October 24, 2007

Here's Hoping Usability Becomes Institutionalized within ALA

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 5:08 pm

I know a lot of folks (staff and members included) have been screaming from the rooftops for this, waiting impatiently. But today it finally happened. We’re trying to turn the cruise ship – come join me on the ledo deck!
Senior Usability Officer

Responsibilities: The American Library Association (ALA), a large, information-based professional organization seeks a Senior Usability Officer (SUO). This position in its key role will support 65,000 members and non-member in the organizations’ initiative to recast its growing Website with user-centered web design principles. The potential candidate will have extensive first hand experience designing and running usability tests, accessibility reviews/audits, and determining website trends. In addition, must have experience with other methodologies such as expert walkthroughs, defining stakeholder requirements, task analysis, wireframing, prototyping and card sorting. Excellent communication and people skills with the ability to communicate with non-technical individuals are a must in this highly visible position. The SUO must be flexible and able to incorporate user-centered design principles to online interfaces while remaining responsive and open to the diverse and shifting needs of a complex organization. The ability to work in a team environment and between two universes of Information Technology and Librarianship is essential in order to maintain an outcome-oriented, global vision.
Requirements: Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) or a related field with a minimum of five years experience in designing and conducting usability tests and making recommendations to effect changes. Must have knowledge of web site design, web-based usability standards, web-based accessibility standards and industry-acknowledged best practices. This individual must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and manage multiple projects simultaneously. Salary is negotiable from $75,000. ALA has an excellent medical/dental package, vacation and retirement annuity. Closing Date: Review of applications will begin December 1, 2007 and continue until the position is filled. For consideration send a letter of application and resume to the American Library Association, Human Resources Department, SUO/IT, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611; fax: 312.280-5270, email: cvivian@ala.org.
Salary Range: Negotiable from $75,000
Exempt/Non-Exempt: Exempt”


  1. I feel sorry for whoever lands this position. The ALA website is a smorgasboard of bad design choices and clunky interfaces, built on a CMS that was still incomprehensible to me after 3 hours of training (and I’m a web developer!). In short, it looks like a headache I wouldn’t wish on anybody. On the other hand, it’s something ALA desperately needs. Put another zero on that salary.

    Comment by Nick Baker — October 24, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  2. *sigh*. your title had me thinking that the job was to make ala more usable – but it’s only for the website. if yer being funny, i like it.

    Comment by ignorance — October 24, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  3. @Nick: I understand what you’re saying, but it’s a losing proposition if we say ALA desperately needs this type of help and then are cynical when they go for it, so I was glad to see how you ended your comment. I’m trying to do a post on the ITTS Update blog about the latest wireframes, which I see as a very positive step for the non-division/unit pages.
    I wish we were using a different CMS, too, but now we’re in the making lemonade phase. My personal hope is that we’ll see more usable online services overall, since a lot of the things we’re doing are now happening outside of the CMS anyway.
    @iggy: I hear ya, but no one person could do that. One of the things I’m learning is that the kind of change I think you’re referring to really has to come from members. Staff can change pieces of it, but they can’t change the bylaws or structure of the Association.

    Comment by jenny — October 25, 2007 @ 5:53 am

  4. comment

    Comment by Denise — October 26, 2007 @ 7:32 am

  5. I completely agree with Jenny. This work should be done and soon. ALA should be modelling best practices in web usability instead of being an example of “what not to do.”
    However, I find it disturbing that ALA is not hiring a Librarian to do this work. Just goes to show that our organization is clueless about what we really do everyday. What about those librarians
    who have advanced degrees and certificates in this area or have killed themselves learning about this area out of simple passion to serve our patrons well from the web?
    I wish I wouldn’t have paid my dues this year. Its a big drag to be a part of an organization that doesn’t take care of its own.
    Say, here’s an idea. Hire a librarian for this gig. The salary would be a lot lower.

    Comment by Denise — October 26, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  6. Denise – why would the salary be lower for a librarian? I wouldn’t take a cent less to do that job.

    Comment by Emily C — October 26, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  7. @Denise: It’s not that we wouldn’t hire a librarian, it’s that we want someone with demonstrated learning in this area. Unfortunately, the original job ad didn’t reflect this, so we just today added “or other related field” to the HCI requirement. So if you have an MLS or an MLIS and the right blend of experience, vision, and um…strength, go for it. We’re not excluding *anybody.* We’re going for the best person for the job, not the degree or just a name.
    So yes, we would hire a librarian, and no, we’re not going to lower the salary. 😉

    Comment by jenny — October 26, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

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