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Louise Gruenberg-IL (staff)'s picture

2010 Annual ITTS Report to WAC

ALA Web Related

1.1 ALA Connect Report
ALA Connect is doing well, and we continue to see steady increases in usage (see the 6-month and 1-year reports). The 1-year report also highlights the major changes and additions we've made during the last six months, including opening the Opportunities Exchange. The OppEx has been slow to catch on, mainly due to a lack of opportunities entered, but we're going to talk with HRDR about the possibility of loading the listings from the FALIS Directory, which would give it a great kickstart.

We're also still working on the chat module upgrade. Some users get kicked out of a chat, but we can't discern a pattern that would lead to a resolution. It seems completely random and is not related to browser, operating system, group, or user account, and it doesn't affect every group. A new version of the Drupal chat module was released, so we planned to upgrade to it in the hope this would resolve the issue, but unfortunately the three latest versions of the module (all released this spring) have proven to be unstable. At this time, we're investigating alternative chat modules, but we remain committed to using only ADA-compliant ones, which limits our options. As a temporary measure, we're recommending ALA groups use iLINC until we can find a solution (see 1.9 below).

While Connect remains a major priority, the MemberFuse pilot has taken precedence over major module development, as has the creation of the Conference Scheduler Requirements Document. The test of the MemberFuse software as a possible replacement to run Connect will continue through June 30. In July, we'll collect feedback from the three test groups (the ALA Board, the ACRL Executive Committee, and WAC) in order to evaluate the possibility of a migration.

We recently added the following enhancements in Connect:

  • Reply/comment via email, so that users don't have to go to the site and log in to reply to email notifications of new content.
  • Implementation of the "diff" module to show comparative revisions for online docs (the way wikis highlight which text changed from one version to the next).
  • Adding rotating announcements on the home page so that we can highlight multiple features.

We also plan to redesign the main page and the group home page in order to make it easier to find and *do* things. We're excited about these new features, as well as the addition of services such as the integration of the conference scheduler, member matching, expanded member profiles, an online reputation system, and more.

1.2 Event Planner Updates
As noted above, the WAC Conference Scheduler Subcommittee completed the CS Requirements Document, which will allow us to move forward with building a new "event planner" after Annual 2010.

Louise Gruenberg, Sheila Joy, Karen Muller, and Jenny Levine spent considerable time in April and May working on fixes for Conference Services' current planner in order to make it more usable for Annual 2010. This allowed us to identify some of the processes and procedures that will need to change going forward in order to make the new conference scheduler work better.

For example, thanks to a new list Karen created, we were able to standardize the "unit/subunit" field so that all meetings from the same unit will have the same owner, facilitating better browsing and searching capabilities. We now have a much better understanding of the various pieces used behind-the-scenes and how they work together (meeting room scheduling software, exhibitor software, event planner piece, iMIS). Ultimately, we will likely need to make changes to each of those pieces (not just the conference scheduler/event planner), which could require additional funding and resources.

After Annual, Karen and Jenny will meet with Conference Services staff to begin working on additional changes to the entry form for conference meetings in order to further improve the process before data is entered for Midwinter 2011.

Which platform we'll use to build the new conference scheduler is still unclear, pending the outcome of the MemberFuse test. Regardless of which software is running Connect, we anticipate beginning work on it in August, although vacation interruptions may delay a significant start until September.

1.3 Online Learning Launched
Jenifer Grady led a cross-org team of ALA stakeholders with online learning offerings in planning an Online Learning section of the website. ITTS spent 125 hours of Collage implementation time to launch Online Learning; Web Editorial Board reviewed the implementation. 

1.4 Division Site Harmonization Project
ALSC and ALCTS launched site redesigns this spring. LITA expects to launch its site redesign before Annual, leaving YALSA as the only division that has not yet released a re-designed site.

1.5 Web Editorial Board Accomplishments
The Web Editorial Board (WEB) had its expanded charge approved by sr. management. WEB met with interested stakeholders for an extended meeting on the afternoon of April 1 to develop a strategic plan for preparing for the changes to the website that a new CMS will make possible.

WEB is adding advisory groups to involve staff stakeholders in the following four areas:

  • Archiving & Digital Asset Management
  • Branding, Marketing & Design
  • Communication & Education
  • Social Media (has taken over from the original staff group)

WEB reviewed the changes to the information architecture of the Membership section and the new Online Learning section.  WEB just reviewed Washington Office’s E-Gov project, which will be implemented in time for Annual.

