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David Vess's picture

2014 MW ALA Web Advisory Committee Report

Committee Charge

ALA’s Website Advisory Committee’s charge is as follows:

  • To develop, review and recommend to council association policies for the ALA website.
  • To recommend editorial or structural guidelines for the ALA website.
  • To provide advice to the ALA executive director responsible for implementing such policies and guidelines.
  • To provide an ongoing channel for member communication by working closely with other units, committees and offices of the association.
  • To make recommendations concerning technical issues or changes to the ALA website, including evaluating, testing and implementing web-based products and services used by association members or by the public.
  • To advise the association on priorities and strategies that promote utilization and continued development of the ALA website.

Charge and roster are located here: http://www.ala.org/groups/committees/ala/ala-webadv

Issues that affect the committee’s work and their implications for the future

ITTS Lacks Sufficient Resources

ALA’s Information Technology & Telecommunication Services Office (ITTS) is under a great financial and staffing strain.  Like library patrons, the Association’s members expect sophisticated web services that come at a high price.  ITTS is responsible for serving all of ALA membership and ALA staff.  The office must also provide a public face of the Association to the world – that responsibility alone is daunting.  The office supports many services.  They deal with everything from the moral and legal obligations of web accessibility to staff technology training.

I urge you all to look over two documents from ITTS.  If you’re pressed for time, look at the Road Map.

    • The ITTS report illustrates that the team accomplished -- with few resources -- since Annual Conference.  ITTS Report to WAC, January 2014: http://connect.ala.org/node/216983 [5 pages]
    • The second document is ITTS’s ALA Technology Roadmap.  The office is under such demand that basic housekeeping work like upgrades are scheduled years out.  The link to the PDF is just under the title of the blog post:  http://itts.ala.org/news/2014/01/16/ala-technology-roadmap/  [9 pages]

ITTS' Lack of Resources and Implications for WAC

Until the Association’s financial situation stabilizes, the committee is limited in what it can ask of ITTS to do.  We can certainly develop and pose projects for ALA’s web presence but they will need to be added to a 4-year queue of projects that consists of many basic housekeeping tasks.
The ALA Website Advisory Committee is struggling to engage committee members.  Given the demands on ITTS, this seems to be a good opportunity to build a stronger committee community.  More about this is noted in item two of the Planned Activities section below.


At this time, the committee hasn’t undertaken projects other than general communications with ITTS.  We often send out calls for volunteers around the Association when ITTS needs beta-testers for something.

The committee met at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.  We didn’t have a quorum but the meeting was time well spent.  We’ve identified some activities that we can report on at Annual.  I address them in item two of the Planned Activities section below.

Planned activities

Mediawiki Usage Evaluation

The committee requested ITTS pull usage statistics of ALA’s installation of Mediawiki – the technology that powers the ALA Wiki.  Committee members will soon poll their constituencies to verify their group’s dependence on the ALA Wiki.  If no groups are using the service, the committee may recommend ITTS take this service down.  When migrating all LITA groups from Mediawiki to ALA Connect, LITA’s Web Coordinating Committee created a migration guide that includes a schedule and communication templates.  It helps members evaluate wiki content to determine what should be preserved in ALA Connect and what can be deleted.  If we pose taking the service down, we will be able to leverage member-developed resources.

WAC Member Participation

I noted above in the Issues section of this document that most WAC committee members are not participating in the group.  There appears to be confusion about the committee.  This committee is often an add-on to other appointments or staff responsibilities.  There also is some confusion about appointments to the committee. 

Aaron Dobbs (former WAC chair) commented that it was imperative for ALA groups to have representation in WAC so they can share with WAC what their groups are doing and what they need.  More importantly, these representatives need to report back on the important work that ITTS is doing.  WAC and ITTS needs to have support from divisions and committees.

We will soon launch an email campaign in the hopes of revitalizing the group by reaching out to our constituencies’ leadership groups.  This will also include talking points for committee representatives to use in talking to their communities about the committee. 

I think we can build awareness of the committee and also demonstrate the value of participating.  What does it do?  What good is it in our current financial situation?  The committee’s staff liaison is the head of ITTS.  We have a direct line to this important ALA office and we’re not leveraging it. 

Accessibility of Exhibit Halls (Healey)

Simon Healey, Chair of the Accessibility Forum, posed an idea of how to make ALA exhibit halls more accessible for people with visual challenges.  Healey asked if there was some way to use RFID tags to help individuals connect with exhibitors.  A solution to this problem could certainly be used to help all conference attendees locate vendors on mobile devices.  It was suggested that this idea could be posed to the LITA codes project.  David will contact that group to talk about this idea.

Use of ALA Logo on a non-ALA website -- Universal Access: Making Library Resources Accessible to People with Disabilities (Healey)

The website, Universal Access: Making Library Resources Accessible to People with Disabilities https://www.washington.edu/doit/UA/PRESENT/libres.html was created by librarians who are experts on accessibility issues.  The site is housed on the washington.edu domain. Healey requested that the ALA logo be added to the site, though it isn’t an official ALA webpage.  The committee supported the idea.  David will craft a request with Simon to then pas on to Sherri Vanyek, Head of ALA ITTS, who will then take this issue to senior management to see if its possible to add the ALA logo to this website.  

Link to Accessibility Clearing house page on ALA Homepage (Healey)

Simon Healey, Chair of the Accessibility Forum, also requested a link to an accessibility clearinghouse be placed on the ALA website home page.  There are several groups who have a stake in this.  It was noted that getting “real estate” on the homepage could be a challenge.  More about this idea will need to be fleshed out.  The committee will write a letter in support of this request and pass it on to Sherri Vanyek, Head of ALA ITTS.

Interactions with other units within ALA

We have no interactions to report at this time, though we plan on contacting the LITA / ALCTS Library Code Year Interest Group regarding the idea noted in item 3 in the Planned Activities section of this document.  We will also use committee members to reach out to their representative groups to build awareness of the committee as well as the work ITTS does.   This outreach will also emphasize that representatives (committee members) are a crucial link to ITTS.  Ideas and updates should be flowing  back and forth between constituencies and ITTS via our committee members.

Current level of committee members’ involvement (more substantive than an attendance roll)

The ALA Website Advisory Committee is struggling to engage committee members.  As noted above in the Planned Activities section, the committee will soon be brainstorming on how to better articulate the value of WAC.  Some notions about value are already noted in item two of the Planned Activities section of this document.  The committee will also establish a virtual meeting schedule between Midwinter Meetings and Annual Conferences along with and some other general meeting procedures to help us have productive meetings.

Committee self-check on its value and viability (update charge, discontinue committee, consolidate with another, change structure, other observations)

More about this is noted above in item two of Planned Activities section of this document.  This is a uniquely positioned committee that could have tremendous impact on the ALA web presence for our members.  

Other issues of each committee’s own devising

None to report at this time.

Committee Meeting Agendas and Minutes

I noticed on Jim's reporting record document [excel document called Committee report record ongoiong.xlsx] that this committee hasn't turned in reports for some time.  This isn't accurate -- at least I can attest this group has never been dormant.  It's functioned since I started doing web work for GLBTRT in 2009.  The following is a list of WAC meeting minutes and ITTS Reports:

ITTS Reports to WAC:

WAC Minutes & Agendas:

Submitted by,
David S. Vess
ALA Website Advisory Committee Chair
Past-chair of GLBT Round Table