Visitors to will perceive the entire site’s content as authoritative and official, as it bears the brand of the American Library Association. Be aware that your content can have multiple audiences: ALA members, potential members, interested library professionals and support staff, professors of library and information science, school teachers, journalists, and the public. Each should come away with a satisfactory experience.

Official ALA policies that pertain to the printed versions of content also apply to the electronic dissemination of that content.

Considerations in the use of members-only content

The use of members-only content should consider the extent of past availability of that content, any privacy issues, and any issues of open access to publications.

Consultation with other units in the absence of a policy

Various units of ALA have differing policies on members-only content; if your unit has no precedent, you may consult with other units to factor their processes into your decisions.


Position within the ALA Information Structure

ALA has created a detailed information structure for content (Appendix E), as part of the information architecture (IA) developed for the site. The IA was developed to support the users’ view of the information content and to promote the “scent of information” that would lead users most effectively in finding what they seek.

Location of content within the information structure

Content must reside in the area of the information structure to which it relates, as defined in the IA.

Placement of new content within the information structure

When new content is defined, it must be placed within the existing information structure, if a relevant category exists.

Creation of new categories when needed for new content

If no relevant category exists to house new content, a new category must be created and named to harmonize with the existing structure and maintain the principle of “scent of information” on which the developed IA was based.

Process for requesting a new category

Send information about the desired category, synonyms (to aid with the creation of direct matches in the Google Search Appliance), and your ideas for where the new term should fit in the information structure to In most cases, a decision will be reached within two business days, and then ITTS will implement the changes in the CMS within another two days.

Uniqueness of Content

Content unique across site

Content must be unique across the site. This helps avoid duplicating information or risking the existence of multiple versions of similar content, one or more of which may be obsolete.

Citation rather than duplication

If the same item of information is needed in multiple places within the site, extra mentions of that item must cite the original and link to it, rather than duplicating it.

Linking to content

Content may be linked from anywhere, regardless of where it resides.

Enhancing Readability

People are less inclined to read long, unbroken paragraphs on the web than they are to read them in print.

Use of headings

Headings make it possible to scan for a specific topic of interest.

Use of similar-level headings for similar levels of hierarchy

Similar levels in the hierarchy should use headings of the same levels.

Use of lists

Bullet points and ordered lists may be used to break up blocks of text. Use bullet points only when listing three or more related items.

  • Unordered lists should be used when there is no order of sequence or importance.
  • Ordered lists should be used to suggest a progression or sequence.
  • Definition lists should be used only for presenting a structure for definitions.


Language Style

ALA units should use the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) for most web content.

Language appropriate for audience

Language should be appropriate for the primary audience(s) to whom the content is aimed (e.g., members, nonmember librarians, the press, the public).

Controlled Vocabulary

(This area has not yet been developed.)


ALA is committed to making all content on readable by the largest number of people in the relevant audience group. For this purpose, we have selected the Gunning Fog Index as a measure of readability. This index aims to indicate the years of full-time education required to understand a text easily on the first reading. (See Wikipedia article on the Fog Index.) When deciding on the most appropriate readability level for your audience, it is important to consider who the audience is and what their presumed reading level would be.

Use of Fog Index to assess content readability

Content may be submitted to an online Fog Index calculator (e.g., before it is uploaded to the site.

Reading level for children

For children, content should score at an educational level appropriate for the children to whom the content is aimed.

Reading level for public

For the public, content should score 12 or lower (10 is even better).

Reading level for professional librarians

For professional librarians, content may score 12 or higher and should in most cases score 16 or lower.

Maximum reading level for all audiences

Content should not score higher than 18 for any audience.

Writing for the Web

Here are some guidelines to aid you in writing content for These are not specifics of what you must, should, or may do, in the same sense as the rest of this guide; instead, they are intended to provide guidance to help you write for the site. To ensure that content is fresh and current:
Construct and develop content according to the needs of your audience(s);

Content Review, Removal, and Archiving

Each page will have its own period of peak currency, with some pages (such as bylaws) being relatively static.

Indication of page currency

As an aid to user evaluation of the content presented, each web page should include an indication of its currency (“last updated” or “last reviewed” date).

Indication of frequency of update

Each page may also offer some indication of the frequency with which the page is updated.

Frequency of review and update

Each page should be reviewed (and updated as appropriate) at least once per year.

Notice of non-update of archival page

If a web page is archival in nature and will not be updated, it must include a statement indicating this.

Removal of obsolete pages

When a page is determined to be obsolete, it should be removed from the site.

  • Exception: A page may be maintained as archival if it is clearly marked as such (see 6.4.4).

Note: If such a page is replaced with new content (for example, a calendar of workshop offerings for the current year, replacing the same for the old year), nothing more need be done.

Archival of pages

Pages shall be considered current according to the following criteria:

  • The current year of press releases, events, board actions, and meeting minutes, are available, with links to the two previous years.
  • Pages may include a message directing anyone interested in resources older than three years to contact the ALA Library.

Correction or removal of broken links

When a link is found to be broken, it must be corrected, either by its removal or by correction of its URL.

Page not found process for removed pages

If a removed page is likely to have been bookmarked or linked to, it should be replaced with an information page explaining how to retrieve that information in the future.

  • Example: The URL for that page has been printed in a book, magazine, or flyer, or has been used by a major site external to ALA, so a custom page not found message is provided.

Deletion of links to removed pages

When a page is removed from the site without being replaced by content that has the same URL, all pages that linked to it must be updated to remove that link.

Preparing Content for the ALA Search Engine

The ALA search engine continually indexes all content on the site. The CMS allows content creators to add keywords and descriptive text for each page, which factor into the search index.

Metadata mandatory

Every page must include metadata. Every page must include a metadata title; and should include keywords and descriptive text.

Use of CMS field for copyright notice

Copyrighted pages — content that has a publication date, such as a press release, periodical article, or published manuscript — must use the CMS’s field for copyright date, which is filled out automatically upon page edit, but can be overridden by the user.

Use of CMS field for event date

Events pages — pages that concern activities taking place on a specific date or time period— must use the CMS’s field for event date.

Available free text, user editable metadata fields

  • Title (metadata title, SEO title): Should match or be similar to the H1 heading on the page. If possible, the title should be slightly more descriptive than the H1 heading, incorporating synonyms of important words in H1. This will be the title pulled to display on listing pages.
  • Description: An abstract of the content
  • Author: Individual or group
  • Editor: Individual or group
  • Keywords: Terms and phrases representing key concepts discussed in the resource.