Adding dynamic library content to your WordPress site

WordPress is the content management system (CMS) that now powers an estimated 39.5% of all websites, including more than a few library sites.

A big part of the ongoing appeal of building WordPress-based websites is its usability and extensibility. Because of the range of features, plugins and documentation available, you donโ€™t need to be a developer to add the functionality that you require to your WordPress site. And you can easily add new content, which is something that not all CMSs deliver as much as youโ€™d expect.

But content comes in many forms and we are big proponents of the create once, publish everywhere (COPE) approach.  

As your website is often the first point of contact for your services and resources, it’s important to offer a dynamic and current web presence. And, as an added bonus, dynamic content can also boost search engine optimisation to help bring users to your site.

Writing new blog posts is at the core of the WordPress CMS, and is a key way to make your site a reliable source of information, but you can also draw on content from other sources to keep users updated. 

Things like social media feeds, catalogue or other collections sites and research guides all provide potential sources of reusable content, and they can be added to your site with the help of a plugin.

Embedded content using OEmbed

WordPress has some pretty impressive built-in support for embedding content using the oEmbed standard. You can use the Block Editor to add an embed block using the URL of supported content. This includes videos (YouTube, Vimeo, TikTok, even TED), social media, Slideshare slides and lots more. You can view the full list here.

Another way you can embed content is via RSS. But more on that below.

Adding Catalogue data

Your library catalogue is a prime source of content for your WordPress site. Using the free Library bookshelves plugin by Guilderland Public Library you can, for example, create a virtual themed shelf in the same way that you would with a physical display.

This plugin supports an impressive list of systems,including BiblioCommons, Koha, Overdrive and Worldcat. (You can view the full list of supported systems here).

OpenBook Book Data plugin is another option. This plugin uses Open Library’s API to add book data (titles, covers, authors and more) into your WordPress site, and provides an alternative to linking to Amazon for book data and reviews. You can read all about using OpenBook data in your site in this Code4Lib journal article. 

Journal content and reading lists

There are lots of ways to repurpose RSS-based content within your site.

Syndication plugins such as WP Pipes and Feedzy allow you to repurpose and curate RSS content from other sites and convert them into posts, pages or even a custom content type. For example, you could include a list of the latest journal content, either from a particular publication or based on new items added, as many catalogues also allow you to save searches in RSS formats.

There are also RSS aggregators that import and display content on your site. WP RSS aggregator will embed a feed of content into a page.

While both approaches have their use cases, RSS Pipes has the added bonus of reminding us of Yahoo pipes (RIP) and you can do some interesting things with it.

You can even use content from that ever-evolving, open source, citation management powerhouse Zotero. Zotpress is a plugin by Katie Seaborn that lets you display both personal and group Zotero items such as a reading list or bibliography through in-text citations and searchable libraries. You can even include thumbnail images (via WP media library and Open Library).

What about OAI-PMH?

Good question. Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is an interoperability standard, particularly for repositories and other online archive collections. Itโ€™s a great way to get metadata from one system and republish it in another but the support within WordPress is limited. This is something we’ve been grappling with recently and are now working on a solution for WordPress. Watch this space. 

Ultimately, your website should be a pathway to your resources and services, and a well-chosen plugin that creates dynamic content from different sources is a useful way of ensuring your site is engaging for users. And while there is a fair amount of snake oil-ness in the world of SEO, having regular, interesting content is a good way of finding and engaging users (and letting them find you).