Publications: American Indian Libraries Newsletter

Since 1976, the American Indian Libraries Newsletter has provided information resources for librarians working with American Indian library communities and libraries. Of course, older issues are still information rich for current and future readers.

Read on to learn more about the early art and history of American Indian Libraries Newsletter!

In 1979, the American Indian Libraries Association was founded in conjunction with the White House Pre-Conference on Indian Library and Information Services on or near Reservations. In fact, you can read about that Pre-Conference and its peers in our record subgroup (85-2) for records from the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Science, and you can read about A.L.A. involvement with American Indian libraries in the Office for Library Outreach Services Subject File (Record Series 10/2/6).

The earliest volumes of the American Indian Libraries Newsletter were published by the A.L.A. OLSD (now OLOS) Committee on Library Service for American Indian People and the first Newsletter editor was Dr. Cheryl Metoyer. The Newsletter’s stated purpose was:

  • to provide a communication link among American Indian librarians, professional organizations, and other individuals and organizations interested in considering the informational needs of American Indian people;
  • to raise the awareness of the library field of the informational needs of American Indians concerning the services available through libraries; and
  • to assist in recruiting American Indians into the field of librarianship.

Early volumes alternated between tri-fold and stapled bindings, to accommodate the expanding size of each issue. Early issues included signed essays from American Indian librarians and other esteemed individuals affiliated with American Indian libraries.

At the same time, the ALA Office for Library Personnel Resources (Record Group 9) created and maintained the American Indian Librarians Resource List, as an additional resource to support American Indian libraries. Although copies of Resource List have not been identified at the ALA Archives yet, some abbreviated lists of American Indian librarians were included in multiple issues for the first three volumes.

Leading up to, during, and beyond the American Indian Libraries Association, the first six volumes feature prominent essays on the front cover of each issue, which carefully articulate issues affecting American Indians and American Indian libraries.

A research tip: professional publications can often include original research writing rich with insight into contemporary issues. Be sure to review professional publications, during your research!

The success of the White House Pre-Conference on Indian Library and Information Services on or near Reservations was that it had librarians for Indian peoples included in the National Library Bill before Congress. Shortly after, the AILA was formed, as evidenced in the letter below.

After the Pre-Conference, Newsletter essays transitioned from articulating American Indian library needs to analyzing American Indian library services.

A research tip: in some cases, professional publications may be the sole history of an institution or group. Be sure check professional publications for early histories of a profession.

The fifth volume began an initiative to recognize American Indian library leaders, resulting in a rich time period for researchers interested in biographies of prominent leaders during this time. Don’t miss out!

The fifth and sixth volumes even include histories of some American Indian libraries and American Indian library programs.

By 1983, as of Volume 7, fees were subscriptions fees were introduced, and over the course of four years, the Newsletter would change editors twice. In 1985, as of Volume 8, Thomas J. Blumer became the new editor. While in 1987, as of Volume 11, Kathy Kaya and Debby Schaeffer became the first co-editors. During the later 1980s, each issue emphasized job announcements, news items, and professional development opportunities, while longer essays were less frequent. Careful readers and researchers will continue to benefit from the descriptions of many American Indian libraries and collections in almost every issue.

At this time, the A.L.A. Archives’ holdings for the American Indian Libraries Newsletter do not continue past 1989. Of course, in the meanwhile, the Newsletter and the American Indian Library Association have continued strong and you can reach them at A.L.A. conferences too. In fact, since 2007, as of Volume 31, digital access copies of the Newsletter are available on the AILA website–check them out!

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies American Indian Libraries Newsletter are available for viewing at the ALA Archives; however, not all copies are available yet. Please view the Record Series 10/94/10, for information on which issues you can view or donate.

Got Something to Donate to the Story So Far?

There are so many great librarians doing so many great things and even the A.L.A. Archives can’t always keep-up with everyone all of the time. Not all librarians save the records of their careers and this makes preserving the heritage of American Indian librarians and American Indian library communities difficult to document. Are you (or somebody you know) a member of the American Indian Libraries Association? We welcome you to share your part of ALA and library history in the comments or to contact us. We and our readers would like to hear from you.