WEB worked with ITTS to assist American Libraries and the Public Information Office with a money-saving change to the way press releases are processed.

WEB is currently planning changes to the home page of the site to showcase the excitement of Annual Conference.

1.6 CMS Task Force Report
The members of the task force reviewed the 47 proposals received, then ranked the seven strongest to identify three compelling candidates, all of whom proposed Drupal as the content management system to implement. 

We are aware that our decision must provide ALA with the best value possible, so we are continuing with due diligence, and intend to ask our prospective vendors a few more questions. We are also providing them with the opportunity to visit ALA at their expense during July to meet with stakeholder groups. 

ITTS recently queried the semi-finalists for additional information. We have been evaluating their responses and checking references. 

Our primary concern at this time is the transitional status of Drupal, as Drupal 7, which offers benefits not available in Drupal 6, has not yet been released. Up for further discussion with the task force is our expected project timeline, and what actions to take if progress on the final release of Drupal 7 delays us.

1.7 Google Search Appliance (GSA)
Rebecca Gerber of the ALA Library assists with the development of the GSA Related Queries and Key Matches (ALA Suggestions), which are implemented by ITTS. Since Midwinter Meeting, Related Queries have been added and the Key Matches have been reviewed and expanded with Phrase Matches and Exact Matches, as appropriate.

1.8 2010 Project Grants
ITTS has received funding to work on the website’s accessibility and to train staff and member-volunteers in creating accessible web pages. We have also received funding to adjust the interaction design and coding of the Dues Manager to make it easier to join, rejoin, or renew. Other 2010 projects that impact ITTS include upgrades to the Awards, Grants & Scholarships database and to ALA Joblist.

1.9 iLINC Implementation 

ALA has entered into a one year contract for virtual online meeting and classroom space with iLINC. ITTS has been configuring iLINC for ALA’s four user accounts and preparing training for staff moderators.

1.10 Sympa Upgrade

There is now a final, stable version of Sympa 6.0; we are in the process of planning an upgrade from our current Sympa version 5.3.4 as resources become available.

1.11 Members-Only Improvements

We installed and tested a redirect system so that when members login from a members-only content link, they are redirected to the page they were on after logging in.

1.12 Web Services Health Check

Of the recommendations made, we have done the following so far:

  • Implemented a new server based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Database Server 2005 to replace our backend iMIS Association Management System.  This upgrade improved performance of our ecommerce sites for dues, events, and fundraising as well as data entry and database queries.
  • A full penetration assessment was performed to give a clear picture of what risks we face.  A plan to implement the necessary refinements has been developed and modifications to our network are underway.

We’re still working on:

  • Moving the database servers to a dedicated protected segment of the internet facing network (DMZ network), and creating rules to allow the Web/application servers to only access the database servers on the database segment. All other traffic should be denied.
  • Implementing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution to enhance secure access to the ALA network.
  • Creating a Source Version Control repository of all application code and all other web assets (HTML pages, service configurations, etc).
  • Analyzing whether the high risks regarding PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance outweigh the benefits of handling credit card transactions internally versus outsourcing this function to a 3rd party.

Ongoing & Upcoming Projects

1.13 Emerging Leaders Projects
Emerging Leaders groups J, K and L will be presenting their results at Annual. The projects selected were: Just how Web 2.0 should we go?; Mapping ALA; and the All-Volunteer Accessibility Usability Project. Louise Gruenberg is ITTS’ liaison to the Emerging Leaders, with Jenny Levine as co-liaison for the Mapping ALA project. Member mentors are Michael Stevens, Will Reed and Aaron Dobbs, respectively, for groups J, K, and L.

1.14 Accessibility/XML Clean-Up
The custom changes to HTML Tidy and the custom report that will identify accessibility issues is expected to be completed by June 1, 2010. At that point, ITTS will begin running sections of the website files through HTML Tidy. Preliminary testing indicated that many violations will need to be manually corrected by content editors, so ITTS will be providing training and assistance to content editors who have accessibility violations, thanks to a 2010 project grant.

