06 Apr 17 Update on ITTS priority projects and the status of the ALA IT External Review Recommendations

The ALA Information Technology & Telecommunication Services (ITTS) report to the ALA Executive Board provides an update on ITTS priority projects and the status of the ALA External Review Recommendations for the remainder of FY2017 and beginning of FY2018.



16 Mar 17 Responsive Redesign Progress Report

We’re closing in on the completion of the retheming of and all associated microsites, including all the division microsites on The responsive nature of the redesign ensures that the sites will resize to display appropriately on cell phones, tablets and desktop computers. It will also bump us up in mobile search results.

ITTS used the retheming as an opportunity to make essential infrastructure upgrades to servers that include new set-ups of development, quality assurance and production web servers. Once the servers are ready, behind the scenes site migrations required to streamline ALA’s information architecture will take place. The changes to the information architecture reduce the number of ALA microsites by about half and will also reduce the time required to make site back-ups and to perform updates.

Retheming of microsites will commence following the site migrations. ITTS expects retheming to happen relatively quickly thanks to information sessions held with site stakeholders and the creation of a webform for them to communicate their final design choices.

We are accommodating units’ preferences for holding off their retheming based on event schedules, but expect to have all sites completed this spring.

Take a look at the paper design mock-ups to get an idea of what the sites will look like. (The global menus will have dropdowns, just like the current site, although an example hasn’t been shown in the mockups.)

Responsive ALSC site redesign mockup, with new features, like social media Follow icons.

ALSC Redesign Mockup

Responsive mockup of the ALA homepage showing new features, such as social media follow icons.

ALA Homepage Mockup

Responsive AASL site redesign mockup with new features, like social media Follow icons.

AASL Redesign Mockup


15 Dec 15 Help Us Evaluate A Different Search Engine

As of 12/14/2015, most of 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, 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

Here are a few examples of common searches and the results retrieved using Google:


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.

19 Mar 15 Drupal web updates

Last night, several security patches were released for Drupal and several modules. I will be working on getting these fixes applied today. The site may be slow at times or experience various performance issues throughout the day today.

20 Nov 14 Website outage

There is a critical security update for Drupal that we will be rolling out tomorrow morning at 9:30am. There will be a rolling outage where a single microsite will be put into maintenance mode while the update is installed, then it is taken live after it completes. Then it will proceed onto the next microsite and repeat the process. During testing, this maintenance window has been roughly 90 seconds per site.

29 Oct 14 Website Maintenance Scheduled

This evening, the ALA website and all microsites will be put into maintenance mode for a critical Drupal update. The outage will begin at 7pm, and I anticipate that they will be back up at 8pm. This outage will not affect blogs, wikis, Connect, nor Moodle.

20 Oct 14 Website login issues are resolved

Due to an issue with a function in the new IMIS upgrade, a small number of accounts have been unable to login to the website. We have resolved this issue, and all accounts should be able to login now. Users that were having problems may need to clear their browser cache and cookies. Anyone that is still having issues logging into the ALA website through Shibboleth, please enter a TrackIT ticket with a detailed report of the problem. Thank you.

14 Oct 14 iMIS 20 Membership System Upgrade Scheduled

The iMIS 20 membership system upgrade is scheduled for this weekend Friday, October 17th.  The iMIS database will be put in read-only mode beginning at 5:00pm CT, Friday October 17th .  A copy of the database will be upgraded and put in place over the weekend.

During the upgrade:

Our members and staff will be able to:

  • Log in to the website and update content in Drupal
  • Log in and make updates to ALA Connect
  • Register for Midwinter

Our members and staff will not be able to:

  • Save data to the iMIS membership system (e.g. update member contact information, join or renew their membership, register for a small event/webinar, make donations, reset passwords, volunteer for a committee, etc.)

The new iMIS 20 desktop will be made available to staff on Monday, October 20th . The new interface is very similar to the existing one and the web front end will look the same.  We will send an email to all staff when the upgrade is complete and full access is restored.  There will be a note on the homepage about this before and during the upgrade process.

Check the ALA Twitter account for the most current updates over the weekend.

We want to thank you for your patience.

Sherri Vanyek

Director, Information Technology & Telecommunication Services

02 Oct 14 Catching up on some ITTS projects

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.

Windows 7 Upgrade

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.

iMIS 20 Upgrade

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.

Shibboleth for ALA Connect and the Conference Schedulers

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 You’ll finally be able to log in to any of these sites with your regular 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.

ALA Connect Survey

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.

Profile Management Project

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 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.

New Ecommerce System

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. 😉