The ALA Information Technology & Telecommunication Services (ITTS) has revised the timelines in the ALA Strategic Technology Directions Update: 2016-2017 report and added three more sections (10: Library Catalog, 11: Awards & Grants Database, and 12: Institutional Repository (ALAIR)).
Sherri Vanyek Director, Information Technology & Telecommunication Services
As of 12/14/2015, most of ALA.org is now using Google Custom Search to provide search results. Google Custom Search is a free service that searches all ALA resources and displays the results on our site. Thus it automatically provides federated search of far flung ALA resources, such as public portions of connect.ala.org, the Midwinter and Annual Conference websites, and ALA blogs and wikis.
ALA’s American Association of School Librarians elected to join the experiment to evaluate Google Custom Search, while the rest of ALA’s divisions chose to retain Apache Solr for the time being. This allows us to compare and contrast search results from the two systems while we are working with our search consultants to develop a strategic plan for ALA enterprise search that will be available in January. Future plans already include a revision of all content management system templates to require the addition of metadata. We’re also exploring ways to add metadata to downloadable files. We expect that there will be a staff training initiative in the development of quality metadata.
As a non-profit, ALA is able to use the ad free version of Google Custom Search, but sites using the search must retain Google’s branding, visible in the search box and at the bottom of the results page.
We encourage our site visitors to help us evaluate the two different systems as we work toward a plan to improve enterprise search. After 12/15/2015, please take five minutes to provide feedback at http://www.ala.org/support/search-feedback.
Here are a few examples of common searches and the results retrieved using Google:
We’re happy to report progress on the path to migrating ALA Connect to a new platform. In June, the New ALA Connect Platform Task Force selected Higher Logic’s system, and ITTS began working with them on an implementation plan.
For the past few months, the biggest issue we’ve had to work through together has been how best to incorporate ALA’s divisions into the site. The vendor is now busy making changes to the software so that each division, as well as ALA-APA, will have its own microsite for all of its groups, with some unique branding and the ability to run statistical reports.
Our updated timeframe for launching the new platform is March/April 2016. There’s a lot of work to do to get everything ready in the coming months, so we’re happy to announce that Pam Akins will be taking over the migration and management of the new Connect. You may already know Pam as ITTS’ amazing trainer, and now she’s been promoted to the position of “Community Engagement Specialist” and is already beginning to help with the process. In fact, she just came back from the Higher Logic Super Forum (their annual user group meeting), so she’s already delving into what the new system can do.
The Task Force guiding the process met last week and decided to keep the name “ALA Connect” because it already has traction within the membership and any other name would be so similar that it might cause confusion to try explain the difference. As one TF member noted, everyone is already calling the new site “the new ALA Connect,” so we’re going to build on that recognition.
However, to help illustrate that Connect will be running on a new system, ITTS will work with a designer to change the logo, interface, and possibly the color palette (if possible, we might try to match the colors used on ala.org). We’re not sure yet if the Mentor Match and Volunteer Match modules will be part of the initial launch or if they’ll be implemented later in phase two.
As work progresses, we’ll continue to post updates to the ITTS News blog.
The ALA Information Technology & Telecommunication Services (ITTS) has updated the ALA Strategic Technology Directions Report. The report outlines major accomplishments for fiscal 2015 and plans for 2016/2017 fiscal years. It provides a good foundation to understand how technology is implemented at ALA to meet the goals of the organization and explains the role of ITTS within ALA.
The diagrams in the report show the complexity of the implemented technologies and how they integrate with each other. For example, our conference registration companies retrieve iMIS (our Association Management System) data to recognize ALA members and treat them as such, removing the need to re-enter known information. The ALA Technology Services diagram on page 2 shows all of the integrations between systems.
With only 9.5 employees, ITTS supports software and hardware for our 11 divisions, 20 round tables, 55,000 members, and 25 offices with approximately 240 staff.
On page 3 of the report there is an updated infographic containing 2014 ITTS statistics. For example, we received 4,048 help desk requests in 2014. This number is understated because we aren’t able to log every call or hallway conversation. Help desk requests are usually individual problems, and as such they don’t represent large scale projects. We maintain 300 databases, 120 virtual servers, and 27 physical servers, in addition to the services we manage that are provided/maintained by 31 different consulting firms. We had 25.3 million pageviews on our website, and 22% of our members use ALA Connect.
A few sections have been redacted from the report because they contain sensitive security information.
Sherri Vanyek Director, Information Technology & Telecommunication Services
American Library Association
We are experiencing blocking of outbound email from Sympa because of inadvertent passage of actual spam. The upgrade to Sympa includes enhancements for managing email which should reduce the possibility of Spam. After implementation, we must request review by our Spam detection provider to remove the outbound block.
We have 72,533 unique users that are members of active lists (with the majority being members of more than one list) and 88 gigabytes of archives. Sympa processes approximately 100 emails per minute.
We are using this upgrade to bring our list processing practices in line with current best practices. Passwords for the web interface must be reset – after the upgrade users must perform password recovery. We will validate list subscribers. The method has yet to be determined. We are developing a communication about these changes.
We estimate it will take today and tomorrow to perform the upgrade and hope to have everything back online by EOB on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.
We have identified a problem with our Sympa email list management system caused by inadvertent passage of actual spam. At this time, only some of our lists are affected. Our vendor for spam protection is bouncing all outbound email messages from these affected lists. Bounced messages do not unsubscribe users. Messages are not being queued for later delivery, but they are going to the list’s archive. The archived messages can be found by visiting http://lists.ala.org/sympa/lists (the “List of lists:), finding the list, and clicking on archives.
