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Public Administration Code Release Communities: Dossier ONSFA

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Public Administration Code Release Communities: Dossier ONSFA
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Project contact person: Darci Hanning, Oregon State Library, Library Development Services. United States.

Brief description of the project

Plinkit, Public Library Interface Kit is the web authoring environment that libraries in partnership with states/regional organizations use to create new web sites for their patrons. Plinkit is built using Plone, an open-source content management system. It was originally intended for public libraries only, but is now used by other types of libraries. Plone is an ideal platform for novice content editors by providing a WYSIWYG editor used within any browser and intuitive navigational structure to support sound information architecture design and implementation. Library web sites are created and edited right through the web, using built-in text editors and other powerful features that make a tough job simple and give patrons a clean, usable, web site where the information delivery is the true and proper focus.

The Plinkit Collaborative is a membership-funded organization with members consisting of state library agencies and intra state or multi-state cooperatives. The goal of the Collaborative is to provide Plinkit to libraries beyond the US State of Oregon (where Plinkit started) and to pool funds in support of software development, training, documentation, and marketing activities.

Target organization

Plinkit is primarily open to state libraries and regional organizations. Plinket’s intended end users include library staff, typically from small and/or rural communities and where staff have limited time, resources, or skills to create and maintain a website focused on providing information services and resources to library patrons.

Starting situation

Public libraries, particularly small libraries and/or those located in rural communities are often underfunded and/or do not have staff with the necessary skills to create and maintain websites for use by their patrons.

Libraries provide a number of information services (e.g. online, live reference chat) and resources (e.g. electronic versions of magazines, journals, etc). Without websites, patrons are limited to accessing these services and resources to when they are can physically visit their libraries and are limited to the hours their library is opened.

Approach and proposed solution

In 2003, Plinkit began as a two-year LSTA grant, "InformACTion", with the goals of providing content management tools, great web site subject collections, and ways to deliver vital community information through small and medium-size public libraries in Oregon. InformACTion was supported in whole or part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library and sponsored by the Multnomah County Library under the direction of Eva Miller.

During this phase of the project, the hardware and software infrastructure was put in place, the initial Plinkit template and content were developed, and partner libraries were identified and trained to use Plinkit.

In the fall of 2005, the Plinkit project was transferred to Library Development Services of the Oregon State Library. Darci Hanning, the newly hired Technology Development Consultant, began working with Plone and Plinkit. A technical evaluation of Plinkit was completed and work began in upgrading Plone, identifying and implementing content and template improvements, creating a training manual for library staff, and fleshing out the Oregon Plinkit site as a resource for library staff.

In the spring of 2006, discussions for a multi-state effort led to the creation of the Plinkit Collaborative. As of July 2009, over 250 libraries in Colorado, Illinois, Oregon and Texas were using Plinkit as their website. More libraries continue to sign up for the project.

Was created a content-rich template site which and that can be deployed for any library who can then modify and expand upon the existing content. Content included for the site should be based on best-practices for public library websites, require little training to maintain, and provide a platform for additional features.

Summary of technologies and project tools used

Plinkit is based on Plone, an open source content management system, chosen as flexible and customizable. In addition to the core features that come with Plone, a number of Plone Products (or "add-ons") and custom templates are used to create a full Plinkit site. Plone itself makes use of the Zope application server a robust, well supported open source software package written in the Python programming language.

Community governance model

The structure of the Collaborative includes:

  • Steering Committee Roles and Responsibilities. This group includes one voting representative from each state library agency or other organization involved. In order to be a voting member of the Steering Committee, a state library agency or other organization must meet the following criteria:

  • Contribute the specified annual participation fee to the central fund for the project
  • Be actively implementing Plinkit in their state or among their membership
  • Assist with marketing the initiative to other state library agencies or organizations as needed

    The Steering Committee is charged with providing overall guidance and direction for the Plinkit initiative, setting policy, gathering input from the Project Coordinators Committee and the Technical Group, approving major expenditures, setting annual participation fees for participating organizations, and managing the finances for the initiative.

    The Steering Committee designates a Chair, who has the following responsibilities:

    • Calls Steering Committee meetings at least twice a year or more frequently as needed

    • Monitors finances

    • Authorizes expenditures

  • Project Coordinator Committee Roles and Responsibilities. This group is comprised of one representative from each state library agency or other organization involved in the Plinkit Collaborative. The representatives are the individuals charged with promoting the use of Plinkit among members of their constituency and training library staff to use Plinkit. This Committee reports to the Steering Committee. The Project Coordinators Committee is charged with:

    • Exchanging information about the use of Plinkit by their constituents.

    • Sharing any materials created to support Plinkit that might be useful to other organizations.

    • Working with the User Advisory Group to gather suggestions for further developing the Plinkit software and to get feedback.

    • Gathering additional suggestions from the broader Plinkit user community using surveys and other means.

    • Prioritizing work on the software; in fulfilling these responsibilities, the Project Coordinators Committee works closely with the Technical Group.

    The Project Coordinators Committee designates a Chair, who has the following responsibilities:

  • Calls Project Coordinators Committee meetings at least quarterly, or more frequently as needed.
  • Serves as the official communications liaison to the Technical Group and the User Advisory Group.
  • Serves as the convener of the User Advisory Group.
  • Summarizes recommendations of the Project Coordinators Committee and communicates them to the Steering Committee.
  • Technical Group Roles and Responsibilities. This group is comprised of one representative from each state library agency or other organization involved in the Plinkit initiative. The representatives are the individuals who run the day-to-day technical operation of the Plinkit software for their constituency and are responsible for any software updates and hardware maintenance. The Technical Group is charged of:

  • Exchanging information about Plinkit technical operations of Plinkit at their location and
  • Making recommendations to the Project Coordinators Committee about software enhancements that improve the efficiency of the software itself or its management.

