28 Oct 15 Update on ALA Connect Migration

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 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.

17 Sep 15 ALA Strategic Technology Directions Update: 2016-2017

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

13 Jul 15 Sympa List Management Software Upgrade

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.

08 Jul 15 ALA Sympa List Management Problem

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 (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.


17 Jun 15 Technology Infrastructure Plans


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

  1. Continue the Implementation of the New E-Commerce System for Membership Dues and Donations
    This project will make it easier for members to join and renew and will offer new opportunities for fundraising. This project is scheduled for completion in November 2015.
  2. Choose a New eLearning E-Commerce Platform
    In collaboration with ALA Publishing, ITTS and an (internal) eLearning Task Force are exploring an E-Commerce module for ALA continuing education to unify ALA’s online learning opportunities in one place in one shopping cart.
  3. Replace ALA Connect and profile management with a hosted community software service
    In FY2015, ITTS, working with a team representing various parts of the Association, released an RFP to select new community software to replace ALA Connect, with implementation scheduled in FY2016. This has been an area of significant market change during the past six years and the changes being made to these platforms facilitate faster implementation of new features, improve the interface, allow more flexibility for units wanting to customize groups, increase membership marketing opportunities, and offer potential new revenue streams. Mobile apps may also be available when the new site goes live. Completion of the merging of iMIS /Connect member profile information in FY2015 facilitated the transition.
  4. Begin Implementation of a mobile-friendly, responsive/redesigned theme for the ALA and Division/Unit Websites
    ITTS will implement a responsive theme on the ALA website, including significant home-page changes, that will better display across different types of mobile devices. 10% of total ALA website traffic is now coming from mobile devices – and that number is expected to grow rapidly. A responsive theme will also enable implementation of mobile apps in the next 1-2 years.
  5. Improvements to Website Search Engine
    ITTS will be working with a consultant to improve search results on the ALA website.
  6. Implement a Disaster Recovery plan using Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)
    After investigating options for updating our Disaster Recovery plans, we’ve narrowed the choice to two vendors. We will select a vendor and begin implementation in late FY2015 and continue into FY2016. This will allow us to back up our virtual servers in the cloud for disaster recovery so that external versions can be turned on when a service fails. This will allow faster restoration of services in case of an emergency.
  7. Improvements to Grant Reporting
    ALA ITTS will continue to work with staff and consultants to improve monthly and life-to-date grant reporting access. The creation of these new reports will allow our grant managers to have better access and assist in the management and monitoring of grant resources.

Plans for FY16

  1. Complete the Implementation of the new E-Commerce system for membership dues and donations (November 2015) 
  2. Complete the Implementation of a New eLearning E-commerce System (FY2016) 
  3. Replace ALA Connect and profile management with a hosted community software service (October 2015) 
  4. Complete the Implementation of a mobile-friendly, responsive/redesigned theme for the ALA and Division/Unit Websites (FY2016) 
  5. Upgrade or replace ALA’s Moodle Courseware Software
    We will investigate options for replacing ALA’s Moodle platform used for ALA e-courses with an externally-hosted software platform to increase support for leadership development.
  6. Migrate staff to Microsoft Office 365
    Now that we’re on Windows 7, we plan to move staff to the cloud-based Office 365 service to make remote access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook available through any web browser. The software and email archives will be hosted by Microsoft, which will make document storage, software maintenance, and access to Outlook archives much easier.
  7. Replace helpdesk software
    For similar reasons, we’ll be migrating to a cloud-based helpdesk solution. This will allow all staff from any location to submit and track help requests via a web browser. The software will be maintained and upgraded by the provider and will allow ITTS staff to better manage helpdesk tickets from anywhere.
  8.  Upgrade ALA’s Financial Systems
    We will perform necessary upgrades to stay current with software releases/improvements.

