ALA Connect: not just another social network

April 6, 2009

ALA Connect landing page

Today ALA Connect launches. We've been hearing about it for weeks. "It's like Facebook–but for librarians," we've said, all-too-simply (and inaccurately) in categorizing ALA Connect, ALA's new centralized virtual space. That's a facile comparison to make, but really Connect is more than that. Not just another social network, ALA Connect will help members engage in ALA business and network with others. It's a single virtual location in which ALA members can collaborate and work on division, round table, and committee projects with an impressive spread of tools: blog-like posts, online documents, group calendars, surveys and polls, chat rooms, discussion forums, and RSS/email alerts to track progress. ALA members are already using tools like these in an unofficial way to achieve their goals for the Association. Often, these free, online, ad hoc tools have given us more flexibility than the official channels. But ALA Connect effectively reins in all the would-be unofficial online channels and tools and puts them under one roof, officiating them under the ALA brand.  Blogger Lauren Pressley praises Connect for just that, saying, "I love the informal groups that are popping up all over the web, but it’s nice to have a streamlined place for Association work and communication." She goes on to suggest that Connect "could be a case of our Association showing other organizations how to make use of online communication/information technologies to support the work of their organization." In typical Web 2.0, perpetual-beta style, Connect is being released in what ALA is calling "phase one" and will never be a finished product. Monitoring the site to track how well it meets members' needs will help inform designers about the potential for new tools, resources, and tweaks. New features and enhancements will be released on a regular basis.