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 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) by the end of next week and copy the email@example.com.
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.
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)
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:
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.
On Tuesday, April 7th, ALA Connect will be down as we begin the process to implement ALA’s Shibboleth single sign-on integration. Because we’re also migrating user data from Connect to iMIS (our Association Management Software that stores all of our member data), it’s a more complex process than just changing the login, which is why it will take 24 hours to complete all of the steps.
Note that this also means the 2015 Annual Conference website will also be down during this same timeframe.
Starting around 11am CDT on Tuesday, April 7th, Connect will be down while we begin the work. It will take several hours for the large amount of user data to synchronize into iMIS and make sure everything is working properly. Once we have the all clear, Connect will come back up on Wednesday, April 8th, probably around noon Central Time. We’ll then begin implementing Shibboleth, which will go live on Thursday, April 9th.
Your best bet to track our progress and get updates is by checking the @ALAConnect Twitter account, but you can also leave a comment/question here or email me (Jenny) at jlevine [at] ala.org.
We’re confident everything will go well, but we’re still accepting your well wishes and crossed fingers. See you in Shibboleth soon!
We’ll be doing some maintenance on the Connect server the evening of Thursday, October 9, 2014, from 7-8pm Central Time, which means the site will be unavailable during that time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the work should go quickly. Watch Twitter for status updates.
I’ve been out of the office for a couple of weeks, so I’m playing catch up on the projects I’m involved in, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about our progress. This is hardly a comprehensive list, but it’s great to be able to share positive progress.
It was a huge project, but we now have all staff workstations in the Chicago office upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7, including updated printer drivers and the annual cycling in of new computers for some staff. I wasn’t involved in this, except that my workstation got upgraded and I’m a million times more productive now, so yay team. Although I saw the hiccups behind-the-scenes, I was impressed with how smoothly the transition went thanks to the extensive planning and testing that other ITTS staff and consultants did.
This is another project that I’m not directly working on, but it affects my projects because iMIS is the system that manages all of our member, committee, dues, CE, and registration data. This is a big number upgrade with some behind-the-scenes changes to the setup, not just a patch. The whole project has been complicated greatly by ALA’s extensive customizations of the iMIS software, as well as the fact that our ecommerce system is 10-years old.
The team working on this has hit roadblock after roadblock trying to get the new iMIS software and web services to work with our old ecommerce system, and they’ve smashed every one of them. If all goes well, we’ll implement this upgrade later this month. Watch for more information about this because there may be some downtime associated with it since we’re talking about the system that’s at the heart of the Association’s infrastructure.
The completion of the iMIS upgrade is great news for Connect and the Conference Schedulers because it means we can move those sites to Shibboleth. This means single sign-on between these sites and ala.org. You’ll finally be able to log in to any of these sites with your regular ala.org username and password and then be logged in to all of the other sites automatically (non-members, too). Huzzah! Our goal is for this to happen in early November before the 2015 Midwinter Scheduler opens.
This isn’t really a project update so much as a reminder to fill out the ALA Connect survey if you haven’t already done so. Besides the fact you could get an iPad Mini in return for your responses, your feedback will help us improve the site. We want to hear from everyone – members, non-members, frequent Connect users, infrequent Connect users, international folks, tall people, short people, basically everyone, which includes you.
The iMIS upgrade is the first domino in a series of projects that have been unable to move forward until it’s completed. The second domino is Shibboleth for Connect and the schedulers, and the third combines ala.org and Connect profiles into a single profile that can easily be managed from either site. Phase one combines all of the data into one profile and future phases will expand the amount and types of data we make visible to you in your profile, including expiration dates for member dues (finally!), lists of continuing education activities completed, past conference registrations, and more. Our goal is for you to implement phase one in November.
And now we get to the biggest domino in the path, the ecommerce system that desperately needs to be replaced. With the iMIS upgrade almost done, we’re scheduling meetings with potential vendors for later this month. It will still be a months-long selection process while we involve all of the various stakeholders and go though contract negotiations, but if this project stays on track then we’re in good shape for a 2015 (calendar year) implementation.
So that’s a quick update on some of the things that happened while I was gone. I’m thinking I need to take more vacations. 😉
Five years, one redesign, and dozens of new features after its launch in 2009, we’re doing our largest feedback survey to date to learn how ALA Connect is working for you and how we can make it even better.
We’re asking both ALA members and non-members to fill out the online survey, which will be open through Sunday, October 12, 2014. Everyone who completes it will be entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini.
We’re also seeking ALA members who will participate in a one-hour site review and feedback session with $75 compensation. The ALA members who wish to participate must be either new to ALA Connect or have visited the website, but have not previously engaged in group discussions or forums on the site. The valuable input gathered from the interview will help launch a redesign of the site that encourages collaboration among ALA members. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in participating in this more granular feedback session.
We’re excited to announce that you can now search the 800+ awards listed in the Financial Assistance for Library & Information Studies (FALIS) Directory in the Opportunities Exchange in ALA Connect.
The FALIS Directory is maintained by ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR). All of the awards can now be searched by type (assistantship, fellowship, scholarship), library type (academic, public, school), education program level (Masters, Doctorate), state, keyword, and more. The Directory is also still available as a PDF.
This effort brings together in one place the more than 800+ FALIS awards with dozens of additional opportunities within the library profession for calls for proposal, equipment, freelance work, giveaways, grants, job exchanges, research surveys, volunteering, and more.
Originally started in 2010 as one of then-ALA President Jim Rettig’s initiatives, the Opportunities Exchange was conceived of as a craigslist for the library world. Anyone with an account on ALA Connect can add a new opportunity to the OppEx. Users can also save searches and request email alerts when new opportunities are added that match the interests listed in their Connect profiles.
See the Help section of the Opportunities Exchange for more information about this valuable resource and how you can add an opportunity to the database.