Web services update – November 2012

This is the first in what I am planning on making a regular series of updates about what my team and I are working on. While intended primarily for an internal audience (i.e. the librarians and other staff at the Library), I thought that there may be people in the McGill community as well as my peers at other libraries that might be interested in knowing what we’re up to as well. So, for better or for worse, here goes!

This month:

Upgrades to server environment: Since earlier this year, we’ve been planning a series of improvements to our server environment in order to meet a few goals:

  • Get rid of all locally hosted servers (i.e. no more servers on the floor in the corner of the office) so that everything is either a hosted box or a VM taken care of by McGill IT.
  • Move all servers over to a common LAMP configuration (which means a few version upgrades as well as the switching of a Windows 2003 server over to Linux. And of course we need to inventory, test, and update all sites on all affected servers to ensure that nothing breaks when we upgrade the stack).
  • Ensuring that all servers have sufficient processing power and memory, as well as enough disk space for ~ 6 months of growth)
  • Set up a proper backend production server to run critical developer tools (git, mantis)
  • Defining system administration tasks and responsibilities for developers. We don’t have a dedicated sys admin, so we need to make sure the work is scoped and recognized as part of what our developers regular work.

We recently got the go ahead to purchase the additional servers and resources we need make this happen, so this month we’re starting to plan out the work and get started. It will likely take us several months to complete all the changes that come out from this, but it is great to finally start on the work!

Intranet. We’re starting implementation of Library Intranet using the CenterStage application provided by McGill IT. It will probably take the rest of the month for us to familiarize ourselves with CenterStage. In December we’ll work with the various departments to get them on board, so that in the new year we’ll be ready to use new Library Intranet to share news and information internally within the Library.

Updates to news listing on home page. A few small changes to make it easier for people to find the Follow the library page that shows all our feeds. We also want to have a cleaner presentation of events and news with an eye to eventually having these listing automatically generated from the Channels system. (We’re waiting for McGill IT fix some bugs in Channels before we can do this… until then, we’re stuck manually adding these links to the Library’s home page).

Librarian profiles. We’re continuing to work on having the Librarian profile pages implements on our site. This was supposed to happen last month, but we’ve run into delays getting the feature activated on our site. We’ve been assured by McGill IT that it will be available soon. Once it is, we’ll be asking Librarians for feedback on the kind of information they would like to be able to include on their profile pages. From there we’ll be activating the pages with the basic profile information in place and then turning things over to the Librarians so that they can add and maintain their profile data as they see fit.

Web analytics. Our site editors need access to web analytics, which traditionally have been made available by someone LTS either generating canned reports on a regular basis and/or running adhoc reports as required. We need to get away from this and give people direct access to the analytics themselves, so we’re going to work with McGill’s Office of Communications and External Relations (who administers the university’s Google Analytics account) to figure out how we can make this happen.

Content review. There haven’t been any significant changes to the information architecture of /library since we started working on the WMS/Drupal migration over a year ago. Now that the core migration work is winding down, we can start to look at reviewing the content on our site. This month we’re starting a review of the About and Computers and Equipment sections of the web site.

Documentation. We’re updating the user documentation (known internally as the Site Editor Guide) with information on editing workshops, file management, and a few other small tweaks. We’re also integrating the information on roles and responsibilities so that the Site Editor Guide become the one definitive source of information for site our editors.

Metadata updates. The Library environment is always changing, so like most months we’re allocating part of our time to update the metadata that runs the dynamic floorplans (i.e. the maps available from the Classic Catalogue that show you where an item can be found) as well as the Computer Finder (which shows you where you can find free computer workstations across all Library branches).

McGill Yearbooks. Although the site launched last year, we’ve been continuing to digitize, OCR, cleanup, and publish yearbooks to the site. This month we’re adding the Clan Macdonald yearbooks for MacDonald campus 1931-50. We’ve also got almost 100 years of Old McGill yearbooks now all the way up to 1990. Worth checking out if you haven’t already!

Blog launch. For the past year or so we’ve been part of a team working on migrating one of the Library publications over to a blog format. Things are almost ready to so, so this month we’ll be working with the editors to have a soft launch of a new blog, with a ore formal launch hopefully soon after.

Updates to Library Blogs. Blogs are an important tool for the Library and librarians to communicate with their various audiences. To help support that, we’re making some long overdue changes to our Library Blogs platform. We’ll be opening up comments to everyone (right now only McGill users can comment), as well as bloggers direct access to access to analytics so that they can track how their blogs are being used. We’re also starting work on a visual refresh for the header of the common template. Finally, we’ll be meeting with the Library’s bloggers to find out what features/changes they would like to see added to our blogging platform.

Ongoing operational support: Of course, we also have to manage and handle the regular flow of support requests that we get, and the numerous minor fixes and changes that come out of that.

Ambitious, I know, but I think you have to be if you are going to move things forward!

Questions and comments are always welcome, and will be easier I know once we get the commenting on these blogs open to everyone! In the meantime, you can always email me at edward.bilodeau@mcgill.ca.

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