Archive for the ‘ALA Website’ Category

MentorConnect on the Launchpad

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Update: MentorConnect is now live – go to your Connect profile and give it a try!

We’re excited to announce that next week, we plan to launch a new service within ALA Connect called MentorConnect. Now that we’ve finished phase one for the site (collaborative work space, profiles with networking, and offering the ability to create communities that live outside of ALA’s hierarchy), we’re focusing on implementing two new services aimed at members who want to get involved professionally, but not necessarily at the committee level.

The first of those projects is MentorConnect (“MC”), a service that allows ALA members to create mentoring profiles that highlight their expertise and experience. After they’ve joined MC, any ALA member can search for a mentor using a variety of criteria (gender, type of library, ethnicity, etc.) and request mentorship. Once created, the mentorship is tracked within MC, with a space for providing and archiving feedback. The system will even prompt you every few months to make sure you’re staying in touch.

ALA Connect's MentorConnect service

Here are some screenshots that show some of the features. This first one is an example of a mentee profile. Mentor profiles look pretty much the same.

a mentee's profile in ALA Connect's MentorConnect service

Once you’ve created a profile, you can then search for a mentor.

find a mentor in ALA Connect's MentorConnect service

MC keeps a record of all of your mentors and mentees, including past ones.

my mentors view in ALA Connect's MentorConnect service

At any time, you can view the feedback for a particular mentorship. When you add new feedback, the other person will get an email notice, and she can log in and reply.

a mentorship in ALA Connect's MentorConnect service

The MentorConnect tab will appear on your profile next week, along with a link to it in the left-hand sidebar. If you don’t like something about MC or if you encounter a problem using it, please let us know. If you do like it, let former ALA President Jim Rettig know, because he funded this initiative during his term. Thanks, Jim!  🙂

ALA Connect Update and Schedule

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

If you’re an ALA member, you should have received an email about ALA Connect yesterday. We’ve been doing PR for the site through other channels (American Libraries, AL Direct, etc.), but this was the first time we’ve directly contacted members. Initial responses have been positive, and according to Google Analytics, we had more than 2,200 people visit the site yesterday alone.

So today seems like a good time to do an update on statistics and to talk about Connect’s immediate future a little bit. First, some new, aggregate numbers for April 6 – June 16 (roughly 10 weeks).

  • Total # of users who have logged in: 3610 (3196 ALA members + 414 non-ALA members)
  • Total # of posts: 406
  • Total # of online documents: 265
  • Total # of calendar events: 162
  • Total # of polls/votes: 25
  • Total # of discussions (in forums): 143
  • Total # of images: 19
  • Total # of comments: 761
  • Total # of new communities created: 81

So usage is consistent and steady, and we’re not seeing a major drop-off, which is a good sign. Now that we’ve let everyone know about the site in as direct a way as possible, we’ll continue watching these numbers. The Google Analytics chart below suggests even greater usage since it’s for only an eight-day period.

April 6 - June 16 stats for ALA Connect

Now that we feel like we’re through the official launch phase, we’re moving on to the next big thing for Connect. We’re currently migrating from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6, and we hope to go live (seamlessly) with the new version after our Annual Conference. Then the “really big plans” kick in.

We’ve worked with ALA President Jim Rettig to implement two exciting  initiatives from his campaign. We plan to integrate a mentoring network by the end of July and an “opportunities exchange” by the end of August (think grants, volunteering, fellowships, awards, etc.). After that, we’ll be implementing a new search engine and then the new conference event planner for Midwinter 2010.

It’s a pretty packed year for Connect, and your feedback will be critical as we implement all of this. Let us know what you think!

Changes to the ALA website

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

When we launched the current version of the ALA website ( last fall, we stressed that there would be ongoing usability assessment followed by reworkings to the site, both minor and visible, from time to time.

A few months ago we moved all of the offices that had been in “hqops” to the directory with the other offices, so that all would be accessible in the same way.  We’ve added additional links–notably to @ your library and the Legislative Action Center (“Take Action”) to the “Related” drop-down on the tool bar.  Four divisions (AASL, ACRL, PLA, and RUSA) have redesigned their sections of the site, using many of the same usability techniques as on the main site.

