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Emily Ford's picture

Friends who aren't ALA members

So one of my colleagues, who works in my same building, attends many of the same meetings I do, etc. joined ALA Connect although she is not an ALA member. I would like to add her to my network because we do work together and are on some local association committees together, but it appears that she cannot be in my network because she's not an ALA member.

I would really like it if I could add her some way into my network. Is this merely a political thing or can I really do this and just can't figure out how, or it is in the roadmap?

Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Hi, Emily --

You're correct that non-members don't have access to the networking features in Connect. It's not a politcal thing so much as a member perk.

Let's talk that through, though. The overall goal for Connect is to enhance the member experience and provide more opportunities for members (to find each other, network with each other, get involved within ALA, work together, make ALA easier for them, etc.). Recognizing that bringing in non-members and providing them a level of participation is a secondary goal, what kinds of criteria would you use in determining whether a service is members-only or open to everyone?

There will be a level of non-member access to things like the opportunities exchange, the event planner, the CE Clearinghouse, etc., but there'll be "added-bonus" features available to members. Personally, I don't think it's fair to paying members to make a blanket statement that non-members should have all of the same rights and access that members do, but I'm looking forward to hearing others' thoughts on this.


Kristen Borysewicz's picture

I would like to use ALA Connect for our Chapter work -- including online votes.  While the Executive Committee must be members of ACRL the chapter members do not.  Would a non-ALA member be able to use the poll/vote I create on our Chapter's Community site?

To address your broader question, it's an efficiency matter more than a fairness issue.  If I use this tool to get work done, it doesn't matter to me if non-members have the same rights and access.  I would just want safeguards in place that vendors couldn't "spam" me.  However, if a vendor created a page and I chose to connect with that, the choice stays with me and I'm fine with that.



Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Hi, Kristen --

If you create a community for your ACRL chapter and a non-ALA member is part of that community (in other words, is listed on the roster, either by joining it or by you adding them), then they'll be able to vote in your poll. Non-ALA members can join any open community or be added to any community by the group admin.

That's a fair point about efficiency. What kinds of criteria would you use to define efficiency in general? I'm trying to figure out at what point you'd say, "that's a member benefit" versus "that could be open to everyone?" I guess I'm trying to figure out the *level* of efficiency and for whom? For example, is it okay for members to network with non-members without non-members having networks? Is there an efficiency to non-members having networks, and does that play into the equation? I don't have any easy answers for this stuff, so I'm just trying to work through it in my own mind.


Kristen Borysewicz's picture

Thanks so much for the reply Jenny - glad I can make the voting work -- that certainly meets my need for efficiency at this point.

Yes there's no easy answers and I appreciate your responsiveness.  I'm sure this will evolve as you encounter more requests. 

I've noticed that working on Connect can be a bit slow-going so that's certainly another factor to consider  -- will expanding this tool beyond non-members bog the system down?


Take care,


Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Hi, Kristen --

Connect was running a little slow last week after the ugprade to Drupal 6, but we found the problem and fixed it, so it should be moving faster now. If you're still experiencing any slowness, please contact me separately and we'll figure out what's going on (jlevine [at] ala.org).

Non-member accounts haven't been a drain on the system so far, and Drupal *should* be able to handle this many users just fine. Certainly we would never let any issues related to non-member accounts bog down the member experience, but so far we're not seeing any issues related to this, and we don't expect to.

Going to light a candle now and hope I didn't just jinx us.... :)

Cassandra Hartnett's picture

I see Connect as a valuable benefit of ALA membership.  Keeping Connect networks as "members only" *is* efficient, b/c it helps create a meaningful ALA community, rather than an "everyone-who's-online" community.  I firmly believe that Connect is going to help make ALA a better organization.  Opening networks up to nonmembers, while attractive from an inclusion perspective, would detract from that transformation.

Cass Hartnett, GODORT

Cass Hartnett/ University of Washington Libraries/ 206-685-3130

Emily Ford's picture


I agree that paying members should have perks that non-members don't have. I like the proposed perk of adding my non-member colleague to my network on Connect. I have other spaces where I can do this if I want, like LinkedIn or Facebook, but I like the library community feel of Connect for work and library related communities. It would be nice for me to be able to track this non-member colleague as a member of my network. If I end up using Connect like I use Facebook the ability to send a message to my whole network, etc would be really useful and make work more efficient.

So again the model that seems appealing to me is that I can add her as part of my network. Is this doable? Where members can have non-members in their network but non-members aren't allowed the permission to have a network?

And thanks for the quick response!


Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Emily, that's a great suggestion about being able to contact your whole network, and I'll put it on the list for future consideration. Pretty much anything is "doable" in Drupal, but we'd have to figure out if we have the resources to make it happen. And of course, we'd have to respect whatever communication preferences members have set, so we couldn't *guarantee* that your message went to everyone in your network. We could do our best from our end, though.

