This week we're shining a spotlight on a converation from our user listserv that endevours to answer a question we get a lot at the Islandora Foundation: How many people does it take to run an Islandora site? With detailed responses from five active Islandora sites (plus a recomendation for a new tool to make things easier still), it was a very fruitful thread.
The initial question comes from the Rochester Institute of Technology, who are evalutating Islandora as a possible DAMS solution:
We're currently looking into DAMS at our institutions and while we like Islandora, as an open source platform, we're not sure we have the staff to support it. To better help us gauge the kind of resources we'd need, how many, and what kind of staff were involved in your set-up processes? How many staff are involved in running day-to-day management/maintenance? Any comment/insights you have are greatly appreciated!
David Keiser-Clark offers ISLE as a near-future solution to make the installation and maintenance process much easier for small institutions:
ISLE is a new project in development -- funded by 17 higher-ed institutions plus Born-Digital -- that will address one of the most significant pain-points in Islandora: installation and maintenance. ISLE separates an institution’s customizations from core code, and moves that core code into Docker containers that are easily updated, simplifying and largely automating the process of installation and updates/maintenance of Islandora. ISLE also bundles together the best shared modules into a common, production-ready and security-hardened platform.
ISLE lowers the barrier to entry for new institutions because it greatly reduces the complexity and expense to create an Islandora stack. It also introduces a significant reduction of time required to maintain Islandora servers, while at the same time providing far more security.
ISLE will further extend Islandora so that it may effectively be setup and maintained by a tiny staff. Our hope is that ISLE will remove completely the boundary to setting up an Islandora stack. With a little reading ANYONE can do it.
ISLE (for the current Islandora 7x version) is open-source and is expected to be released and available for public use at the end of Feb 2018.
Bryan Brown explains how Florida State University has handled it as part of a consortium:
FSU, like a lot of institutions, leverages Islandora as part of a consortium. Islandora is really great when used in a multi-site way, meaning you set up one Islandora instance and it can be used for several institutions. We are part of a consortium called Florida Virtual Campus (https://libraries.flvc.org/) that supports lots of public universities and colleges in the state of Florida, but there are many other consortial Islandora instances to look into.I only bring up the consortial aspect because it definitely affects the amount of staffing we need to keep our Islandora running. FLVC employs:- 2 sysadmins (one specializing in Drupal/Apache/PHP, and the other specializing in Java/Tomcat/Fedora)- 1 developer (specializes in Drupal/PHP and Solr stuff)- 1 staff (specializes in writing documentation, testing, communication with stakeholders)- 1 part time project managerThis keeps our Islandora up and running, gets bugs fixed, and keeps certain state-wide projects chugging along. Most member institutions don't employ developers to contribute to Islandora development, but FSU is a special case. We have 2 developers on staff and contribute back to consortial work and Islandora community work. Both developers have lots of other projects to work on, but between the two of us we probably constitute one full-time developer. We also have a metadata librarian and digital librarian on staff who contribute a bit of time to Islandora administration work and projects, and we have a full time staff member to manage the IR and take care of things like submission management and putting out small fires.FSU has a lot of development needs that other institutions may not, though, so I wouldn't consider developers to be as crucial to the process as system administrators. Its okay for me to say that because I'm one of the non-crucial developers :)
I think the key thing is your team will really depend on your needs.
If you want a lot of customization you'll probably want a developer dedicate to help create that. But if the out of the box tooling covers most of your use cases then you could conceivably contract out for any small work you want done.
We at the U of M have:
- the campus IT server team for new virtual servers and ongoing support patching of servers
- 2 1/2 developers
customization/development, bulk ingests, larger scale data fixes, community projects
- 1 project manager
though its probably around 50% of her time directly for Islandora
Our clients (archivists, librarians, and university staff) handle doing QA on bulk ingests and do their own small ingests and data correction.
Here at Vassar, there are two of us:
* Carolyn Moritz, our new and amazing digital technologies development librarian, and
* me (head of digital scholarship & technology services, and the person that brought Islandora to our campus about 6 years ago)We also have a digital lab and a production manager for creation and ingest of digital images.We have limited campus support for our work -- we have a wonderful systems administrator that keeps our servers secured, air conditioned, and patched at the OS level. However, we have a contract with DiscoveryGarden (hi, Nelson!) that we feel like helps extend our team. DGI helps maintain the Islandora stack through upgrades, watchful eyes over Tomcat/Java issues and security, and overall lifeline if we need help.Carolyn and I write and maintain scripts to help move our site forward as much as we can. We also do the UI ourselves, leveraging Drupal's many themes to create child themes from them. Other customization work centers on the UI and Solr, forms for ingest (e.g., crosswalks for new/extended fields), and exploring Islandora Scholar.Carolyn and I both have fairly good knowledge of a variety of technologies, and often write our own scripts, modules, etc., to get the job done, but I think without those skill sets we could still manage Islandora as long as we had a plan for our systems-level needs. Some of the work we've done just helps make our job easier, but honestly the past six years has seen so much of that work (for me) wane -- as our community has grown and new features became core, I really shed a lot of my own custom code in favor of more and more out-of-the-box work.I agree with the prior responses in that having a good understanding of the Islandora stack and being able to make that work as streamlined as possible is incredibly important. ISLE, as David noted, is trying to make that easier for organizations that want to adopt Islandora but don't have the systems-level resources available. Having a plan for this piece + leveraging the amazing work of the Islandora community, I think, is a good step forward for any institution looking to adopt Islandora.
We launched our instance of Islandora in June of 2017 and our institution is fairly small with a total staff of twenty-five. For the installation and migration process (we had an existing DAMS that was end-of-life), the team consisted of our IT Manager (project manager), Technical Consultant, and two contracted development agencies. We also hired a full-time Project Assistant to handle the day-to-day work of migration.
Now that we’ve launched, we run with two staff members in the IT Department (IT Manager and Digital Collections Manager) and the Technical Consultant. Some parts of the year are busier than others (i.e. when we’re testing new customizations or loading large projects), but the Digital Collections Manager generally averages 20 hours a week working on and in the DAMS.
And finally, Robin Naughton explains how the New York Acdemy of Medicine used vendor support to get up and running quickly:
At the Academy, we tackled a similar question and decided to get vendor-hosted Islandora solution. This allowed us to get up and running quickly. It also handled the initial installation and continued support maintenance.We had two full-time staff (myself and digital technical specialist) who did the hands-on work (administration, ingest, etc.) to get our Islandora system launched in June 2017. Currently, we’re down to myself, but the support of the community and our support contract helps with maintenance.Overall, it comes down to your needs and the kind of solution you need to accomplish your goals. One of our challenges is customization and taking advantage of new modules. If you expect that you’ll need to customize, then it’s important to think about the expertise on the staff and how that can be leveraged.