Changes like these are consistent with current thinking on website redesign–see “The Quiet Death of a Major Relaunch,” by Jared M. Spool for some discussion.  We conduct user surveys, do card sorts, and hold focus group sessions at ALA’s semiannual conferences to evaluate our needs and decisions.  Which is to say: The ALA website will continually evolve.  It’s not just that new material will be added; it’s also that dated material will be removed and archived, confusing navigation will be reworked, and sometimes whole sections redone.

At launch we had a “Professional Resources” area, which was a set of “tagged” pages gathering material from around the site into several broad librarianship categories (Collections, Type of Library, etc.).  These pages simply were not working as intended.  So, the whole area has been reworked, consolidating the topical tagged pages into a “Topics A-Z.”

These, of course, are not every topic of interest to librarians, or those interested in libraries, but the ones that show up in our search logs, our reference inquiry logs, headings in the ALA Editions catalog, etc.  Some topics are simply links to the main area of the site for that topic, such as Advocacy; some topics link to specific page, such as Mailing Lists; and others pages with explanatory text and annotated links to relevant materials.

There are more changes in the works … watch for them!


Increasing Usage of ALA Connect

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Last month, I highlighted some early statistics about ALA Connect, and while I would hardly call the middle of May “late,” I thought I’d post an update on those numbers. We won’t keep loading up your stream with Connect statistics, although we do hope to see usage increase leading up to, and after, ALA Annual Conference in July. Until then, here are some aggregate figures for the site’s first five weeks.

  • Total # of logins: 2,220 (1,950 ALA members + 270 non-members)
  • Total # of posts: 243
  • Total # of online documents: 210
  • Total # of calendar events: 181
  • Total # of polls/votes: 22
  • Total # of discussions (in forums): 66
  • Total # of images: 29
  • Total # of comments: 479
  • Total # of member-generated communities: 40

There’s also been a lively discussion about Connect on the ALA Council mailing list for the last few days. If you’re interested in reading some councilors thoughts on using (or not using) Connect, go to the May 2009 archive and start with May 8 (09/05/08 in the list).

Some other views of Connect: ALA Connect: The Mother Ship Evolves from School Library Journal and Why We Should Adopt ALAConnect: A brief review and rumination on ALA’s new online community from In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

The ItLwtLP site also has an interesting post from October 15, 2008, titled On the ALA Membership Pyramid. It has 43 comments on it, which contain some truly interesting ideas for ALA. If you’re one of the 2,000+ people who has logged in to Connect, I’m curious to know if you think it can fulfill some of the points made in the comments? It can’t solve all of them, but how can we take the advice from both ItLwtLP posts to make Connect work for those “level 1” members who aren’t part of committees and who aren’t able to/don’t want to come to conferences?

Have You Connect-ed Yet?

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Just a quick note to say how happy we are about the response to ALA Connect. We’ve received many positive emails, tweets, and more about the site, but even better – folks are checking it out and using it. This can be difficult to see, as many working groups are not posting their content publicly, but we’re only a couple of weeks into this new endeavor, so we expect content in the working groups and communities will continue to grow, especially going into Annual Conference.

Here are some early numbers from the site’s first two weeks:

  • 1588 people have logged in (1395 ALA members + 193 non-ALA members)
  • # of new communities created by ALA members and staff: 22
  • # of posts: 124 total
  • # of online documents: 124 total
  • # of calendar events: 125 total
  • # of polls/votes: 14 total
  • # of discussions: 32 total
  • # of images: 24 total

So stuff is happening on the site – what’s happening in your groups?

It’s Been a Tough Start to the New Year at ALA….

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

The last two weeks have been a sort of “perfect storm” of online-related problems at ALA, and as the person here who probably does the most tracking of what’s said about us online, I think I’ve pretty well heard everything you have to say about that storm.

Except what we want to say. With the holiday breaks (ALA was officially closed on December 26 and January 2), it was difficult to coordinate some of the discussion, but now we’ve had a chance to talk about some of these things internally, and we want to update you on decisions we’ve made to try to fix some of the problems.

