CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) is now providing members a common virtual space to engage in ALA business and network with other members around issues and interests relevant to the profession.
ALA Connect (http://connect.ala.org) has launched its first phase of operation, in which every ALA group will have the ability to utilize the following tools:
• Posts (which are like blog posts)
• Online docs (which are like collaborative, wiki-like pages or Google Docs)
• Group calendar (for listing meetings, deadlines, etc.)
• Surveys (for asking multiple questions at once)
• Polls (for asking a single question)
• Chat room (text-based, including the ability to save a transcript of the discussion)
• Discussion forums (also known as “bulletin boards”)
“Phase one offers new features that are unavailable via other ALA Web-based services,” said ALA President Jim Rettig. “Members can view all of their current ALA affiliations in one place. They can search for other members and add them to their online network. And they can work together on a document online, rather than passing it around from one e-mail address to another. I look forward to seeing the new communities members create and the issues and interests they address.”
ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels said, “ALA Connect has a unique value for members. It enables members to collaborate within a vibrant and dynamic online community, facilitating their professional growth and extending their contacts within the Association. Members can now easily form new groups around shared interests, respond to emerging issues or create and manage shared projects.”
Members who log in to Connect using their regular ALA Web site username and password will find that their records are automatically synchronized with ALA’s membership database, so their affiliations with ALA’s committees, divisions, events, round tables and sections are displayed.
Each group’s home page automatically displays the latest content posted, upcoming events and the five most popular items from that group. Members of the group can post new content using any of the tools noted above or comment on items already published by others in the group. Members can also browse past content or search for something just within that group.
In addition to the formal working groups, members can also create their own communities, enabling them to cross geographical boundaries, as well as those that have traditionally separated different types of libraries.
Users can also track the public content of an ALA working group via e-mail or RSS feed or they can browse different communities, looking for new ones to join.
Now that phase one of ALA Connect is underway, the ALA will monitor the site to track how well it meets member needs. ALA will train its staff liaisons to work with their formal ALA groups to begin using Connect leading up to the 2009 ALA Annual Conference. Work on phase two will also begin during this time, although ALA Connect will never be a “finished” product, with enhancements and new features released on a regular basis.