Are you tired of learning platforms rather than skills? Frustrated with over-bloated systems? Siloed by the tools you know and the tools you don’t?
It might be time to explore the Lib-Static approach, a development methodology that leverages static web technologies and librarian skills to create engaging web publications hosted on minimal infrastructure.
This site highlights the Models, Concepts, and Communities that can enable Lib-Static projects to transform how you do digital in libraries, sharing viable static web solutions for infrastructure problems of all sizes.
Many of us started on a static web approach because we were frustrated with the library systems we used daily.
We spent extensive efforts setting up heavy database driven platforms (or paid 3rd parties to do so), and found ourselves giving up control over our data, being locked into proprietary contracts, and excluded from development decisions. Our time was consumed with maintaining complex system overhead, rather than on collaborating with researchers, creating data, and providing high quality access to users.
We started to see that there were ways to build these systems and tools that could reverse these opportunity costs, leveraging and building the skills of librarians and cultural heritage workers to put the unique resources and values of the institution at the forefront of project design decisions.
Static Web Opportunities
Informed by the philosophy of minimal computing, the Lib-Static methodology centers digital infrastructure approaches around the unique needs, values, and opportunities of libraries and other GLAM organizations. Simply stated, Lib-Static approaches seek to apply the techniques of the modern static web to solve problems in the digital library/digital scholarship ecosystem.
The Lib-Static approach focuses on practical, sustainable workflows using data-driven static web templates hosted on simplified infrastructure while leveraging (and building) the in-house specialized skills of librarians in metadata, data, and organization. This provides librarians unique agency and ownership over their systems, as well as meaningful opportunities for professional development leading to fundamental digital skills.
Static Web in Context
Since around 2015 static site generators and the “JAM Stack” approach have exploded in the web development landscape–utilizing simplified markup, plain text data files, and web APIs to create complete websites without the need for complex server-side software, databases, or content management systems.
Rather than a relying on server-side processing to generate a dynamic page on the fly for each user request, static web tools “pre-render” every page into HTML, CSS, and JS files that can be delivered directly to users with high performance, efficiency, and security from the most basic web servers or services. The modern static web approach provides high performance for users, minimal infrastructure requirements for IT, and lower barriers for developers.
The simplified infrastructure and development environment of static web approaches are uniquely suited to enable:
- Periods of focused development and collaboration, followed by much longer periods minimal maintenance.
- Project work focusing on creating data independent of platform, which simplifies the initial infrastructure decision points and overhead while ensuring preservation and migration ready content.
- Rapid design and data iterations–building projects in smaller steps allows data to be published faster, getting feedback earlier with less initial investment required and the opportunity for phases of progressive enhancement.
- A focus on modular components, templates, and recipes that encourage learning investment on one project leading to efficiencies on another, building complementary work that powers further research and learning.
- Public documentation and sharing, making investment more reusable while creating artifacts of learning alongside research and publications.
It Ain’t Perfect
We recognize that there will be learning curves and frustrations in the development and use of any system, regardless of its underlying methodology. Lib-Static acknowledges that all digital projects require investment in learning and seeks to maximize the local impact and value of learning during the process, while establishing technical solutions and social workflows that more closely match the structure of library work cycles and needs.
Things will still break. You may still have the urge to pound your head on the monitor while learning and debugging.
But for us, the Lib-Static community, there’s something powerful to this approach, and we wanted to share with any of you that might be interested