AL Direct, a “perq” from the American Library Association

The American Library Association has launched an email newsletter and they have sent it to every ALA member with an email address on file. The AL Direct FAQ states “AL Direct (American Libraries Direct) is an electronic newsletter sent to ALA personal members by e-mail as a perquisite of membership.” Here is what I noticed in the first 15 minutes of getting my first newsletter.

  • The links in the newsletter go to a combination of online content (already available) and giant PDFs that seems to come directly from the pages of American Libraries. I’m not sure I see the value-add.
  • I wish I could tell which links went to giant PDFs before I clicked them, but each hyperlink is an affiliate link through an outfit called (helpful error message here) which means no mousing-over the text to figure out which is which.
  • The site uses web bugs as near as I can tell, while this is not surprising, neither is it cool
  • There is an unsubscribe link, but I had to use my email’s find feature to locate it.
  • They don’t post old issues on the web site. This makes a certain amount of sense, since there is already an AL Online news digest as well as a weekly roundup of stories coming to interested members in their inboxes, but then there’s the question: why do this at all?
  • I specifically set my communications preferences with ALA — once there was a way to do so — to receive “official communications only” which is described as “ballot, renewal and membership card, American Libraries and division journals and newsletters specified in the ALA Handbook of Organization” on the Communications Preferences page. This may be nitpicky of me, but I don’t see why a heavily-advertiser supported newsletter — Sirsi is the sponsor for issue 1 — which is mostly rehashing news I already have access to elsewhere in ALA is seen as official communications. Put another way, why is me saying it’s okay for them to mail me a magazine seen as the same as saying it’s okay to put me on an email list for a newsletter?

For those of you who are already not fans of ALA, this will come as no surprise, ALA continues not to understand how to communicate in the digital world. For those of us who keep saying “No no, I think there’s still hope” each fumbling foray like this makes us wince and wish we belonged to a savvy organization that excited and interested us with their new ideas and options for intteraction.

There has been a lot of talk about Library 2.0 lately, and I’m with Steve that I’m more interested in doing cool stuff with my libraries than writing about libraries, or debating semantics, but I can say one thing for sure, I know it when I see it. In this case, I know I’m looking and not seeing it

5 thoughts on “AL Direct, a “perq” from the American Library Association

  1. I was surprised to get this in my mailbox. I let my ALA membership run out months ago. I guess they don’t update that list of theirs.

  2. I agree with all of your points above. Especially the vendor URL.

    I’ll be unsubscribing from this ‘service’ immediately as I can’t stand email newsletters – especially ones that make me click to other sites to get to any of the actual content.

    I only knew it was coming because I read the council list.

  3. Didn’t know about the web bug. OK, I’m irritated now. I’ve been appalled at ALA’s cluelessness when it comes to crafting messages & news & campaigns. I didn’t know the tech end of this until now. Argh.

  4. my favorite example of the tech-cluelessness is the email we get on the Council list. One department sends out every email with the subject line MEMORANDUM which, of course, makes them really easy to find in my inbox, but hard to tell apart.

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