Tuesday, November 13, 2007

As fish in a barrel, so go my potshots at ALA's website.

It's my own fault, I suppose. I know there's been some progress on ALA's long-awaited site redesign. I saw the wireframes (admittedly, by accident) during Annual 2007. Every so often, some blog or newsletter that I read mentions it. But I rarely visit ALA's website unless I absolutely have to, and after an admittedly blistering response sent during the organization's usability solicitation last year, it's largely fallen off my radar.

So when I got an e-mail solicitation from an ALA section that included a call for volunteers, I decided to have a look. My current appointment is up this summer, and it's time to do something else. I clicked the link. Hunted up my membership number and password so that I could actually log in to the committee volunteer form, and...

Whoops. I see an error message indicating that I don't have the "appropriate membership access"--whatever that means. Although I'm an ALA member, I think that I must not be a member of this section, even though the e-mail I received addressed me as such. Well, such mistakes happen. I cut back on my division and section memberships last year because, honestly, I can't justify the cost of belonging to any of them unless I'm actively working in them. The cost for each is fairly low, true, but it adds up.

So I started clicking around to try and figure out whether this was the case. First, I logged into MyALA.

I still can't figure out what the point of MyALA is supposed to be. It doesn't tell you anything about your own membership, such as when it expires, or (more to the point of my current endeavor) what the details of your membership are, such as which sections you belong to. Fortunately, I keep almost all of my e-mail, and was able to dig up my membership confirmation letter from last winter. It seems that I did indeed let my LITA membership lapse. Oh, well.

So what constitutes "appropriate membership access" to volunteer for a LITA committee? I spend some more time working my way back to the LITA website and look up the requirements for committee service. One must indeed be a LITA member.

Makes sense. But spending close to 10 minutes clicking around the ALA website, clicking search results links that lead to dead pages, and digging around in my e-mail to figure out which parts of ALA's alphabet soup I've elected to be officially part of this year, all reminds me of why I visit the ALA website so rarely.

I really, really hope that along with the ALA website redesign, there's substantial time, thought, and effort being given to improving the site functionality. This isn't the first time I've had this kind of experience with the ALA website, and it engenders a low-level but enduring frustration that renews itself with every encounter.

I can, of course, join LITA right now and then (once someone processes my application, presumably) attempt to volunteer again. However, I'm going to wait for that low-level frustration to subside a bit before I tackle the current incarnation of ALA's website again.


Kaijsa said...

It bugs me that all ALA memberships are for calendar year, which is a rip-off if you join up mid-year. I dropped RUSA because I was sending ALA almost $300 a year with my two divisions and a roundtable and librarianship does not pay me enough to do that. Frustrating!

datamuse said...

Yeah, the Music Library Association is the same way. I deliberately delayed joining because I couldn't see paying a year's worth of dues for two months' worth of membership.

Honestly, SLA is starting to look better and better for the kind of work I want to be doing.