I don’t have a lot of experience in the use of CMS’s, but in my role as a librarian at the Limnology Library at the UW Center for Limnology, my colleague and I were asked by the Center’s staff and students to help them deal with their large, decentralized, unorganized digital photo collection. We ended up selecting an OS digital asset system called ResourceSpace. While not a CMS platform, the selection process we used would be applicable. One question posed in the evaluation was the long-term sustainability of the software.
To help ascertain the long term sustainability of a platform there are a couple of things we looked at in our assessments. We looked at who created the software and how was it being funded. Is it grant-based financial support and if so, is there documentation of a plan for long-term viability. We looked at the quality and extent of documentation. Is there a wiki or some other form of easy to use/search documentation space? How often is the wiki updated? We also looked at how often the software itself is updated and how often those updates occur, as well as how many versions have been released. We looked at developer involvement by seeing if there are forums that are regularly used. Finally we looked at who is using the platform? Is it widely used by many institutions? Are there any large institutions promoting their use of the platform?
In reading about Omeka in the Kucsma et al. article, I was glad to see that the authors highlighted the need for documentation and developer support, and was rather surprised that these aspects of choosing a CMS for a digital project was not mentioned in Pyrounakis and Nikolaidou’s evaluation as something for librarians and other digital project managers should consider when looking at CMS options, especially an open source platform. Perhaps Pyrounakis and Niolaidou felt that the more established systems that they reviewed had such robust documentation and support that these would not be critical in the decision making process, but I feel as though that is a major oversight. I am sure that there are new CMS options developing and on the horizon, but how do you know if it will be one that lasts or fizzles away? It is hard to imagine something like D-space going away, but the online landscape as a whole is ever changing and highly competitive. Things like funding, institutional support and developer buy in are critical to maintaining a well-functioning open source system.