The Reference Portal
The Reference Portal is a departmental intranet that is designed to consolidate web resources, services, and assessment tools for reference librarians. You can take it for a test run here (username: portal, password: test), and download the files here.
What Does It Do?
The Reference Portal is designed to remain opened on the reference desk computer during reference hours. It privides links to web resources and assessment tools that every reference librarian can benefit from:
- Meebo.com: A popular instant messaging client among librarians for providing chat reference.
- PmWiki.org: An open source wiki that can be used as a knowledge management tool for reference staff.
- Your reference desk schedule: Just upload a PDF copy of your reference desk schedule every week for the convenience of your reference staff.
- Google Calendar: A great online calendar that can be used to keep track of dates and events of interest to your reference staff.
- Administrative information: A web page for displaying frequently needed information and important procedures.
- Del.icio.us: A social bookmarking tool that can be used to organize reference resources on the web for easy retrieval.
The Reference Portal offers tools to aid in the evaluation of three library public services:
- Reference questions can be recorded electronically and archived on the web for qualitative or quantitative analysis. (Note: Entered questions will be timestamped according to the timezone set on your server.)
- Workshops and instruction sessions can be recorded, including the information literacy standards that were met.
How Do I Use It?
The Reference Portal requires very little tinkering to get it ready for use. The download contains multiple files that are zipped into one compressed file called portal.zip, which also includes all of the necessary PmWiki.org files. Installing the portal only requires access to a php-enabled web server and a smidgen of UNIX and HTML know-how. The following steps will get you up and running in no time!
- Click the "Download" button (above) to download portal.zip.
- Upload portal.zip to the web directory on your php-enabled server.
- To extract the files, enter unzip portal.zip from the UNIX command line.
- This will create a directory called portal containing all of the files for the portal (and PmWiki).
- Now you'll want to change the username and password for the portal's login feature from
the preset "portal" and "test".
Open the index.php file and scan through the code until you find the following indicator:
CHANGE USERNAME AND PASSWORD HERE -> -> ->.
- Next, you'll want to change the information on the admin.php page to reflect your library's policies.
- Finally, upload a PDF version of your reference desk schedule to the portal directory on your server using your favorite FTP client. The PDF must be named schedule.pdf.
- At this point the Reference Portal is ready for use. Feel free to customize the links to the web resources by changing the URLs in the iframe HTML tags as indicated in the index.php file: URL TO MEEBO HERE -> -> ->.
Congratulations! You're now up and running. Once a month you will need to move the questions, workshops, and instruction data from their "view" files (e.g. viewquestions.html) to their respective "archive" files (e.g. questionarchive.html). The simplest way to do this is to open the "view" page in your browser, view the source code, and copy the HTML containing the data you want to archive. In the code for each "archive" file you will find indicators such as: ARCHIVE DATA GOES BELOW and ARCHIVE DATA GOES ABOVE. You will paste the HTML code containing the data you want to archive between these comments (be sure there are no line breaks within the HTML tags).
Questions or Comments?
Please drop me an email at if you have any suggestions, problems, or feedback. If you make improvements to the code or add functionality I'd love to hear about it. I'd also like to develop an FAQ here based on the comments that I get from users, so let me know what you think!