50 Years of the ALA Archives

Fifty years ago on this day, ALA announced the transfer of its archives to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The genesis of the ALA Archives can be arguably traced back to 1910 with the acceptance of the S. Grant Hastings Papers and to the 1940s when serious discussions at headquarters on how to deal with their archives started. However, it is with establishment of the archives at the University of Illinois that an organized and accessible archives was realized.

Since the initial transfer of materials in 1973, the archives has seen significant growth in its collection, digital resources, staffing, and programming. The archives physical collection has expanded to over 3,900 cubic feet, along with tens of thousands open access digital items and collections available for research. This is thanks to the generous support of the ALA and its continued investment in its heritage and the history of the profession in general. Because of the partnership between ALA and the University, the ALA Archives has grown to be one of the most significant primary source collections in the history of American librarianship, serving researchers from across the country and around the world.

Histories of the ALA Archives can be found here:

Historical Records of the American Library Association, by Howard W. Winger and Francis L. Miksa, 1971
40 Years of ALA Archives at the U of I, by Cara Bertram, October 14, 2013
Founding the ALA Archives, 1966-1973, by Salvatore De Sando, November 6, 2015

Photograph of two archivists with archival materials.
University Archivist Maynard Brichford and graduate assistant Harriet Alexander with an accession of archival materials from the American Library Association headquarters, 1973.


William Maher and Joel Lee
William Maher, archivist at the University of Illinois, and Joel Lee, ALA Librarian, demonstrating PARADIGM online subject index to the ALA Archives, 1978.


A detailed, final layout sketch of ALAA stacks at UIUC, circa 1973, found in record series 18/1/1, Box 1.


Inside the ALA Archives stacks.
A view of shelving units and document boxes inside the ALA Archives stacks (photo taken in 2016).


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