The first issue that came up was in a blog post by Jason Griffey, in which he praised ALA’s willingness to try something new and accept YouTube submissions of questions for presidential candidates.  He then questioned why we wouldn’t accept videos from non-members or anonymous posters. While we still won’t include videos from anonymous users, we’ve changed the guidelines to accept submissions from non-members for consideration. And actually, we hope non-members *will* submit videos, as well as members. The deadline to post your question is January 16 (see the instructions here), and we encourage those of you who are inclined to participate in the election this way to ask your questions, whether you’re a member or not.

The second issue came up on the ALA Council email list when councilors began trying to plan their schedules for Midwinter. Even though we’re on our third vendor for the planner and we’ve requested changes to what was the default service, clearly this tool still isn’t what it should be. We got some valuable feedback from Nicole Engard and Jessamyn West that noted other concerns, such as a notice that the site recommends Internet Explorer and security issues around making the password the same for everyone and then posting that password on the page itself. Mea culpa (us-a culpa?) on both counts.

We’re going to put this issue to rest once and for all by working closely with the Website Advisory Committee to research and outline exactly what members need and then create it. As some of you know, we’re currently beta testing ALA Connect, which is our new collaborative work/online communities site built on open source software called Drupal. Since each conference will be its own community in Connect and it already uses your ALA login and password, it makes sense to put the event planner there. Naturally, this is going to take some time, especially since we haven’t even launched Connect yet, but we’ll shoot for having a new planner ready for Midwinter 2010. We’ll keep you posted about progress over on the ITTS Update blog, which is also where you can track what’s happening with Connect.

The third issue that piled on top of the event planner happened on Monday when we opened registration and housing for Annual 2009.  I saw at least 27 tweets, not to mention complaints on Facebook and FriendFeed, plus a desperate plea from Karen Coombs on her blog (did I miss any – let me know). We’re truly sorry for the frustration this caused everyone, and it’s not going to happen next time. We’re still talking to Experient about this one since they’re the company to which we’ve outsourced this function, but we’ll be taking steps to make sure that the confusion, busy signals, and frustrated clicks don’t happen in the future.

We’re also going to talk about how to communicate better (differently) when something like this happens again. For example, I was thrilled to see Lorraine Squires tweeting help for the revised start time and Anne the Librarian retweeting that info. Don’t think we didn’t notice that, and thank you both for helping. In fact, thank you to everyone who cared enough to post about any of this in order to get our attention. Consider it gotten.

With Midwinter just over two weeks away,  hopefully we’re sailing into calmer waters, but let us know if you run into choppy water and we’ll try to help.

Now it’s the wikis’ turn

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Earlier this year, we did a count of the number of blogs and wikis various units of ALA had established, learning that there were well over 100 wikis. The older of the wikis were initially established on an in-house server, whose resources are shared with other key systems functions. The newer wikis have been established on off-site servers.

Starting next week, staff in our IT unit will be migrating all wikis currently hosted at to the off site resources. This is being done for two important reasons:

1) To increase stability and availability. As noted, the in-house server cannot support running multiple services on an ongoing basis, and recent wiki downtimes we’ve experienced are the proof.

2) To allow us to upgrade each wiki to the newest version of Mediawiki, which in turn will allow implementation of security measures to minimize spam and allow other enhancements, such as uploading more kinds of files.

For the next few weeks, between 6 and 10 wikis will be transferred. The wiki owners will be notified in advance. During the time of its transfer, each wiki will be out of service for an afternoon. Each wiki will receive a new URL, in the pattern of[yourwiki] becoming http://[yourunit][yourwiki], with, for example, becoming There will be a redirect at the old wiki’s root directory to the new wiki location, but any bookmarks of sub-pages within the wiki will *not* continue to function. Mediawiki is just not built for that. Alas! more broken links!

To see a listing of some of ALA’s wikis, visit ReadWriteConnect, itself a wiki that will migrate ….

Apply for a Travel Grant to the ALA Annual Conference

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Other bloggers are discussing the cost of attending an ALA Annual Conference. I’m going to help you do something about it!

