Home pages are becoming as common as cell phones and coffee bars. They have their devotees and their detractors, those who can't live without their daily fix on the Net and those who refuse to link up. Whether home pages are fad or mainstay, most organizations--including library associations and consortia--are having to answer the question: to web or not to web?
Home pages pose slightly different questions for library associations than for individual libraries, largely because associations rely on user fees for much of their revenue. The challenge is to manage a Web site so that it both provides and protects information. The trick is to make free information valuable enough that browsers will want more and be willing to join to get it. The California Library Association developed a list of issues to be considered in creating a Web site, including:
* What is the purpose of the Web site? Why do we want to do it? What do we want it to achieve?
* Who will have access? Will access be restricted? Will we require passwords?
* Will any information that we currently sell or market for a price be available on the Web for free, or restricted to members only?
* What is the impact on association resources overall? What level of staffing will be required for ongoing maintenance?
More than clicking on icons
Questions like these prompted the ALA Chapter Relations Committee to choose home pages as the topic for this year's Chapter Conclave at the ALA Annual Conference. "This was on everybody's `hot topics' list," said Jane Crocker, Gloucester County (N.J.) College Library, who is chairing the event as a member of the CRC.
"Librarians tend to want to give everything away. This is a special situation where we need to take advantage of the technology, but we also need to be asking questions. We're all at different stages in the process. The New Jersey Library Association doesn't have a home page yet, but we're thinking about it. Several chapters do have home pages, and all of them have information and expertise to share. I jumped at the chance to bring people together to talk about how to do this right. There will be demos and hardware at the conclave, but this isn't just a chance to click on a few icons. There are major policy questions that need to be addressed, too."
At last count, a baker's dozen of library association home pages had set up shop on the Web, including ALA's own home page and the Southeastern Library Association. The other 11 sites belong to ALA chapters in Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Try connecting these states on a map and you can see why it's called a Web.
Itinerary for a quick tour
If you'd like to take a quick tour of some of the chapter sites, here's an itinerary to guide you. Go to the ALA home page at http://www.ala.org. Choose "ALA: The Organization" from the first screen, then scroll down to choose "ALA Chapters." Select the "ALA Chapter Web Site Directory," and a list of chapter home pages will appear.
Several items are common to most of the pages: a directory of officers, calendars of events, links to other related home pages. …