6 min read

(For more resources on Plone, see here.)

Faculty/Staff Directory is practically a departmental web site in a box, but it doesn’t stop there. The product is general enough to serve in non-academic settings as well. It is also not limited to people; it has been repurposed to such diverse applications as cataloguing tea leaves. It really is a general-purpose taxonomy engine—albeit with an academic bent in many of its naming choices.

This article is an exploration of a product that will likely provide the framework for much of your site. We’ll tour its features, get ideas on how they’re commonly used in a school setting, and, finally, get a sneak peek into the future of the product.

Install the product

Faculty/Staff Directory depends on several other products: membrane, Relations, and archetypes.schemaextender. Thus, the easiest way to get it, as documented in its readme, is by adding Products.FacultyStaffDirectory to your buildout.cfg, like so:

[buildout]eggs =
...(other eggs)...

Then, shut down Zope, and run buildout.

After starting up Zope again, install FacultyStaffDirectory in the Add-on Products control panel, and you’re ready to go.

Test drive Faculty/Staff Directory

Faculty/Staff Directory (FSD) is tremendously flexible; you can use it as a simple list of phone numbers or as the foundation supporting the rest of your site. In this section, we take FSD for a spin, with ample pit stops along the way to discuss alternative design possibilities. Keep in mind that FSD’s features are given to creative repurposing. We’ll not only see their typical uses but some more inventive ones as well.

Create a directory and choose global roles

Faculty/Staff Directory centers around the idea of collecting people in a central folder called, fittingly, a faculty/staff directory. Our first step is to create that folder. Once you’ve installed FSD in the Add-on Products control panel, choose a place in your site where you would like to place a personnel directory, and add a faculty/staff directory there.

Plone 3 for Education

You’ll be prompted for two things: Title (which is usually something like People) and a selection of Roles.

Plone 3 for Education

These roles, part of FSD’s optional user-and-group integration, are granted site-wide to all people in the directory. Thus, as with the similarly scoped roles in the Users and Groups control panel, it’s best to use them sparingly: choose only Member or, if you don’t intend the people represented in your Directory to log in, no roles at all. Most roles should be assigned on a per-folder basis using the Sharing tab, and FSD provides facilities for that as well, as we discuss later in the Integrate users and groups section.

Add people

Now that you have a place to keep them, it’s time to add actual personnel. FSD represents people through the aptly named Person type. A fully tricked-out person might look like this:

Plone 3 for Education

People, without exception, live directly inside the faculty/staff directory—though they often appear to be elsewhere, as we will soon see. Each person can track the following information:

Basic Information


Access Account ID

Doubling as the object ID (or “short name”) of the person, this field should contain the person’s institution-wide login name. If you choose to take advantage of FSD’s user-and-group integration, this is how logged-in users are matched with their Person objects.

The name of this field and its validation requirements can be changed (and should be, in most deployments) in the Faculty/Staff Directory control panel under Site Setup.


First, middle, and last names, as well as a suffix such as Ph. D or Jr.


A picture of the person in GIF, JPEG, or PNG format, for use on their page and in some listings. It will be automatically scaled as necessary.


Classifications are FSD’s most prominent way to group people. This is a convenient place to assign one or more when creating a person.


Another way of grouping people. See Group People, below, for an in-depth comparison of all the various types of groupings.


If the Person objects provide user passwords option in the FSD control panel is on, one can log into the Plone site using the Access Account ID as a username and the contents of this field as a password.

Personal Assistant(s)

Other people who should have access to edit this person’s information (excluding password and the fields under User Settings).

Contact Information



This email address is run through Plone’s spam armoring, as yet not widely cracked, before being displayed to visitors. An alternative armoring method (“somebody AT here DOT edu”) is available from the FSD control panel under Site Setup.

Street Address



Postal Code


The required format of the Office Phone field, along with its example text, can be set in the FSD control panel-a must for installations outside the United States and Canada.

Professional Information


Job Titles

As many job titles as you care to provide, one per line. These are all listed on the person’s page.


A rich text field for the person’s biographical information. Since this field can contain all the formatting you can muster-headings, images, and all-it is a wonderful thing to abuse. Fill it with lists of published journal articles, current projects, and anything else appropriate to show on the person’s page.


A plain text field where every line represents a conferred degree, certification, or such.

Web Sites

A list of URLs, one per line, to display on the person’s page. There is no option to provide link text for these URLs, so you may wish to embed links in the Biography field instead.



The committees and specialties to which this person belongs. See the full discussion of FSD’s various methods of grouping people under Group People, below.

User Settings



Content Editor

If you leave FSD’s user-and-group integration enabled for the Person type, these duplications of the standard Plone options will apply. Integration can be disabled on a type-by-type basis in the FSD control panel under Site Setup.

That’s a lot of information, but you can fill out only what you’ll use. Fields left blank will be omitted from directory pages, labels and all. For more thorough customization, you can write a Faculty/Staff Directory extender product to hide inapplicable fields from your content providers or to collect information that FSD doesn’t ordinarily track.

Here’s how to add people to the directory:

  1. From within the directory, pull down the Add new… menu, and choose Person.
  2. Fill out some of the person’s attributes. Be sure to assign at least one classification to each person, but don’t worry about departments, specialties, or committees yet, as we’re about to cover them in detail.

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