1.15 Feedback
The ALA Library, as one of the main customer service points for the Association, answers thousands of questions each year on the workings of the Association, on librarianship, on publishing, and other topics related to the work of ALA.  Of the 2,119 inquiries answered between December 1 and May 14, about 10% (190) were clearly identified as “website” issues in the Library’s statistical tracking. This is the largest single area, with the other high frequency topics being marketing to libraries, library funding, and career and education queries. For the website questions, the largest number comes from persons wanting the correct link.

Information from feedback queries is a useful way to track website issues. Based on the ALA Library’s notes, broken links/missing pages were responsible for 67% of requests for assistance. About 10% of the broken link reports are the result lingering “Active Matter pages.” vestigial pages from the old CMS, which display in the current template but have numerous broken links.  Beginning on April 1, the Library staff began indicating which unit was responsible for the pages causing the query designated “website;” 48 have been tracked in this manner, with the most frequently cited pages being from OIF (13), AASL (8), ACRL (5), Washington Office (4) and Governance (3).  Most of the time, unit staff is copied on the answer to the inquirer so that the page may be corrected promptly.  In some cases, such as with numerous broken links on the pages related to CIPA, a major reorganization is undertaken in conjunction with the unit.  To be fair, OIF pages are also among the most frequently visited, so a higher incidence of “error finding” is consistent.  We have learned that revamping problematic pages can result in a decrease in queries, and the redevelopment of the membership website in April is the most recent happy instance.

Other issues cropping up more than once: There is concern that information is not clearly dated on the Capwiz function; information on some of ALA’s annual initiatives (e.g., National Library Week) can be difficult to locate by browsing; some continuing education pages don’t provide cost information; finding a list of ALA’s officers is reported to be difficult; committee rosters are incomplete; and some library schools persist in having students research who is the “author” of the site.

1.16 Website Collection Standards Development
There is now a 2010 project on archiving that ACRL, the library and ITTS initiated. This group is expected to develop the strategic plan for archiving digital content. Their funding does not include the implementation of a digital archive or digital asset management system. 

1.17 Online Handbook of Organization
The Online Handbook of Organization is not complete. It appears that staff will require additional support from ITTS to complete the implementation of committee landing pages. 

1.18 New Financial System
Since there’s no upgrade path or support for our current applications, Finance and ITTS are slated to select a new system after the Annual conference; implementation will take place in 2011.

1.19 Technology Reserve Fund
During April the ALA Executive Board approved a Technology Reserve Fund to cover enterprise software such as the new web content management system, the new financial system, and a new association management system. 

1.20 2015 Strategic Plan
The cost of the technology and ITTS resource requirements need to be considered when implementing the ALA Strategic 2015 Plan. 

1.21 Staffing Changes
In May we welcomed Rob Berquist to the position of Internet Administrator. Rob’s primary responsibility will be to provide user support for 24 x 7 mission-critical applications needed to run a large diverse website and other Internet-related services.  Responding to user questions about the association's website and online services will comprise the majority of responsibilities. Additional responsibilities will include monitoring and maintaining Internet servers for robustness and performance, researching solutions for hardware and software problems, set up and maintenance of internet applications, testing, and production environments. 

We are currently interviewing candidates for the position of Association Management System (AMS) Database Administrator.  The AMS Database Administrator will have two primary areas of responsibility: ALA’s Association Management Systems and related components, and Database Administration. This position will take an active role in the maintenance of database servers and database/application interconnectivity, in particular interaction between the SQL databases and web applications.


Aaron Dobbs's picture

See the most recent WEB (5/20/10) notes here:

And peruse the rest of the WEB notes here:

These are nice background things to know as WAC discusses and moves forward on things...



"Always remember everyone is working to make the organization better in their own way."
-Eli Mina, ALA Parliamentarian

Louise Gruenberg-IL (staff)'s picture

Would it be helpful if I posted  the link to the Web Editorial Board's meeting reports here in WAC? They are public posts, usually made on the Friday following the twice-a-month Thursday meetings. 

Let me know if this would be of use.



Louise Gruenberg | Sr. Usability Officer | Information Technology & Telecommunication Services | American Library Association

Robin Kear's picture

yes, I would like to see the WEB reports.


Michael Stephens's picture

Absolutely helpful. Any and all info WAC has at its disposal is good.

Aaron Dobbs's picture

Yes, please (it would beat having to hunt them down) :)


"Always remember everyone is working to make the organization better in their own way."
-Eli Mina, ALA Parliamentarian