About the Archives

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

The American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the official repository of the American Library Association. Founded in 1973, the Archives operates under the University of Illinois Archives and is run by a professional staff member and a dynamic team of graduate assistants.

Everyone is welcome to do research at the ALA Archives. Onsite and remote reference services are available to all ALA staff and members, University of Illinois affiliates, and the public. Instruction sessions, class visits, and tours can be arranged with advance notice.

Collecting Areas

The ALA Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to inactive records of enduring value from ALA units (offices, divisions, committees, round tables, etc.), members’ papers as they relate to ALA activities and librarianship, and manuscripts and records on the history of librarianship.

Major strengths of the archives include Council and Executive Board records, ALA conference materials, intellectual freedom and censorship, library advocacy, the World War I Library War Service, photographs of library services and librarians, and library postcards.

Related Collections

Additional materials on the history of American librarianship can be found at the University of Illinois Archives, including correspondence, course materials, minutes, reports, issuances, publications, newsletters, photographs, posters, and bookplates relating to the University Library and the iSchool. The University Archives also holds the papers of library directors Katharine L. Sharp (1897-1907), Phineas L. Windsor (1910-40), Robert B. Downs (1943-71), and Hugh C. Atkinson (1976-86). Finding aids on the University Archives holdings on librarianship can be found here:

Further reading:
Library History Holdings at the University of Illinois Archives, by Denise Rayman, 2014.

History

With its approaching centennial in 1976, the American Library Association noticed the increased interest in the history of the librarianship and the association by historians, writers, and archivists. Because of this greater awareness in their records, the ALA expressed concern over the management of their archives and the preservation of their history. At the time, most of ALA’s archives were housed in a warehouse in Chicago and, while it was conveniently located near ALA Headquarters, the records were not easily accessible.

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

With a need for better access, preservation, and management of these records, the ALA sought out an
archival repository. A strong argument was made for transferring the records to the University of Illinois. University of Illinois Archivist, Maynard Brichford, made a case for the Urbana-Champaign campus, emphasizing its holdings on the areas of librarianship and library history. While the Chicago Circle campus was closer to ALA Headquarters, Urbana-Champaign’s library, and other archival holdings, along with the Graduate School of Library Science (now the iSchool) and the participation of its staff and faculty in ALA, made it a desirable location.

After discussions with Brichford, the ALA and the University of Illinois entered its first three-year contract to house the records at the Urbana-Champaign campus. In October of 1973, the ALA announced the transfer of its archives from Chicago to Urbana-Champaign.

Further reading:
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