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.

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.


16 Jan 14 ALA Technology Roadmap

We’ve updated our ALA Technology Roadmap January 2015 project list. This list represents:

  • major projects and initiatives
  • some day-to-day operations
  • upgrades to critical items including software that is no longer supported or will no longer be supported in the near future
  • security issues
  • disaster recovery/business continuity

This Roadmap currently projects out three years of work, but the timeframes are subject to change based on our resources. Sherri Vanyek Director, Information Technology & Telecommunication Services (ITTS) American Library Association