ALCTS Leaders React to Proposal to Migrate ALA Handbook to Electronic Form

In March, Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director, alerted current ALCTS officers and leaders of a proposal from Gerald Hodges, ALA Associate Executive Director for Communications, to move the ALA Handbook to electronic form on the Web next year, with the following parameters:

  • Preparation process for all ALA units will be the same as prior years
  • Schedule will be the same as prior years, i.e., available in October
  • The book will be on the member-only site in PDF format (accessible, searchable, thumbnails, print friendly)

The group of ALA managers discussing this proposal raised several questions:

  1. Will any copies be printed and, if so, how many?
  2. Are there certain parts of the handbook, for example, Constitution and Bylaws, Policy Manual that should be sent to all members (as an insert in the November American Libraries)?
  3. Shall we provide “print on demand” and if so, will it be free or on a cost-recovery basis?

Charles himself asked leaders the following questions; while ALA does not always get helpful feedback when it explores a project, ALCTS leaders quickly sent four dozen responses with a variety of comments:

Do you use the handbook?

Yes 28
No 1
Often 7
All the time 2
Occasionally 2
Rarely 1

For what purposes do you use it?

Directory 26
Committee work 28
Organizational structure 10
ALA information 7
Information on other divisions 1
General ALCTS information 2
Reference tool 1
Recruitment 1

What sections do you most frequently use?

Index 18
ALCTS information 15
Divisions 6
Policy sections 2
Everything 1

Would you miss a paper copy if it was available online and searchable?

Yes 13
Probably 9
No 5
Probably not 2

Would you still want some pieces of it in paper and which ones?

Yes 5
No 12
The whole manual 5

Are there implications for going electronic that should be considered?

  • Electronic would provide no access when away from a computer
  • Electronic would provide no access at committee meetings
  • It’s necessary to refer to Handbook at conferences
  • Paper version is easily portable
  • Must be downloadable
  • Must be easily accessible
  • Must be easily printable
  • How often would it be updated?
  • What would be the cost for printed copies?
  • Are there security issues concerning access to personal information?
  • What are the workflow issues for staff to maintain information?
  • Who would have access?
  • How is the access to be controlled?
  • Would need archiving of past issues; archiving is the most crucial question
  • Lose the historical content; make past years available as well
  • Must be easily searchable
  • Faster to find information in the paper version
  • Web site currently is difficult to navigate
  • Don’t do it!
  • Long overdue!

If other members would like to comment further, Gerald would be glad to hear from you. You can write him at

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