[Web4lib] blue sky thinking

Houghton, Sarah houghton at plsinfo.org
Tue Jul 25 12:54:20 EDT 2006

You are absolutely right Roy.  Libraries should not allow themselves to be hamstrung by sloppy, ugly domain names (often city, county, state, or university URLs from hades like overlylonglibraryname.mycity.state.us) or by ridiculous server restrictions put in place by the IT department.
Often times the people who recognize the problems inherent in local hosting solutions are the library's in-house webbies and techies.  And we do our best to explain this to our directors.  We troll out issues of usability testing, branding, Web 2.0, how the library simply has different needs than other departments, the need for a dynamic presence, you name it.  Ultimately, though, the decision to stay on the other entity's server or with their domain name structure is 100% political.  And directors don't want to risk irritating their own bosses or the institution's IT departments.  I'm not saying that's okay.  It's absolutely not.  But that's the reality.  
There is an element of the library wanting to play nicely with the other children.  "We're part of the city/county/university family; we have to show that we're team players, even if that means having a crap website." 
But there is also a real reticence for libraries to outsource.  I can hear directors across the vast fields of libraryland saying "Why would we pay X company to host our website when the city/county/university is doing it right here for us in-house and we know them?"  Even if the in-house solution is substandard, many directors would rather stick with that than pay to outsource.  Again, back to the politics of it, but also the element of the unknown.  Many libraries may feel that the process of outsourcing is a complicated one--that moving content from server A to server B is an insurmountable task.  That the company you choose may go out of business in a couple of years.
How would you, Roy or anyone else, suggest that we address these concerns and successfully advocate for a library director to support a move to get the library's web presence off of a substandard server and/or into a better domain?  I ask in all seriousness, having been down this road myself twice.
Sarah Houghton


From: web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org on behalf of Roy Tennant
Sent: Tue 7/25/2006 9:23 AM
To: 'Web4Lib (web4lib at webjunction.org)'
Subject: Re: [Web4lib] blue sky thinking

I would be surprised if no library had yet thought to do this, but perhaps
they haven't. I would argue, however, that if a library could register a
useful domain (perhaps something in the .org or .info space) that they
should host ALL of their pages on that server.

I have rented a Unix server from 1and1.com for quite a while now, and have
found this hosted solution to be extremely reliable. On that server are the
following domains: roytennant.com, omacl.org, freelargephotos.com, and
techessence.info. No one would ever know this without research into each

The server came with a number of applications installed "out of the box",
plus I have added a number of others such as Drupal, Swish-e, AWStats, and

I have long puzzled over libraries that languish unsupported and hamstrung
by local IT outfits that simultaneously require all requests to go through
them and routinely deny them all. Libraries must vote with their feet and
remove themselves from dysfunctional situations that prevent them from doing
what they need to be doing.

Rent a server, by all means, and do it yourselves. It really isn't that hard
at all.

On 7/25/06 9:08 AM, "Mark Gilman" <mgilman at dallaslibrary.org> wrote:

> Hi,
> This is just blue sky thinking and not pertaining to any institution in
> particular.  What if an institution wanted to gain the benefits that accrue
> to libraries that have excellent server access and support in, say, a LAMP
> (Linux / MySQL / Apache / Php & PERL) environment but had limited means and
> possibilities.  Is there any reason why something like this scenario
> wouldn't work?
> 1)  buy cheap space on a Linux shared hosting server that provides root
> access such as
>       http://www.spry.com/plesk-vps/ <http://www.spry.com/plesk-vps/>  /
> http://support.jodohost.com/showthread.php?t=1726
> <http://support.jodohost.com/showthread.php?t=1726>  /
> http://www.linode.com/products/linodes.cfm
> <http://www.linode.com/products/linodes.cfm>
> 2) identify open source tools that significantly expand capabilities (i.e.
> Content Management Systems or other database server driven tools)
> 3)  either install and configure these tools oneself or simply outsource it
> to someone via a site like http://www.elance.com/ <http://www.elance.com/>
> 4) point a DNS at this server only for those pages that rely upon the LAMP
> environment, but leave everything else "in situ".  What would be the best
> way to do that? Could www2.yoursite.com be made to point to a different
> server from www.yoursite.com <http://www.yoursite.com>  (the difference
> being the insertion of the Arabic numberal two just after the www, or is
> that not workable?)
> Apart from the obvious potential downwides (i.e. the guy who bids the job
> proves not be sufficiently capable) is there a fly in this ointment?  Seems
> like the upside would be to enable public libraries to participate in some
> of the innovation that academic libraries are able to access by virtue of
> being embedded in technically forward looking environments with lots of
> computer science folks running around pushing the envelope, etc.
> Regards,
> Mark
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