Plans for FY17 and beyond

  1. Implement mobile apps for the site
    This will allow members and the public to access information and services through a set of mobile applications, including current membership information, express membership renewals, and our most popular web pages.
  2. Move to web-based iMIS access
    Now that we’re on iMIS 20, we can begin migrating all staff to the web-based portal for access so that they can search for and update iMIS information from anywhere. This will reduce the load on our Citrix server and reduce the amount of software maintenance and upgrades required on desktops.
  3. Move and/or migrate to new software for the Website and division/unit Websites
    We will explore options for moving and/or replacing the software used to maintain the website into the cloud where it will be maintained by an outside provider. This will reduce the amount of staff time spent on upgrades and security patches.
  4. Move staff who require less robust desktops to Chromebooks
    Once we’ve migrated staff to using Office 365 online and web-based iMIS, we’ll determine which, if any, users can be moved from desktops to Chromebooks in order to save on software maintenance and hardware costs. This would enable users requiring only cloud-based services to have a notebook computer that can easily be replaced in the event of a hardware malfunction and reduce the time spent on rolling out software applications and maintaining them on ALA desktops and laptops.
  5. Assess our remote application platform
    We’ll investigate possible solutions to replace Citrix for remote access to remaining in-house applications.
  6. Investigate external hosting solutions for our Financial Applications
    Moving all parts of the financial system to an external host will allow all staff to access it remotely, outsource maintenance of the hardware infrastructure, and accelerate software upgrades.
  7.  Reassess Shibboleth to determine appropriate solution
    We will investigate alternate solutions that might replace our single sign-on technology for all of our web-based resources.
  8. Implement Improved Executive Data Access
    This project would improve analysis of our existing membership and financial data. Once executive management has decided which metrics should be measured, we can configure and implement iDashboard to provide an executive dashboard, reporting tools, sophisticated charts and grids, pivot tables, decomposition trends, perspective views, performance maps, and key performance indicator measures.
  9.  Reassess our iMIS Membership System
    We’ll explore other possible Association Management System (AMS) solutions used for managing member and customer information and how much it would cost to migrate to a different system.

05 Jun 15 ITTS News Meeting – May 20, 2015

  1. Responsive Design for (Louise)

    The most recent version of the prototype for the new responsive design is available online.This project is for a responsive theme redesign that will be applied to all 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 ( by the end of next week and copy the

    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.

  2. Ecommerce Update (Sherri)

    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.

  3. ALA Connect RFP (Jenny)

    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.

  4. Training (Sherri)

    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 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.

  5. General Q&A

    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.

21 May 15 Awards & Grants Website Back in Service

All display, browse, search and edit functions on ALA Awards & Grants are back in service after the recent outage. Those who maintain awards should have complete access.

04 May 15 ALA RFP for a SaaS Community Platform

The American Library Association seeks a vendor to host its professional collaboration and networking site, ALA Connect, which supports 2,600+ groups and 64,000+ users. Currently built in Drupal, ALA Connect allows users to post content to groups, join open groups, add members as friends, participate in a mentor matching service, and post a volunteer opportunity. In terms of collaboration, group tools currently include discussion forums, collaborative documents, files, polls, text-based chats, and calendars.

Responses are due by Tuesday, May 26, 2015, at 9:00am CDT, and contact information is available in the document.

2015 ALA Connect RFP – American Library Association (324KB, PDF)

27 Apr 15 Investigating a New ALA Connect

ALA has decided to move ALA Connect from its current Drupal environment to an externally-hosted community platform. We’ve fast-tracked this project in the hope we can launch the new version this fall.

Important things to know as we move forward:

  • We are committed to maintaining the Connect service and importing all current Connect content into the new system.
  • ADA-compliance will continue to be at the top of our list of requirements.
  • We will replicate as much of the current functionality as makes sense and is possible, with the addition of new features such as member matching (find members who match my interests), group matching (find groups that match my interests), digital badges for member profiles, and more community-based features.
  • Non-ALA members will still be able to participate on the site, albeit with less access than ALA members, just like in the current Connect.

As we write a RFP for the new system and select a vendor, we’re including feedback throughout the process from both ALA staff and the ALA Website Advisory Committee (WAC). We’ll be posting the RFP and updates about our progress, so keep an eye on the ITTS News blog and the ALAConnect Twitter account.

27 Apr 15 Sympa restored

The issue has been resolved and Sympa mail is now being delivered. There is a large back log that is being processed, so there will be a delay delivering messages until the system gets caught up. No messages were lost during this time.