Watershed Web Libraries and Portals

As more organizations put information important to watersheds onto the web, the value of a local, uniting watershed web library grows. A web library is a repository for both the “card catalog” metadata information about resources and the individual documents and resources themselves. Different organizations can create their own “portals” into the library which organize and access the information to advance their own mission and goals. Critical to a portal’s effectiveness are open source (public domain) software tools and an institutionalized effort to support its long-term maintenance.

Unfortunately few organizational missions include direction to build and maintain a collaborative watershed web library. A good solution is for organizations in the watershed to unite in creating a new institutional structure that develops and maintains the local watershed library into which each can have their own portal. As part of the effort to build the Sacramento River Portal, Wolf and Associates developed a series of proposals for sponsorships, steering committee structure, strategic options, and an invitation and agenda for an initial meeting. These are available for public use under the Creative Commons License.

At the core of Wolf and Associates’ watershed library and portal platform is a robust database that uses either MySQL or Posgres. Posgres is better for GIS rich environments, and MySQL is better for document rich libraries. Each is a relational database that meets federal and state standards for metadata but allows the user to expand the tables and fields in the database to meet their ever changing needs. Built into and around the database are tools that allow the cataloging of resources, the linkage of discussion forums, the development of customized directories of organizations and individuals, news archives, , interconnected community calendars, and more. The collection of tools also allow for the ability for each portal to create customized keyword vocabularies, location lists and more.. When used together, this tightly integrated set of tools allows for large and growing collections of information to be created in a way that makes them sustainable, easy-to-search, cheap-to-maintain, collaborative, and scalable.

Security measures can be customized to allow individuals and organizations to work on individual parts of a portal’s web folders, catalogs or other areas while preventing them from accessing other parts of the website. Open source tools allow these individuals to do all changes to their portion of the website without having to own proprietary web software, since all the work is done through the web interface. Parts of the website can be hidden from the public to allow organizations the ability to create their own “intranet” and file sharing system. Once the portal is set up, it is self-sustaining. It doesn’t require a webmaster to make updates and add new content.

Our business model is based on installing and configuring the portal software and customizing it to meet the specific needs of our client’s project. We also help facilitate organizational decision making so that they can best determine how to integrate these powerful tools into their strategic plan. We also provide a hub for the collection of new scripts, tools and other assets that are created in the public domain that could enhance our clients’ web effectiveness. And of course we are available for ongoing programming and other consulting help.

You are welcome to use these documents at www.sacramentoriverportal.org/background to start a web portal and organization in your local watershed. You will need to commit to honoring the open source software licensing requirements. Once you enter the world of open source software, you will be continually amazed at how collaborative, robust, powerful, and effective the software is. No wonder whole countries are switching over to open source programming.

You are also welcome to use the “concept” proposal. Kevin Wolf is developing for consideration by the Yolo County Water Resources Association and member agencies for the SWRCB consolidated grant proposal.

We’re interested in working with groups of stakeholders who could benefit from creating watershed (and other subject matter) libraries and portals. We would like to talk to you further about how we might be able to help you realize an idealistic future for the use of the web to solve existing problems of finding, organizing and accessing information.


Kevin Wolf David Siedband
President Director of Web Development

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