It Runs in the Family

This month saw the passing of Satia Marshall Orange, former director of what is now ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS). I had the good fortune to meet Orange early in my career, back in 2015, when she donated her father’s papers to the University of Illinois Archives. The then Assistant University Archivist, Chris Prom, planned to make the trip up to Chicago to see Orange and review her father’s papers. I asked to tag along as the ALA Archivist after hearing that Orange was a retired ALA staff member and that her late father was a librarian. She welcomed both of us into her home and was delighted to look through her father’s papers with us, share family stories, and was eager to preserve the legacy of her family.

Ruthe and A.P. Marshall with their daughter, Satia Marshall Orange, at the 1992 National Conference of African American Librarians.

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The Caldecott Medal: “A Hasty Idea Thrown Out”

Frederic G. Melcher, 1926

As we look forward to book award ceremonies at the ALA Annual Conference this summer, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the history of one of the most prestigious children’s book awards, the Caldecott Medal. Established in 1937 to recognize the most distinguished American picture book for children, the first medal was awarded in 1938 to Dorothy P. Lathrop for the book, Animals of the Bible. However, the idea was first presented in 1935 in a letter by Frederic G. Melcher.

Melcher established the Newbery Medal in 1921 for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” While the medal was met was great enthusiasm, some felt that the award excluded books for younger children. Writing on behalf of the Association for Childhood Education, Professor May Hill Arbuthnot of Western Reserve University communicated this concern to Elizabeth Briggs, the Newbery Committee chair, in 1935. Continue reading “The Caldecott Medal: “A Hasty Idea Thrown Out””

“Nothing Could Have Astonished Me More”: The Challenge of Consumer Reports

Due to communist hysteria before and after World War II, many organizations and publications were under suspicion of being affiliated with or promoting the Communist party. One curious suspect of this scrutiny was Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, the product testing and consumer advocacy magazine. In the late 1930s, Consumers Union faced unsubstantiated accusations of communism.[1] Despite the fruitless claims, Consumers Union was placed on a list of subversive organizations by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1944.

In 1951, representatives from the Better Business Bureaus drew attention to Consumer Union’s status on the House Committee’s list. As a result, Ohio schools banned the use of Consumer Reports in the classroom.[2] While the Ohio schools ban of the magazine was short-lived, the questions about it were not and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) noticed the attempts to ban the publication. Continue reading ““Nothing Could Have Astonished Me More”: The Challenge of Consumer Reports”

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. Continue reading “50 Years of the ALA Archives”

The Rabbits’ Wedding: Emily W. Reed and the Freedom to Read

Black and white portrait of Emily Wheelock Reed
Emily Wheelock Reed

The Rabbits’ Wedding, by Garth Williams, is a children’s book about two rabbits getting married in a forest. While there doesn’t seem to be much to object about the book, in 1959, Alabama State Senator E.O. Eddins wanted it removed from Alabama public libraries. The reason was because the rabbits in the story were of different fur colors, black and white, and he viewed it as “integration propaganda.”

Emily Wheelock Reed, the Director of the Public Library Service Division of Alabama, met with Eddins and the Alabama State Senate Interim Taxation Committee to discuss the upcoming budget in March of 1959. Eddins, however, wanted to speak about several books in the public libraries that he thought dealt with segregation and communism. Reed deflected, but she was confronted by Eddins again several months later and he demanded The Rabbits’ Wedding be removed from the libraries. Reed refused to abide by his demands [1]. Continue reading “The Rabbits’ Wedding: Emily W. Reed and the Freedom to Read”

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:

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:

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Exhibit: ALA and Intellectual Freedom

The ALA Archives is excited to display materials on intellectual freedom at the ALA Annual Conference this year! This exhibit will run from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning by the ALA members lounge, near the exhibit hall. However, we know that not everyone will get a chance to view the exhibit or look at the documents as carefully as they would like. This blog post will give you a chance to enjoy the exhibit materials remotely, and perhaps even see documents that didn’t make it into the case. Click on the images to view the documents closer or to access the full version of the item.

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Shared Visions: The National Conference on Asian/Pacific American Librarians

Ling Hwey Jeng and Ken Yamashita
Ling Hwey Jeng and Ken Yamashita, Planning Committee co-chairs.

In 2001, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) and the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) partnered to host the first and only National Conference on Asian/Pacific American Librarians. It was held before to the ALA Annual Conference and took place in San Francisco with programming running from June 13-15. The theme, Shared Visions: Heritages, Scholarship, Progress, was chosen “with a sincere commitment to representing the rich diversity of East, South and Southeast Asian and Pacific American ethnicities, cultures and communities.”[1]

The conference was years in the works, a “labor of love by many members of the [APALA] and [CALA].”[2] Planning Committee co-chair, Ken Yamashita, would note that he gained inspiration after seeing the success of the Black Caucus of the ALA and REFORMA’s conferences.[3] Solid plans started to take shape during the 1998 ALA Midwinter Meeting, when members from CALA and APALA met with the ALA Office for Literary and Outreach Services. Originally the group had hoped to hold the conference in 1999, alongside the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, but decided to push the date to 2001.[4] Continue reading “Shared Visions: The National Conference on Asian/Pacific American Librarians”

Out of the Vault, Spring 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 first issue can be found here: ALA Archives Notes is an addendum blog post to the newsletter with additional information relating to the ALA Archives.

As noted in the Spring 2023 issue of Out of the Vault, University Archivist Emeritus William Maher received the Midwest Archives Conference’s Emeritus Membership Award. Professor Maher retired from the University of Illinois Archives in December 2022 after 45 years of service. His contributions to the University Archives and the archives profession as a whole cannot be overstated. He is also a tireless supporter of the ALA Archives. Continue reading “Out of the Vault, Spring 2023 – ALA Archives Notes”

Charles R. Green at Camp Johnston: “We Can Find Such a Man”

Librarian standing in the Camp Johnston Library.
Librarian standing in the reading room of the Camp Johnston Library.

During the summer of 1918, Charles Green, a librarian from the Massachusetts Agriculture College, served as the Acting Librarian for Camp Johnston in Jacksonville, Florida. While his tenure was brief, the Charles R. Green Papers in the ALA Archives reveal Green’s rapid appointment and promotion. It also shows how quickly circumstances could change within the ALA’s Library War Service and the adaptability of its volunteers. 

Camp Johnston presented unique challenges for a librarian. Not only was it a large base, but it was also a school that taught technical, engineering, and scientific subjects to servicemembers. These challenges led the camp’s librarian, L.W. Josselyn, to send a distressed letter to ALA. His letter from May 18, 1918, opened with, “A crisis has come in the work here which will have to be met within the next ten days at the very latest. I shall try to put the whole problem before you. Continue reading “Charles R. Green at Camp Johnston: “We Can Find Such a Man””