We have determined we must upgrade our Sympa email list management software to the latest release to fix this problem and gain better control for spam detection. We are developing a plan to upgrade Sympa and hope to perform the upgrade sometime next week. Unfortunately this means that messages sent to the affected mailing lists will not be sent out to subscribers until the upgrade is completed.
ALA Information Technology & Telecommunications made significant changes in its strategic roadmap in mid-2015, in response to changes in the IT environment, to member survey responses (early FY2015) and to continuing constraints – and demands – on ALA’s budget.
Plans for the remainder of FY2015
Plans for FY16
Plans for FY17 and beyond
The most recent version of the prototype for the new ala.org responsive design is available online.This project is for a responsive theme redesign that will be applied to all ala.org microsites, thus affecting all division and round table sites. While divisions will continue to have their own branding and color schemes, they too will be converted to the responsive, accessible theme as part of this project, and will also have various homepage layout options. The responsive theme resizes to the device in use, and will ensure that our pages are not downgraded in search results for being mobile-unfriendly.
The prototype design work was developed by the Homepage/Responsive Theme Redesign Task Force of the Web Management Group; the latter has reviewed the Midwinter usability tests and provided feedback that was incorporated into this most recent version. The prototype was implemented by Sean Bires of ITTS using Axure, and was designed using the Google Material Design guidelines. The graphic details of the prototype are not necessarily the finals; nor are the menu item dropdowns complete. This is a testing formative prototype subject to change, not a final version. If you share the links to the prototype with others, please ensure that they are aware of these caveats.
We intend to further test the most recent version of the prototype at Annual. Visit it on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It should resize to your device’s screen. You can also resize it to review the mobile look on your desktop by making your browser window narrow. Due to limitations of the prototyping software, the slide carousel does not respond to gestural swiping. Use the arrows, instead. Click (or tap) on menus and utility icons to see your options.
The content pane options on the homepage are mostly intended to use feeds to update, although the I am ALA member success story feature may be manually updated.
Here’s a page level mockup without working menus, as they are time consuming to create.
One thing we’re looking at is the Masonry module, which would allow drag and drop options for site owners to use when positioning blocks and pods of content. At this time, we’re not sure yet how what’s in the “Featured Content” block will be decided. We’re also in the process of doing a website inventory to determine what will go in the “Related Sites” menu.
Once the design is approved, we’ll issue an RFP to implement it. The target date for implementation is before the end of the current fiscal year (August 31st) with a rolling implementation down to division and microsites.
Please review and share any questions or concerns with me directly (email@example.com) by the end of next week and copy the firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homepage/Responsive Redesign Task Force: Jan Carmichael, Rebecca Gerber, Louise Gruenberg, Jen Habley, Dan Kaplan
Web Management Group: Adam Eisgrau, Louise Gruenberg, Steven Hofmann, Ron Jankowski, Mary Mackay, Mari Merola, Sherri Vanyek
Question: Will the search engine remain the same?
Louise: Yes, we’ll still use Solr for search, but we’re going to work with a consultant to improve how it retrieves results.
We signed a contract with a Drupal Commerce vendor in March, and now we’re currently in the discovery phase with our vendor and internal stakeholders. Work is currently being done on wireframes and then we’ll move to the design, with implementation beginning on June 5th. We hope to launch the new system for membership dues and donations the week of November 6th. Mary Ghikas is taking point on some of the discussions and is putting together a small group to work on the bigger decisions.
Working with a group of staff and members from the Website Advisory Committee, the RFP for a new Connect platform was issued on May 4th with responses due by May 26th. This group will read through the responses to select vendors to do a demo. We hope to select a new platform by the end of June so that we can start work in mid-July. We have an ambitious target date to go live in September, but that’s dependent in part on units providing the information we need to move forward. For example, we’ll be asking each unit to decide which of its groups and how much of their content should be migrated into the new system.
Question: Will the conference scheduler be going away?
Jenny: Yes, starting with Midwinter 2016, Conference Services will take over the conference website, scheduling tool, and mobile apps using a different platform. These services are currently hosted in Connect’s Drupal installation, which will be going away before Midwinter, so they have to be migrated to other services.
Informz How To
The first Informz remote classes were held this month, and will be offered monthly so remote offices as well as local staff who want refreshers can get in on the sessions via Adobe Connect.We are also working with Dan Kaplan and Mary Mackay to create Informz training videos for on-demand staff access on topics such as the Basics, Opt-out forms and links, and more. The plan includes working with groups to help update Opt-out options on template footers as needed. Details on these and other upcoming classes are on the support site.
Digital Library Help
There is also a new Digital Library section on Support. Clicking on the link reveals submenu items for tips on how to Search and/or request and item from the Library, using our new WorldCat.
Where is the KM?
Just a friendly reminder that we no longer have the KMS and most things can be found at ala.org/support under Staff Resources. Your staff login will be required to see Conference Registration stats, HR Policies, and more.
New iMIS Videos
There is a new iMIS page on support with over 20 TASK BASED videos, most of which are under a minute. You can learn where to find data on records in the History and Detail tabs as well as refresh on the several ways of Finding a record, including options for creating an Ad Hoc Search.
Question: Where we are with the new grant cube in the accounting system?
Sherri: We met with grant managers, accounting, and consultants to come up with a specifications document. We signed a contract this week in the hope that life-to-date grant reporting will be available in early June.