In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Technical Group works closely with the Project Coordinators Committee. The Technical Group designates a Chair, who has the following responsibilities:

  • Calls Technical Group meetings at least quarterly, or more frequently as needed.
  • Serves as the official communications liaison to the Project Coordinators Committee.
  • Summarizes recommendations of the Technical Group and communicates them to the Project Coordinators Committee.
  • User’s Advisory Group Roles and Responsibilities. This group is comprised of individuals representing libraries/organizations that are using Plinkit to create their websites. The group includes at least two representatives from each member state or regional organization, and meets twice a year. The Plinkit Advisory Group is charged with advising the Project Coordinators Committee on any needed bug fixes and making suggestions for enhancing Plinkit in ways that better serve the organizations actually using it to create websites.

Each of these groups has one person from each member organization.

Licensing. The Plone Content Management System freely is available under the GPL Plinket software is distributed to member libraries at the state level which provide a set of centralized services to adopting libraries in their state. Copies of the software are released to individual libraries upon request.

Memoranda of Understanding. Members providing the Plinket software as a hosted service to local libraries enter into a Memoranda of Undertanding (MOU) for access to services, assistance in deployment, training, the provision of dynamic content (such as popular book reviews), and training.

Community operating model

The Plinkit Community is comprised of cooperative members; local and special libraries; software development vendor, and the open source communites of Plone and Zope.

Cooperative members participate in the governance of the project, local libraries have input through the user group. The Plinkit library community members play a very active role in the ongoing initiative through the formal governance processes.

Software developement is done through a contracted vendor. Membership fees for the member organizations fund software development, trainings, and other shared needs. Lyrasis, a regional membership organization for libraries and information professionals provides acts as fiscal agent for the project.

The Plinkit Collaborative Steering Committee will consider email letters of interest from any state library agency or regional organization at any time that may wish to participate in the project.

Model of knowledge transfer

Extensive documentation exists through the Plinket Collaborative website (http://www.plinkit.org). In addition to the “public facing” part of the website used to advertise/market the project, there is a member-only section of the site where project resources are hosted.

These resources include:

  • Plinkit 2.0 User’s Manual (intended for library staff)

  • Plinkit Administrator’s Manual (intended for those responsible for setting up, customizing, and maintaining Plinkit sites)

  • Marketing and additional training materials generated by members and shared within the Collaborative

  • Technical tips and tricks

  • Graphical assets, presentations materials, etc.

Training model

Currently the Collaborative provides an electronic copy of the Plinkit Administrator's Manual to each partner. Additional resources (preview) and a mailing list are made available through the Collaborative website (access is limited to partners that join the Collaborative). If additional training is needed, there are a number of professional Plone instructors and consulting firms that will provide training.


Planning and communication is done via monthly teleconference calls and via mailing lists.

Tools used to create the community

A community portal was developed to create the community. Commercial web conferencing tools are provided by members with such to support meetings.

Change management

Recommendations for changes or enhancements to the sofrware are made through the committee process (see Community Governance). Project management for software development is managed by a third-party Plone consulting company.

Project management for non software development tasks is handled informally with tasks lists, due dates, and assigned resources. Planning and communication is done via monthly teleconference calls and via mailing lists


The project has grown from a single effort to a national collaboration with over 250 public libraries participating in 2009. Currently the project includes Members: Colorado State Library, Illinois Regional Library Systems, The Lyrasis, Library of Michigan, Oregon State Library, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Library of Virginia.

Libraries in the following states are eligible to use Plinkit by way of Lyrasis, a multi-state library services cooperative: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Main, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virgin Islands and West Virginia.

Other special applications areas now using Plinkit include The Colorado Supreme Court Library in Denver serving Colorado judges and staff from all over the state and is also open to the general public; the Platte Valley Youth Service Center Library in Greeley which helps incarcerated males and females age 10 to 20.


Shared investment and a model of central services within a regional footprint is possible through the initiative’s approach and structure. This realizes the benefits of the economies of scale while localizing support and addressing some needs which may be specific to a system of libraries within a particular region. In general, libraries are able to provide remote access to the large number of electronic resources and services through a website, with implicit value to those local communities.

Key aspects to success

Formal governance; a central fiscal agent to manage expenses; sharing of documentation and practices; encouraging outreach and promotion by its members are key factors in the projects stability and growth.

Lessons learned

A fiscal agent was established to manage shared investments a multi-state library services cooperative.


Barriers encountered in the implementation of the community

Not identified

Barriers in the maintenance of the community

Membership fees for participation have stabilized the project financially but slow adoption in some states.

Executive summary

The Plinket Collaborative community generates and supports web authoring environment that libraries in partnership with states/regional organizations use to create new web sites for their patrons. It also creates shared content and other generic information that can be provided through the web sites that are valuable to library patrons.

The Collaborative provides identifies requirements unique to library needs in a highly collaborative manner through a formal and inclusive governance model. The actual technical development of the templates and tools based upon the Plone and Zopei platforms is done by a third party contractor, so the code generated is done by a directed effort rather than an open source style development effort. Plone and Zope are both traditional open source projects.

Formal governance; a central fiscal agent to manage expenses; sharing of documentation and practices; encouraging outreach and promotion by its members are key factors in the projects stability and growth.