ALA electronic discussion lists using Sympa

ALA uses electronic discussion lists for interactive communications. There are lists for committees, roundtables and other groups.

ALA uses an open-source mailing list application called Sympa.  Sympa provides ALA members with a web interface for handling and dropping subscriptions. It also allows ALA list subscribers to search list archives, change mail options, and more.

For first-time users to set up a Sympa account:

  1. Click on the First login? link in the left navigation. 
  2. Type your e-mail address and click the button labeled Send me my password.
  3. Retrieve the password from your e-mail account. Tip: If you do not see it in your inbox, check your junk mail folder, as sometimes that is where your filtering system places it.
  4. Return to the interface and log-in.

Once you log in, you can adjust your preferences (e-mail address, name), view the ALA lists you are currently subscribed to, and change your mailing options (digest, weekly, etc.). You can also add subscriptions from the choices available.

What are my subscription choices?

The mailing lists are organized by topic and unit.  You can view the lists by selecting the List of lists tab at the top of the page.

To subscribe to an electronic discussion list

Web interface method

  1. View either the topically oriented lists from the home page or go to the List of lists tab.
  2. Browse the choices available.
  3. Click on the list’s name to select it.
  4. Choose the Subscribe link in the left hand navigation.
  5. Click OK in the popup that asks if you really want to subscribe. You'll receive confirmation of the subscription via email—a welcome to the list message.


E-mail method 

These directions can be used for any open ALA list, substituting the appropriate list name following the word SUBSCRIBE, as shown in the example in step two, below.

  1. Address an e-mail to
  2. In the subject line, type: SUBSCRIBE LIST NAME Your Name. For example, SUBSCRIBE  MEMBER-FORUM@LISTS.ALA.ORG Jane Smith.
  3. Do not put anything in the body of the message.
  4. Send the e-mail.

To unsubscribe from an electronic discussion list:

Web interface method

  1. Go to the ALA Mailing Lists home page.
  2. Log in.
  3. Locate the list’s name by browsing or searching.
  4. Click on the list’s name to select it.
  5. Choose the Unsubscribe link in the left hand navigation.
  6. Type in your e-mail address (it must be the same one at which you received list messages).
  7. Click the Unsubscribe button.

E-mail method 

These directions can be used for any open ALA list, substituting the appropriate list name.

  1. Address an e-mail to
  2. In the body of the message, type: UNSUBSCRIBE LISTNAME, inserting the name of the list in place of LISTNAME.

Account preferences—changing your e-mail address or name

Log in, choose Your Preferences from the left navigation area (under the logout button) to change the relevant information yourself.

Choosing how you want to receive e-mail from the list

Once you have received your password by e-mail, log in at and view Your Lists in the left navigation. All ALA lists to which you've subscribed will show there, in alphabetical order.

Click on any of your lists. If you choose Subscriber Options in the left navigation you can change the way you receive mail from the lists (digest, standard, no mail, etc.). The no mail option, allows you to continue to be a member of the list without receiving any mail—a great option for vacations or medical leave periods. Just remember to change your preferences when you return.

Accessing discussion list archives

Each discussion list has an archive of messages previously posted to the list. It is possible to browse or search for postings. To search, choose the list from which you wish to find archives, and click on Archives in the left-hand navigation. Enter a search term in the box. There is also an Advanced Search button that provides additional options.

If you'd rather browse by date, the calendar at the top of the Archives page shows archives by month and year to 1998; choose the month you're looking for and you can view all posts to that particular list during that month.

It is also possible to organize the postings by topic or by date by selecting either Chronological or Thread.