My bigger concern is actually currency of non-member information in Connect. Members have some incentive to keep their contact info up-to-date with ALA, but non-members don't. When you use Connect to contact someone, what are your expectations that it will have a current address for a non-member? Does it still help to have a non-member in your network if their information is outdated? And how much contact information do you want from a non-member? Right now we're really only collecting organizational affiliation and email address.

In case you can't tell, I'm still struggling with this issue myself. I think we were originally headed down the road Cass outlined to make member networks more meaningful and current for the reasons she suggested (thanks for articulating that so well, Cass). Technically, Connect is already open to everyone, though, so how much would be affected by allowing members to add non-members to their networks? Could it be a feature that's used by those who want it and ignored by others? Or does it make it more confusing for everyone, especially if contact info is out-of-date?

Emily, would that help or hurt? Cass, is it okay for others to add non-members, or does that dilute your experience? I hope others chime in, too, as a variety of feedback will help.

Thanks, everyone --

Emily Ford's picture

Thanks for the thoughts, Jenny.

Since we have to manually add members to our networks anyway, why would it be different if the person were a non-member? Would I have a separate search to find them and add them? Either a user would actively add network members or wouldn't. I don't see how having the functionality to add a non-member to my network would create any more confusion in that regard.

Regarding contact information, the only contact information I really care about is e-mail address. While an institutional affiliation is nice, if I really want to find someone I can figure out how to track them down. (We are librarians, aren't we?) I don't think I'd really ever rely on Connect or any other networking site, for that matter, for a physical mailing address for anyone anyway; plus, how often am I going to need a physical address or work phone number for someone? Almost never. I could be an anomaly with this, though.

To respond a bit to what Cass mentioned about making Connect a rich ALA community, I agree. However, being able to add non-ALA members would create a richer user experience and utility to those who are members. To me it would show that ALA can listen to my (a member's) professional networking needs. Isn't that what Connect is about? Plus, like I mentioned before, I do work with this colleague in a variety of professional environments--and I can see how in the future the work I do with this colleague might be beneficial to ALA or someone else who is an ALA member. Does this make sense?



Dave Hargett's picture

Part of the issue may be that we need some better understanding of "groups" vs "communities" vs "network" and what you can do in/with each one in terms of public vs private material, non-members, etc. Is there a comparison chart somewhere, like you can see when you look to compare the features of 2 or 3 printers at an online review site?

My take currently, from my limited efforts at playing with Connect, is that: (Jenny correct me if I'm wrong!)

Groups are the ALA member locations where you get slotted by the iMis database based on your ALA Memberships/Divisions/Sections/Rountables, etc. and is more the formal type of location where you can work with your committee.

Communities are the more closely formed "interest groups" that anyone can create and (depending on the admin of the community) anyone could join and work together.

On the other hand I think I've seen a subcommittee from a "group" get formed as a community.

I've not yet figured out the real reason for "networks" and the definitions of colleage, co-worker, etc and how I would make use of that.

So I think the lines are a little blurry in terms of how best to use this great new tool to work together, depending on what you want to do. And that doesn't even get into what you can or cannot do within other categories of tools, like the Event Planner, which has to be open to anyone attending ALA or ALA Midwinter.

For example, I'm a trustee - not a librarian - and there are many thousands of library trustees around the country who do not become ALA members or ALTAFF members. Whether this is because they are not interested or because there is no budget at the library to pay for the membership fees and the trustees don't want to pay for something they may or may not be interested in, or because of some other reason. I'm hoping that we MAY be able to figure out some way to post content on the ALTAFF website to interest these non-member trustees and then invite some of them to help with the work of ALTAFF by joining into some of the communities that we may form here in Connect. Of course I have to get my own divisional officers and staff using Connect first! That's going to be task #1.

In addition, I'm still finding it difficult to maneuver and know what is really read or unread because EVERYTHING is staying in the tabs all of the time with the latest upgrade. At least before I could read an item and have it not constantly showing up in my "unread posts" tab.







Dave Hargett ALTAFF Representative 2008-2010 Trustee, Fountaindale Public Library - Bolingbrook, IL

Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Dave, you're right on target with your explanation for the difference between "ALA groups" and "member communities." And yes, a few "official" ALA groups have decided to form communities instead of going through our member database, but your delineation is a good rule of thumb.

Networks aren't more than just "fun" right now, but they'll become critical in the future. Your network will help you find other relevant pieces of interest within ALA, you'll (hopefully) be able to show your conference schedule to your "friends" (or colleagues, co-workers, etc.) you'll see what your network is posting to the Opportunities Exchange, etc. (If none of this makes any sense to anyone, please be sure to read the ALA Connect Roadmap).

Basically, though, in the future your network will give you a way to filter the massiveness that is "ALA" to a more manageable level.