16 May 14 ALA Strategic Technology Directions 2014-2017 & Technology Roadmap

The ALA Information Technology & Telecommunication Services (ITTS) unit presented the ALA Strategic Technology Directions 2014-2017 to the ALA Executive Board in April 2014.  It provides a good foundation to understand how technology is implemented to meet the goals of the organization and explains the role of ITTS within ALA.

The diagrams in the report attempt to show the complexity of the implemented technologies and how they are integrated with each other.  For example, our conference registration companies retrieve iMIS (our Association Management System) data so that members won’t have to reenter their membership information again when registering for conferences.  The ALA Technology Services diagram on page 2 shows all of the integrations between systems.

With only 8.5 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 infographic containing 2013 ITTS statistics.  For example, we received 3,833 help desk requests in 2013.  This is a conservative number 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 also maintain 300 databases, 100 virtual servers, and 40 physical servers, in addition to the services we manage that are provided/maintained by 27 different consultants. We had 25.5 million pageviews on our website, and 22% of our members use ALA Connect.

The following are some highlights of some of the major goals.  The full vision is in the report.

Web Presence

  1. In order to make ALA more understandable and accessible to members, we need to offer personalized paths to all ALA resources.  To do this, we need to create My ALA to bring together the relevant information ALA and its units offer in a custom view, personalized for each member based on his or her ALA affiliations, interest profiles, and network of colleagues.
  2. A new mobile website is scheduled for deployment in fiscal 2015 to meet the growing demand for on-the-go access to ALA resources
  3. A new enhanced elearning portal will be implemented.  In a future phase, moving the portal to a database backend would let us dynamically generate course lists, allow automatic filtering of results based on a particular member’s interests, allow users to search for courses, and provide a way for us to combine ALA product placement within a course’s description page.
  4. The integration of enhanced profile data from both iMIS and ALA Connect into one system members can access is essential to launching the new ecommerce system and preparing the way for helping members to more easily connect with each other.
  5. “My CE” — Once the new eLearning Commons is implemented, we can add a section to member profiles that lets them easily find and track their ALA-related online learning.
  6. Member matching — Once all of the membership data is aggregated in iMIS, we can implement VIVO and other tools to visualize existing and potential relationships between members.
  7. Historical CVs — A future phase allow members to turn their profiles into full-blown CVs that can be made public to supplement resumes.

iMIS Association Management System

We will upgrade our iMIS Membership Management System used to capture member and customer transactions for dues, committee rosters, small events/continuing education, subscriptions, and fund raising. The iMIS upgrade will allow us to offer more standard integration with our other systems, provide staff with mobile access, and provide a current and robust foundation for the new ecommerce system.


The new ecommerce implementation is scheduled to begin this summer and will provide much-needed new functionality.  The new system will be more convenient for all users, allowing them to join, register, or donate without first creating an iMIS account. It will also let users purchase multiple items through a single shopping cart, view their past purchases, view recommendations, and use embedded customer service chat. ALA and its units will finally be able to offer promotional coupons and special offers and embed ecommerce widgets on non-ALA sites. Screens will be more customizable and the interface will be much more user-friendly.

ALA Connect

Further improvements planned for FY14 include:

  • implementation of the Solr Search engine used on to improve searching on Connect
  • a feature that makes it easy to poll group members for a meeting time
  • the addition of the thousands of grant/scholarship awards in the FALIS Directory to the Opportunities Exchange
  • notifications to community admins when someone joins their group
  • the ability to start a new group discussion via email instead of going to Connect and logging in.

In FY15, we will be working on a responsive website theme for Connect that will become the foundation for mobile apps, as well as exploring the best way to implement digital badges for active participants. With Connect and profiles merging into a new resource as part of the new profile management system, we’ll be switching our focus from building a member matching feature in Connect to building a group matching one based on member profile interests. When the profile management project is complete, we’ll also be implementing Shibboleth so that logging in to Connect will automatically log you in to and vice-versa.

Social Media

Looking to the future, a major focus for staff skills will be in some areas like storytelling, creating images, editing audio and video, and blending different media to create an engaging narrative.  Looking across the Association, these skill set shifts are already becoming apparent.  That shift into the new, social communications environment will necessarily continue.

Technology Roadmap

The Technology Roadmap contains a list of projects scheduled for the next four years.  It is a timeline that will change based on available resources.

Going forward, we’ll post updates on these projects on our blog and continue to show how our vision for technology is helping to improve ALA services. We hope that you’ll ask questions and provide feedback along the way.


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