Out of the Vault, Summer 2023 – ALA Archives Notes

Out of the Vault is the newsletter of the University Archives, which covers the activities and staff of the archives and its programs, including the American Library Association Archives! The Summer 2023 issue can be found here: https://emails.illinois.edu/newsletter/35/343747435.html

ALA Archives Notes is an addendum blog post to the newsletter with additional information relating to the ALA Archives.

Photograph of two archivists with archival materials.
University Archivist Maynard Brichford and graduate assistant Harriet Alexander with an accession of archival materials from ALA headquarters.

As noted at the top of the Summer 2023 issue of Out of the Vault, the ALA Archives is celebrating its 50th anniversary! As we hit this milestone, we want to encourage all researchers, including ALA staff, members, scholars, students, and the public, to access our materials. The Archives was established at the University of Illinois in 1973 by University Archivist Maynard Brichford with the specific intent on making ALA’s history accessible! Before the archives were transferred to the University of Illinois, they used to reside in a warehouse in Chicago, where they could not be easily accessed. Read more about it here: https://www.library.illinois.edu/ala/2013/10/14/40-years-of-ala-archives/.

People often think that archives are not for them because they are not doing scholarly research, but the ALA Archives is meant for everyone. The ALA Archives collection extends beyond the administrative records of the association. We have materials on ALA campaigns and initiatives, materials from conferences, the papers of staff and members, photographs, posters, postcards, scrapbooks, and historic library artifacts. We also have a growing collection of materials from affiliated and related organizations and institutions, including materials from the Special Libraries Association, the Chinese American Librarians Association, Columbia University School of Library Service Vertical Files, and the H. W. Wilson business archives.

Beyond doing research for publications, dissertations, or class assignments, the ALA Archives has received these kinds of personal inquiries:

  1. Genealogy/Family History – While the ALA Archives is not rich in genealogical sources like other archives or local libraries, if your family member was a member of ALA, there is a chance that we have something on their involvement!
  2.  Photographs and Images – The ALA Archives has an extensive photograph collection of librarians, libraries, library services, authors and illustrators, ALA events and conferences, and library postcards. People request images for decorating classrooms or libraries, use in blog posts or exhibits, or just for personal use. We provide high-resolution copies upon request. Browse our collection here: https://go.library.illinois.edu/ala-image-archive
  3. Questions About Publications – The ALA Archives provides primary source materials to authors, who write a wide variety of articles, blog posts, and books. This includes the non-fiction book When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning and the novel The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. We receive and answer inquiries from readers about the publications they just read all the time!
  4. Just for Fun! – Some of our researchers just want to see something cool! The Archives staff is always happy to pull our historic materials for people to view. Some of our favorites are the Faxon conference photobooks, the Rainbow Round Table archives, the Library War Service archives, ALA World’s Fair materials, and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards photographs.

As we celebrate 50 years of the ALA Archives, we want to encourage research, curiosity, and fun within the archives! And keep an eye out as we continue to celebrate our anniversary through the fall.

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