Research Strategies: The Reference Library of the ALA Archives (Bookcase One of Two)

For general inquiries about ALA members and history, a review of our reference library is due. The ALA Archives library is an easily over-looked resource rich with data and research strategies. Before beginning archival research, some queries are efficiently answered with the following resources. Read on to learn more!

Image of Bookcase One at ALA Archives
Image of Bookcase One at ALA Archives

Since the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign began in 1973, there has been a reference library supporting the archives. Currently, there are two bookcases of ALA and non-ALA publications about the ALA, librarianship, librarians, and libraries. Some new library or information science scholars may not know all of the available tools of their trade. Below, let’s take a look at what is on our shelves and how those books work for us.

First, Gary R. Purcell and Gail Ann Schlachter’s Reference Sources in Library and Information Services: A Guide to the Literature (1984) is still indispensable for many queries at different stages of research.

Image of ALA Reference Book Bindings
Image of ALA Reference Book Bindings

Then, of course, there are encyclopedias.

The Encyclopedia of Library History, the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, and the Dictionary of American Library Biography. As the title may indicate, Library History is great for general information about anything about library history. Published in 1994, this novice-friendly publication includes worldwide research. Alternatively, the World Encyclopedia has been great for all topics since the first edition was published in 1980. Finally, for American librarianship, the two-volume Dictionary is a reliable resource for understanding many prominent library figures in North America.

Image of ALA Reference Directory Book Bindings
Image of Who’s Who in Library Service

Next, there are directories for librarians and for libraries.

For librarians, in six editions (1933, 1943, 1955, 1966, 1970, and 1982), Who’s Who in Library Service provides brief biographies of librarians with employment history, education, organizational membership, publications, activities, and addresses.

In 1986, the two-volume Directory of Library and Information Professionals was published in collaboration with the ALA and other information professional organizations. Like Who’s Who in Library Service, this directory focuses on North American librarians and features similar information. The ALA Archives has the 1988 edition.

Image of ALA Reference Directory Book Bindings
Image of American Library Directories

For libraries, Information Today, Inc’s (previously biennially updated by R. R. Bowker) American Library Directory is annually updated, and it features classified lists of North American libraries with personnel and statistical data. ALA Archives has editions 26, 37, and 58.

The ALA has produced other publications to support administration and membership, including the ALA Handbooks and Membership Directories.

An Image of ALA Handbooks.
Image of ALA Handbooks

The early Handbooks included officer titles, terms, and their library. Also, some issues contain ALA membership lists with member names, member library employers, and membership numbers. Later, membership information would be separated into a separate publication. ALA Archives has Handbooks for the years 1889-1906, 1912-32, 1939, 1942-48, 1950-51, 1953-55, 1957-present.

An Image of ALA Membership Directories.
Image of ALA Membership Directories

The Membership Directories were included in the Handbooks (from 1889 to 1906) and later in the Handbooks issue of the Bulletin (from 1907-47) (see record series 13/2/4). It was a separate publication from 1948-1979 (see record series 13/2/24). From 1980 to 1995, the Membership Directory was again published and bound with the Handbook of Organization (see record series 13/2/4). Starting in 1996, the Membership Directory was once again created as a separate publication (see record series 13/2/4). ALA Archives has Membership Directories for the years 1949, 1951, 1953-62, 1964-79, 1996-2001, and 2003-2008.

Image of ALA Reference ALA Yearbook Book Bindings
Image of ALA Yearbooks

Finally, the ALA Yearbook of Library and Information Services provides topical essays about library and information service issues for individual years (1976-1989) and one decade (1990s). These volumes contain annual essays about library issues and photographs. The 1990s edition includes color photographs. These are great resources for general information about specific events unique to a particular year. (Be sure to include the yearly chronicle Libraries and Information Services Today, for similar information, while reviewing the Yearbooks.)

Please check back next month, for information about other ALA Archives reference books found in our second bookcase!