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About the Library Websites

The Library's websites are an extensive collection of information spanning the breadth of services ICPL has to offer. We strive to make the sites an online version of the Library, to provide what services are available online and any information that may be of use to the Iowa City and surrounding Johnson county community. All of the markup, programming, and graphic design work on the site is done in-house by Library staff.

Art and Windows

Our Sites

We actually provide a collection of websites to the public, each with its own focus and interface. The main ICPL website is the hub of our online efforts and contains general information about the Library and the surrounding community. It's also available in a mobile format that's friendly to smartphones and other Internet-compatible devices. We serve our younger patrons through the ICPL Teens and KidSpace sites, both which have been tailored to their audience.

Our catalog is also currently presented as a separate site where patrons can access their Library card account and search our collections. We are aware of the many requests to combine the catalog with the main website, and options are being discussed on how to best support ICPL patrons with that in mind.

There are also two additional Wordpress blog sites styled to look like the main website. The Staff Picks Blog provides reading reviews and recommendations written by Library staff. It was previously hosted as the "Collection Blog." The Newsroom is a new addition to our sites; it centralizes all of our news and public relations media in one convenient location.

Other Social Media

ICPL is active online in a number of other social-networking, "Web 2.0" ways. We maintain a presence on both Facebook and MySpace. Videos of Library activities can be found at our YouTube Library Channel. You can also follow us on Twitter or for immediate contact there's the live Reference Chat powered by Meebo (also compatible with most other IM networks).

Browsers and Standards

Get Firefox

This site was designed with W3C and Section 508 standards in mind. Whenever possible, these standards were employed in the development ICPL websites--as long as the use of those technologies did not interfere with the accessibility and use of the websites by our patrons. We will continuously update ICPL websites to current standards as they become available and compatible. For best results, it is recommended that you use the ICPL website with a modern, standards-compliant browser, such as Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari.

We have validated the code we use as XHTML 1.0 Transitional and CSS level 2.1.

Design Philosophy

During the process of designing the current ICPL main website, four main points (in no particular order) all weighed the heaviest in determining the development directions:

  1. Centralize main navigation into one consistent location.
  2. Create a wider, shallower site so more pages are accessible via fewer clicks.
  3. Provide shorter, clearer pages for easier readability and less scrolling.
  4. Convey a warmer, more human impression tied to the Library's own environment.

Our previous website had outgrown its design, and it was no longer easy to get to all of the expanded content that had been made available. The above directives were kept in mind during all of the content restructuring. It's also worth noting that this website was released as a "1.0" foundation with many more additions planned for release in the coming weeks.

Technology

The server employs a "LAMP" solution, in that it runs on a Linux operating system, is served by Apache, stores data in a MySQL database, and is brought together and managed using the PHP scripting language.

The new website released July 1, 2009 includes a variety of enhancements meant to update it to current web development standards. It's still written with XHTML 1.0 and CSS2 in order to maintain backward browser compatibility, but the custom layout and scripts have been replaced with now-standard mainstream libraries to make it easier to maintain in the long term.

The Blueprint CSS framework is used to manage the UI shell structure. The layout and positioning of all the interface elements are managed by Blueprint. The interactive components of the site, including the accordion navigation on the left and all of the slider and carousel blocks, are programmed in Ajax using the jQuery JavaScript Library. jQuery provides very fast and simple methods for performing Ajax operations and includes a vast collection of plugins to suit most any need.

ICPL Event Manager

The online calendar is an application called phxEventManager. It is an open source event system originally based on the functionality of the Meeting Room Booking System and WebCalendar applications, both also open source and released under the GPL. phxEventManager was released to the public at v2.0, which included a complete rewrite of the application's code.

We chose to develop a new calendar in-house because we were unable to find an existing calendar system that completely fit our needs. This is an ongoing project, and many additional features are planned but not yet implemented. phxEventManager is designed to be customizable to fit a wide variety of websites, and includes language support and international date formatting.

phxEventManager is available to the public, currently in beta status while documentation is completed. It is released as a free product under the GPL.