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.”
The conference was years in the works, a “labor of love by many members of the [APALA] and [CALA].” 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. 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.Continue reading “Shared Visions: The National Conference on Asian/Pacific American Librarians”→
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: https://emails.illinois.edu/newsletter/43/391280343.html. 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”→
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””→
One fixture of ALA’s Midwinter Meeting, and now the LibLearnX conference, is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observation and Sunrise Celebration. The event celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. King, featuring a keynote speaker, representatives from National Associations of Librarians of Color, the ALA President, and the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” The celebration started in 2000, but efforts to observe the MLK Jr. Holiday during the Midwinter Meeting started long before.
Halloween is quickly approaching and during this spooky season, we at the ALA Archives have been meditating upon one of ALA’s old headquarters, the McCormick Mansion. In 1945, ALA purchased the Cyrus Hall McCormick Mansion at 50 E. Huron Street in Chicago to use as its new headquarters. However, by 1955, ALA was investigating other options and by 1960, ALA was ready to not only ready to move out of the mansion, but also tear it down.
Why would ALA want to move out of the McCormick Mansion so quickly and destroy it? Was it because the mansion was, well, a mansion and not a suitable office space? And they wanted to use the land to build a proper office building that would be their home for over 50 years? Or … was it because the mansion was haunted?
We have zero proof that the McCormick Mansion was haunted. No accounts of books suddenly being shelved out of order, cardigans being mysteriously moved, or card catalog drawers opening and shutting on their own. All we have are photographs of an eerie looking mansion filled with librarians and staff.
We may never know the true reason why ALA tore down the McCormick Mansion, other than the abundance of reports, studies, plans, and even a film about needing a better office space, much of which we hold at the ALA Archives. However, there is a trace of the mansion that still remains. Forged from the staircase, is a gavel, now in the possession of the ALA Archives. Who knows what spirits may linger within the object? Or is it just a wooden gavel, one of many that ALA had made to give to staff as an award for their service? This and many other questions will go unanswered and probably unasked until next Halloween.
Clara W. Hunt, chair of the Children’s Librarians Section, had noted that the Newbery Medal provided children’s literature with “publicity of the best kind.” But ALA did not always rely on the Newbery’s popularity to capture the public’s attention. Publicity around the Newbery Medal has drummed up excitement amongst librarians, readers, and the public for the past century. Often this has meant events, press releases, newsletters, radio programming, television broadcasts, and newspaper and magazine articles. Even the medal’s donor, Fredric Melcher, was part of the pageantry by holding press conferences at his New York office to announce the awardee of the Newbery Medal. However, some publicity ideas were more daring than press conferences and radio programs. The two stories of Rachel Field and Misty the Horse highlight a couple out of the box stunts. Continue reading “100 Years of the Newbery: “Publicity of the Best Kind””→
For a century, the American Library Association has honored children’s authors with the John Newbery Medal. From the earliest years of the award, its prestige was not lost upon the authors who received it. Letters written by awardees to the Newbery Medal Committee chairs reveal their excitement upon receiving the news.
In 1934, author Cornelia Meigs was selected for the Newbery for her book Invincible Louisa. Meigs wrote to the selection committee chair, Siri Andrews, and was delighted to have her book honored, acknowledging that the Invincible Louisa was in good company:
Your letter, with its very delightful and astonishing news, has given me much pleasure. The Newbery Medal is an award for which everyone has the most profound respect, so that I am fully sensible of what good fortune it is to me to have it offered to Invincible Louisa. Some such extraordinarily fine books have been on your list in the past that it seems a very impressive thing have an invitation extended to join that distinguished company.(1)
The John Newbery Medal, established in 1921 for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and the centennial of its first award ceremony is quickly approaching.
In 1921, Frederic Melcher, a publisher, bookseller, and chairman of the Children’s Book Week Committee, proposed the idea of a medal to be awarded in recognition of children’s literature and for it to be named after John Newbery, an 18th century British bookseller and children’s books publisher. With a growing audience for children’s books, more librarians being trained in children services, and the emergence of children’s book departments in publishing companies, the time seemed right for such an award and the idea gained traction.(1) Melcher paid to have the medal struck, while the Children’s Librarians Section (predecessor to the Association for Library Service to Children) organized the selection of the first winner through a vote of children’s librarians from across the country. Continue reading “100 Years of the Newbery: The First Medal”→
Alongside written records, photographs, and publications, the American Library Association Archives also holds over 150 interviews of individual librarians and library workers. These oral histories and interviews provide a vital resource of librarian recollections that may not be otherwise found in administrative records, photographs, and correspondence. These stories told by librarians and library workers provide context to their lives and career, how their experiences and education shaped their librarianship, and how certain events shaped their personal and professional lives.
While the ALA Archives does not currently have its own active oral history program, the Archives collects and supports projects that capture the voices of librarians and library workers as part of its mission to preserve the history of librarianship. Here is a small selection the oral history projects and interviews that the Archives holds: Continue reading “Oral Histories at the ALA Archives”→
Last summer, the American Library Association moved from its long-lived location at 50 E. Huron Street in Chicago to its new location off Michigan Ave. This office were the longest held headquarters that ALA had, it was by no means the first nor was Chicago ALA’s original location. ALA’s history is filled with debates about locations and new homes.
According to Virgil F. Massman, the Association had several temporary homes in its early years, with the saying being that the Association was in Melvil Dewey’s desk drawer or wherever the ALA Secretary hung up their hat. In reality, ALA established headquarter offices at 32 Hawley Street in Boston in 1879, which were maintained by Melvil Dewey. (1) Continue reading “A Short History of ALA Headquarters”→