The event planner for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., June 24-29 is now available. Using feedback from a survey conducted last summer, comments heard from some of our active members, and some just plain testing, several of us have worked to improve its performance.
The first big change was to impose naming conventions to the unit – subunit field for each meeting. Divisions were simple. A division like ACRL has the unit field of ACRL and the subunit field for each of its sections; a division without sections, like YALSA, has just the unit field. Then we pulled all of the round tables out from under ALA, so that NMRT, GLBTRT, and SRRT will be found directly. We sorted the Affliates by adding subfields for each of them BCALA, REFORMA, THEATER LA, etc. are now AFL – BCALA, AFL – REFORMA, etc. Finally, we reworked all the ALA-level committees so that they stand on their own, for the most part, and are not listed under the headquarters unit providing staff support. Thus, the Intellectual Freedom Committee is under ALA – IFC, not ALA – OIF, the office that provides the support. This is because OIF also supports the Committee on Professional Ethics, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the Merritt Fund. So, if you are looking for everything sponsored by a committee of interest, start with a search of the unit – subunit.
Next we regularized how meetings are titled, so that when there are committees with the same name, like Membership Committee, we added the acronym. This makes for more text on the print out of your schedule, but if you’re representing your division to another, you’ll know if the meeting is to get input or to present input depending on your role. We hope it will also help with searching.
Then we tackled the on-screen messaging. In our training room, we watched a first-time user of the planner try to complete basic tasks, discussed the missteps, and wrote up new language we hope will be beneficial to all.
Lastly, we tested, and questioned, worked with the vendor, and tested some more.
It should be better than in the past, though there are limitations. The planner runs on a database that does not have authority control as we know it built in. We were also working with a data file that had been prepared weeks earlier by a number of meeting planners and volunteers. All we could do was work on vocabulary control to try to ensure greater consistency of search results.
This may be the last run for this particular planner software, though what we have learned will be helpful as we build a planner into ALA Connect. We’ll still be working with the same meeting planning software, but we have learned a lot about configuring it and writing instructions for the meeting planners.
Do let us know what you think. As indicated on the planner login page, contact Karee Williams, email@example.com, with login and technical questions. I am happy to field the search questions; use firstname.lastname@example.org.