coming next: Why Drupal is Just Okay.


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