A Short History of ALA Headquarters

ALA Headquarters office in the Chicago Public Library, 1918.

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”

Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship

Blog post by Lauren Quinlan

Librarianship is a field that has long been dominated by women. According to a fact sheet published by the Department for Professional Employees, women compromise 81% of enrollment in graduate library science programs, 82.8% of all librarians, and 75.9% of all library workers [8]. However, this dominance in terms of numbers has historically not translated to true equity in other dimensions.

Conference attendees at the COSWL exhibit tables at the 1980 Annual Conference in New York (Record Series 81/2/10, Box 4)

According to a 1967 study of academic librarians, median salary differences between male and female librarians tend to widen as experience in the field increases – even when levels of education between the two groups are equal [4]. This study emerged at a time when roughly four out of five librarians in the United States were female, and the discipline of librarianship was gaining legitimacy, with some concerned that “librarianship cannot upgrade itself without upgrading opportunities for women… Nor should it expect to gain the public esteem that it seeks by tactically endorsing inequality of opportunity, and furthering, by its own inaction, the all-too-familiar image of librarianship as a passive, unchallenging, and low-paid profession” [4]. Continue reading “Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship”

Social Gatherings of Times Past: Century 21 Exposition (Seattle, 1962)

It doesn’t seem too long ago that gathering in large groups was a normal part of life, but the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has made such gatherings feel like a distant memory. In the absence of any significant social gatherings in the near future, take a tour through one from the past – the Century 21 Exposition, also known as the Seattle World’s Fair, which over the course of its run attracted over 10 million people from all over the world to its many exhibits. One such exhibit was sponsored by the American Library Association, who showcased the importance of libraries to a world yearning for innovation.

Fair map from 1959 promotional booklet (Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives)

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“Librarians Are More Freedom Fighters Than Shushers”: Carla Hayden

Carla Hayden, 2003 (Record Series 13/6/15, Box 4)

In a career that spans state and government agencies, Carla Hayden has always fought for the people who need library resources the most and championed their right to have equal access to these resources, free of any government intervention. In a June 2003 news release announcing Hayden’s tenure as ALA President, Hayden stated that, “Equity of access is not only one of the basic tenets of our profession but it encompasses all of our basic and pressing contemporary concerns as well. We need to recommit ourselves to the ideal of providing equal access to everyone, anywhere, anytime and in any format, particularly those groups who are already underserved.” [1] Continue reading ““Librarians Are More Freedom Fighters Than Shushers”: Carla Hayden”

Traveling Libraries: The Library Extension Board and Rural Library Service

Children listening to a story from Mrs. Rosetta Martin from the Boston Public Library bookmobile. 1961. Found in RS 18/1/57 Box 5.

The ALA Archives has an exhibit up this month up in the Marshall Gallery at the University of Illinois Library. Traveling Libraries: The Library Extension Board and Rural Library Service explores the varied history of the Library Extension Board and library extension services in the United States. You can see of preview of the exhibit content here, but be sure to stop by the Marshall Gallery June 1-30 to view the exhibit. You can also visit the American Library Association Archives to find more materials from the Library Extension Board. Continue reading “Traveling Libraries: The Library Extension Board and Rural Library Service”

50 Years of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Glyndon Greer giving a speech at the Coretta Scott King Award breakfast in 1974.

2019 marks the 50 year anniversary of the founding of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. This book award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. The award is given out every year to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.(1)

It was founded by librarians Glyndon Flynt Greer and Mable McKissick, and publisher John Carroll during the 1969 American Library Association Annual Conference in Atlantic City. According to McKissick, “We [her and Greer] met at the booth of John Carroll. Since it was the day before the Newbery/Caldecott awards, the discussion turned to Black authors …”(2) and their lack of representation. It is reported that Carroll overhead the conversation and asked, “Then why don’t you ladies establish your own award?”(3) Continue reading “50 Years of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards”

Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves: Librarians and the Oldest Gay Professional Organization in the U.S.

June is pride month, which means that our exhibit Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves: Librarians and the Oldest Gay Professional Organization in the U.S. is up in the Marshall Gallery at the University of Illinois Library. This exhibit documents the early history and development of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association. This organization has a rich history documented in the archives, and we are excited to display these materials to library patrons this month. However, we couldn’t fit everything in the exhibit and we know that not everyone can make it to campus, so here we will share some highlights of GLBT Round Table history. Be sure to stop by the Marshall Gallery June 1-30 to view the exhibit, and visit the American Library Association Archives to see more of this exciting collection. Continue reading “Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves: Librarians and the Oldest Gay Professional Organization in the U.S.”

Publications: Jewish Caucus Newsletter

Forty two years ago, at the 1976 Midwinter Convention, the recently established Jewish Librarians Caucus (now Jewish Information Committee) also founded a publication which would serve as an information rich resource on world issues from a Jewish perspective and issues affecting Jewish librarians and their communities. Other archival holdings also document a history of Jewish librarian leadership.

Read on to learn more about the Jewish Caucus Newsletter!

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Increasing Morale: Hospital Library Service in WWI

World War I spread tragedy and despair across the world, but the American Library Association worked to brighten the spirits of wounded soldiers. In 1917, the American Library Association provided library services to wounded soldiers and delivered books, newspapers, and magazines to more than 200 army and navy hospitals.  The ALA was able to send trained librarians to 75 military hospitals to aid in the outreach.

Found in Record Series 89/1/13

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The A.L.A. and Armed Services Librarianship

After the success of supporting library service for soldiers during World War One and Two, A.L.A. members have been a part of the expansion of public library services including armed services librarianship across the country and overseas.

Read on to learn more about armed services librarianship!

Continue reading “The A.L.A. and Armed Services Librarianship”