www.answerland.org

Answerland lets everyone in Oregon chat online with a librarian, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I created this site as part of my job as Oregon Statewide Digital Reference Service Coordinator, starting with Drupal 4.7 in 2006 and migrating and updating the site to Drupal 7 in 2013.

My roles in this project were product manager and full-stack developer. As product manager, I worked with an information architect and visual designer to ensure that the site communicated Answerland's purpose and goals. As developer, I implemented their designs and integrated the Drupal site with external services, including an Openfire XMPP server, the Text-A-Librarian text messaging service, the OCLC QuestionPoint chat reference system and the libraryh3lp chat reference system.

I developed a custom scheduling module to help the service schedule individuals for chat reference ships, APIs for importing and exporting data to partner services and an anti-troll system to prevent groups of mischievous users from disrupting the service.

The site includes an extensive staff-only area that manages scheduling, the scheduled retention and destruction of reference transcript records, allows librarians to send follow-up answers to users over email and generates reports for staff.

The responsive design emphasizes the opportunity to text with or email a librarian to mobile users.

The biggest challenge building the site was implementing the information architect's vision of sharing information about the librarian during the chat. This feature allows library users to make more personal connections with Answerland librarians. When the chat is initiated, a profile picture of the chatting librarian and brief information about her location is shown to the user, along with a link to the librarian's full profile that details her interests and expertise. Since the chat features were external to Drupal, I used a combination of JavaScript and shell scripting to link Drupal with the external Openfire XMPP server.