Last year I prepared a list of all the travel awards from ALA and its divisions and round tables. This year, I’m happy to say that there is near one-click access to the entire list on the new website. Start at the home page,, click on “Awards & Grants” in the left navigation, then on “Publications, Research & Travel” next to the picture of the open wallet in the middle of the page. The listing you’ll find has all the travel awards in one place.

The time to get your application together is now, as for most of the awards the deadline is the first business day in December. Thousands of dollars in travel awards are available to ALA members and interested professionals through the generosity of vendors and other sponsors. Check out the requirements for these grants. Apply for yourself, or nominate a member of your staff or a colleague.


Using ALA’s Website

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

READ miniIt’s been a month since we launched the updated ALA website, with its user-centered design and new look and feel. Because my contact information is on the “404” or error page, I’m probably the heaviest user of the site, spending much of each day hunting up information for visitors to the site and using the site to answer one of the 500 or so queries received by the ALA Library each month. What have I found?

  • I’ve abandoned use of all my division bookmarks, using the “dropdowns” in the home page banner for the divisions, round tables, and other frequently accessed areas of the site. Great change; gives me more room on my browser toolbar for other bookmarks.

  • As I pass through the home page on my way to respond to inquiries, I like being able to note the headline on the ALA news. The news section has a three-tab structure that guides intended audiences to information about the ALA, library related legislation and advocacy, and U.S. and world news affecting libraries. News is updated frequently, using RSS feeds.

  • I like the great images my colleagues have selected for the “highlights” promoting upcoming events … I just have to be sure to stop long enough to click through them all.

  • Most importantly, I like that the information architecture doesn’t require users to be familiar with internal ALA structure in order to browse successfully. Now, I do (usually) know which office or division is working on what, but it is ever so much nicer to browse to one of the listing pages and find resources from across the Association. Or will be—this is an area where the 100+ web content developers, both volunteer and on staff, have some work to do yet.

  • And when browsing doesn’t work, the new Google search appliance and custom Search Engine Results Page (SERP) do. There are three parts to the SERP: “key matches” that take known search terms and point searchers to appropriate pages; the usual kind of search results, and some ranked results from Google.

During the first few days after the launch, there were all kinds of unforeseen problems. There were times it felt like we were in some crazy cartoon, trying to hammer down something popping up under a carpet—hit it here, but it pops up there; hit there, and it’s to the left, then the right. Those have largely dissipated, and we’ve been fixing the remaining broken links as fast as we can find them. Louise Gruenberg, ALA’s new senior usability officer, has posted on another blog about why we haven’t been able to make redirects for everything, but we can be sure linkages from one part of the site to another work. So keep letting me know about your problems.

We also have a long, long list of additional changes and improvements we’d like to make—starting with such things as the development of consistent layout standards for committee pages, navigation for browsing round tables, alt tags for images and a complete reworking of the information structure for key areas. Watch for surveys so you can make your voice heard.

Is anything gone? Yes—outdated content, or at least some of it. All the important documents are still there—the Library Bill of Rights, the Code of Ethics, the Newbery Medal criteria, the list of accredited library programs—and the information how to make a mini-READ poster, the surprise recurring inquiry!

Karen Muller

ALA Librarian

Fare thee Well, Old Website

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Fare thee well, old site. Long live the ALA website!It’s been a long journey, but we’re finally arriving at our destination. Whether you liked, tolerated, or hated the ALA website, we encourage you to take a nostalgic look at it one more time before we flip the switch to the new redesign on Monday, September 22. Although the new version is no secret (the preview has been available for months), it’s still a pretty momentous day for us.

There will be problems, bugs, broken links, and the like – there always are in a project as large as this one – but we believe the new design and navigation is a major improvement. We welcome your feedback, and especially your help in identifying those bugs. Please use the site’s feedback form to let us know when you encounter an issue of any kind on our site. We still have a ways to go, but you can easily track our progress getting this first iteration up to speed.

Of course, the site will never really be “done,” but it has a better foundation upon which to grow and evolve as we continue doing our best to meet the needs of the membership. Thanks for your patience and engagement during this process. We couldn’t have gotten here without you, and we’re looking forward to hearing your feedback. Mazel tov to everyone who worked so hard to reach this point!