Assessing and adapting Drupal content management system as a digital library application



DSpace ( and Greenstone ( are the two leading digital library software applications. While these applications are wildly adopted they are not flexible enough to provide more robust interactivity. Web2.0 technologies are not explicitly changing how individuals interact with information. The changes we see are related to what this class of technologies are enabling. I believe, and this poster will show that coupled with digital libraries, this class of technologies stimulates knowledge creation. CANDDIL is a work in progress that has been designed and developed to illustrate my argument. In this paper I present the findings from an assessment and initial adaptation of Drupal, an open source content management system for the purposes of serving as a digital library. This report presents the current state of CANDDiL and its potential for advancing digital library research.


DSpace, Greenstone and other lesser known digital library applications are fundamentally changing how individuals interact with information. Digital libraries and subsequently the applications which enable them afford users the opportunity to access and organize large volumes of information. Furthermore using the open archives initiative (OAI) protocol for metadata harvesting enables digital libraries to present artifacts from multiple information sources. While these applications are effective from a technological stance, neither encourages social interaction nor customization for community groups. Guided by theories of information relevance, bounded rationality and human-computer interaction design, a novel digital library was designed and developed that challenges the widely adopted yet seldom recognized view of digital libraries being mere databases or simple websites. CANDDiL. a community artifact narrative driven digital library, is a fully functional high-fidelity prototype application built using the Drupal open source content management system. The remainder of article presents the design rationale and development of a digital library application using an open-source content management system. After introducing the design rationale, some of the motivations for developing a new web site are outlined, as well as an overview of the site mechanisms and some of the development issues. This report concludes with outlooks on the future development of the digital library application as it relates to the growth of enterprise scale content management systems and their ability to facilitate knowledge creation.

Digital Libraries

Literature on the subject of digital libraries presents the vague notion that encompasses an integrated set of services for capturing, cataloging, storing, searching, protecting, and retrieving information. Digital libraries can include reference material or resources accessible through the World Wide Web along with digitized portions of a library's collection or original material produced for the web can also be included in a digital library. Depending on the technology supporting the digital content, a user may be able to access magazine articles, books, papers, images, sound files, and videos. Often accessible via the Internet, the use of a digital library is enhanced by a broadband connection such as cable modem or DSL. A straight forward and informal definition of a digital library is a managed collection of information, with associated services, where the information is stored in digital formats and accessible over a network (Arms, 2001). I have taken the stance of digital libraries as socio-technical systems. In particular, this work discusses shared use as a central component of human-computer interaction in a digital library as a vehicle for knowledge production.

Existing digital library applications are based on a document repository structure. While they remain functional as repositories, they are inadequate for promoting community interaction. The goal of the design presented later in this report is to encourage a community's interaction and provide a publishing framework to support the community activities by allowing users to socialize digital library objects using Web 2.0 technologies (blogs, discussion groups, shared annotations, RSS feeds, etc.) and manage their personal information.

Digital objects are essential for maintaining a coherent sense of self. Research in the field of digital libraries and information management is fundamentally about memory. These infrastructure tools are used to preserve memory various communities and organizational structures. Objects stored in a digital library have the ability to embody goals and manifest skills(Csikszentmihalyi, 1993; Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Radley, 1990). This report is motivated by the belief that digital libraries can be enhanced by utilizing Web2.0 technologies such as social tagging and blogging.

Understanding Open source CMS

I have not come across a digital library which encourages social engagement (Moore, 2006) or socialize artifact through narrative, I have decided to build my own for the purposes of this poster. The digital library application is a communal artifact narrative driven digital library (CANDDiL) and is still being coded and developed with the goal of having it full functional and populated with content for the conference.1, 2, 3

Figure 1.

CANDDiL Interface

While key functionality will be finalized during usability testing, several features have been implemented in response to literature findings.

Figure 2.


As mentioned, CANDDiL is a community based digital library driven off of the information exchanges of users. The prototype discussed here is a functional high-fidelity prototype built using an open source content management system licensed under the GPL; Drupal. The system is written in PHP with a MySQL database backend. The current design iteration of CANDDiL allows users of a community of users to easily publish, manage and organize a great variety of content, build information stacks and hopefully create knowledge. Users can create their own set of tags and links based on the framework to accompany structured keywords and tags available within the system. Additionally, using open source mind mapping tools, users can organize thoughts and to provide a clear visual means of displaying ideas in response to interactions with artifacts in the digital library.

Figure 3.

Content Record

The system also allows users of the digital library application to manage their information interactions by creating personal sub sites of filtered content. This functionality is found in tools such as MyYahoo and Google's personalized homepage. In later iterations I hope to explore the possibility and usefulness of creating and visualizing relationships between users and content along with personal digital libraries.


This poster is not the summation of a period of research. Rather, it is the entry point for a conversation that has been somewhat ignored in the information science community. On one end, we have a pervasive understanding of digital libraries as technologies with very specific goals of archiving, preservation and access. We've made great strides and accomplishments from that standpoint. On the other hand we have neglected the communities that digital libraries serve. One of the issues faced by many community and professional organizations is grappling with how information and communication technologies (ICT) can best assist in the promotion of innovation, creativity and creative into problem solving. Other issues include the capture and preservation of community knowledge. What we need is an ICT infrastructures that support communities and organizations ability to innovate and problem solve. This work discusses the link between knowledge creating activities, information, and the role of digital libraries. This is not a perfect project but it is an interesting exploration. This work addresses technological underpinnings of open source content management systems and how they can be enhance to provide a solid foundation for digital libraries. Visit this poster to get a better understanding of the research and have a discussion on various areas for future research.

The report provided an overview of the project, system requirements, and a comparison of several content management systems. My work will rely heavily on the theory of social systems which states that communities exist of information exchanges and social computing technologies.

The value of this research is that it can advance current digital library research and practice to a more complete theory of organizational memory, as well as provide the social and organizational insights necessary to construct richer and more engaging digital library systems. Additionally, this proposed research covers many unexplored issues in digital library research such as value-driven use, trust and ethical dimensions of information sharing. Social computing technologies paired with digital libraries would allow researchers to trace the evolution of a learning community's knowledge-formation.


I would like to thank the many individuals who have encouraged me on this project as well as my colleagues who have critiqued earlier drafts of this work.