Drupal Ladder: A great learning tool for librarians

Recently I attended a workshop at the NIH Library on learning how to use Drupal called Drupal4Gov. The workshop wasn’t designed for librarians but I definitely found the workshop useful and thought I would pass along the information. And even though this was a government workshop, the things I learned are applicable to any environment – especially a library-related one.

The great thing about Drupal is that once you get past the difficulty of installing it, it is very easy to use and there is a wealth of support on the web and within the Drupal community itself. So keep reading if you’re interested in learning a new skill, or are thinking about using Drupal as a content management system in your library. 

What is Drupal?

I thought it would be fruitful to explain Drupal before I start explaining the tools that I used to learn the software. Drupal is simply (from the website):

…an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications. It’s built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the world.

Basically Drupal is an easy way to develop websites, and other applications for your business or institution. From a library perspective, Drupal can run your library website, support your OPAC, and link out to your subscribed databases. Think of Drupal like the WordPress platform, but with many more features that are more intuitive.

What is Drupal Ladder?

Drupal Ladder is a website that contains (or links to) lessons and materials to help people learn about and contribute to Drupal. The site was created by the Boston Initiative to help Drupal user groups develop and share and develop materials. These lessons are designed for the most novice user to the experienced software developer. 

There are a variety of ladders to choose from, but the best one to learn how to use Drupal and learn how to apply some of the great features of Drupal are in the Drupal4Gov ladder:

Drupal Ladders

Once you’ve selected the ladder you want to learn, you’ll be taken to a page where you can see all the steps you can learn, from installing Drupal to contributing your own project. I thought this was an excellent tool to learn something new because the directions are very clear and the each step builds on the previous one so you are never left feeling lost.

Drupal4Gov - Drupal Ladder

What’s great about this program is that the Drupal Ladder gives you the option of installing Drupal on your own server (if you have one), or using a simulation called Dev Desktop that simulates a server and allows you to have all the same functionality of Drupal. For librarians specifically, the first 5 rungs on the ladder above are an excellent way to become familiar with the software and try a few of the more advanced functions.

Another cool tool you can use is called simplytest.me that allows you to run anybody’s Drupal site for 30 minutes to an hour and play around with it. This is an helpful way for people to see how different websites and applications are developed and used. I could spend hours just fiddling around with the themes of websites and installing cool modules into the program.

I chose to write about this topic today because I see more and more libraries struggling to figure out how they can quickly and easily build new websites or platforms for their patrons. With the influx of new librarianship roles like embedded librarians and informationists, I figured knowing how to quickly build a website would be useful – this is what Drupal is designed for. Because Drupal is open source and has such a strong community supporting it, I kept thinking to myself during the workshop: Why can’t librarians be a part of this community too? I think that Drupal is an excellent skill to have as it provides libraries with a lot of options to move forward if they are looking for a new content management system. The ease of use and intuitive nature of Drupal also make it easier to train other staff how to use it. If you have the time, I encourage any librarian reading this to give the Drupal Ladder a try. The more time you put into learning it and exploring what Drupal can do, the easier it is to use. 

**I am not affiliated with Drupal in any way, the views expressed here are my own.**