Research Strategies: Publications of the A.L.A.

This holiday season is a great chance to consider the many historic professional gifts of A.L.A. members to colleagues past, present, and future: professional publications rich with information for all. However, there is so much A.L.A. produced literature that it may not be possible for one to read everything in a lifetime. So this ALA Archives gift to you is a strategy (or two) for navigating the many different historic publications of the A.L.A.

An ALA Publications List Poster
A poster of an ALA publications list , circa 1925, in Record Series 13/2/22, Box 1.

When researchers are looking for information, sometimes, I ask: Who (or which organization) in the A.L.A. could have written that?

This question reveals a unique challenge of archives: given our information organization system preference, the  author’s “who” or “what” is my first question. Once we archivists know the author’s identity or author’s offices, then we can narrow where to search for documentation.

Now, let’s consider some common genres of publications and what information might be available.


In Record Series 18/2/2, there are two bibliographies surveying ALA publications.

ALA Publications Checklists Covers
ALA Publications Checklists from 1979 to 1983, in Record Series 18/2/2, Box 1.

From 1979 to 1983, the ALA Headquarters Library produced ALA Publications Checklist, to meet a need to “…document all publications available from the American Library Association, including publications of the Publishing Services Department and those from divisions and other units of the association.” Headquarters Librarian Joel M. Lee was the editor. The publication includes solely currently available publications. The checklists include main title listings, indexes of personal authors, indexes of issuing units, and subject indexes.

More ALA Publications Checklists Covers
ALA Publications Checklists from 1984 to 1990, in Record Series 18/2/2, Box 1.

In 1984, with additional support from ALA Publishing Services, Checklist became an ordering tool for ALA publications. The 1990 edition was the last edition.

Compilation of Titles Published by ALA Units Covers
Compilation of Titles Published by ALA Units from 1991 to 1994, in Record Series 18/2/2, Box 2.

In 1991, Compilation of Titles Published by ALA Units replaced Checklist, and it was produced by the Headquarters Library and Information Center. The data came from the Library’s database and some content or formatting issues are announced in the introduction. Like its predecessor publication, Compilation included main title listings and subject indexes.

Research Tip: This record series resource is helpful for learning titles of ALA publications based on subject, for the years 1979 to 1994. Beginning in 1993, out-of-print titles were included and noted in each semi-annual publication.


In Record Series 13/2/22, there are three published books and pamphlets listing ALA publications.

A flier of ALA Publications, 1927, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.
A flier of ALA Publications, 1927, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

During the 1920s, there was an annual flier titled Checklist of A.L.A. Publications that listed new ALA publications annually. Each flier contains book title and bibliographic descriptions, with publication counts and order prices too. Book summaries were not included. The ALA Archives has fliers from 1927, 1931, and 1933.

The Green Cover of ALA Books and Pamphlets 1939 Edition.
ALA Books and Pamphlets, 1939, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

At least as early as 1939, under the guidance of the Editorial Committee, A.L.A. Books and Pamphlets was published annually. These publications include book titles, bibliographic descriptions, and book summaries, as well as author and title indexes.

The Bright Red Covers of Publications.
Publications catalogs from 1973 and 1975, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

At least as early as 1973, Publications included images, book summaries, forthcoming publications, new publications, a list of publications, periodicals and newsletters, subject indexes, as well as title and author indexes. By this time, ALA audiovisual materials could be purchased too.

Two Special Publications Covers
Special publications from 1978 and 1979, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

By 1979, shorter specialty pamphlets began to appear. Some topics include: Books and Audiovisual Selections, Books of Special Interest to Public and Academic Libraries, and New books from ALA for SUMMER.

Research Tip: Audiovisual materials, conference materials, and other specialty publications may be listed in larger publication lists–not solely in specialty publications.

Publications Catalog Covers
Publications Catalog, from 1980 and 1981, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

By 1980, Publications was Catalog of Publications. Catalog included listings for materials ordered directly from ALA units. The covers included colored graphic images too.

New Books Covers
New Books, from 1984 and 1985, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

By 1984, the larger paper but slimmer page count, biannual, New Books replaced Catalog of Publications. Readers interested in all available ALA publications were redirected to Checklist (Record Series 18/2/2).

The 1992 Books Catalog Cover
Books Catalog, 1992, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

By 1992, the publication was renamed to Books Catalog. The 1992 edition features a vivid reproduction of the 1900 Paris Exposition! More details can be found inside of the publication. Books Catalog includes both book summaries and excerpts from professional book reviews.

The 1994 ALA Editions Cover
ALA Editions, 1994, in Record Series 13/2/2, Box 1.

In 1994, the title was renamed to ALA Editions. Interior pages continued previous bibliographic descriptions, reviews, and summaries, in addition to color pages with book cover images.

 Be sure to return here next month, to begin reading about different journals, newsletters, and other publications of the ALA, available at the ALA Archives.