Oh the Things You Will Find…Preserving Materials at the ALA Archives

Every archivist has encountered a collection that has given them a hard time or left them with a puzzled look on their face as they ponder where to start. As an archivist, preserving materials is one of the most important tasks that we face in our jobs.  Here at the ALA Archives, we receive collections with materials that range from oversized posters, 100 year old documents, and pictures, and it is our job to keep these historic materials in the best shape as possible.

While working on reprocessing a collection that included Executive Board minutes from ALA meetings, I encountered an interesting situation. The documents were all bound together by different materials, some screwed together with metal, some with plastic, and it was my job to get the potential paper damager out.

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Preserving the Nearly Immortal Life of A.A.L.S. Headquarters Tour Guide and Mascot “Prissy”.

It was a gray spring day in 1983 on Park Lane and although she didn’t know it yet, Association of American Library Schools (now the Association for Library and Information Science Education) Executive Secretary Janet Phillips had immortalized Tour Guide and Mascot “Prissy”.

An Image of a Two-Story White Townhouse.
ALISE Subject File, Photograph Album, Page 1A, Box 21, Record Series 85/2/6.

Continue reading “Preserving the Nearly Immortal Life of A.A.L.S. Headquarters Tour Guide and Mascot “Prissy”.”

Founding the ALA Archives, 1966-1973

On November 11, 1966, Headquarters Librarian Ruth White wrote to Associate Executive Director Alphonse Trezza:

The archives for ALA are now stored in many places. There has never been an established policy for retention and disposition of ALA and divisional correspondence and publications. Neither has there been a systematic program for collection of archival material. In 1949 the Committee on A.L.A. Archival and Library Materials made a detailed report, but there is no record of action being taken on the report. Certainly the recommendations have been carried out only spasmodically, if at all. As stated at the beginning, the result is that many divisions have their own archives, some archival material is in Central Files, some if in the library, and some is in the hands of officers, past officers and past headquarters…

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American Archives Month: Tell Your Story


October is American Archives Month! But what does that mean for the American Library Association? The ALA Archives staff wants to encourage all ALA offices, divisions, committees, and round tables to start a conversation with the archives about depositing your records, both physical and digital.

We especially want to hear from ALA units that haven’t transferred their records to the archives yet. New committees, task forces, round tables, and sections can start by sending us their founding documents, including bylaws, charters, correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, and even selfies of the members! Continue reading “American Archives Month: Tell Your Story”

#AskAnArchivist Day

Did you know that October is American Archives Month? It’s a time for archivists to dust off our favorite records and show them off, to put up new exhibits, give open houses and tours, and to bring greater awareness to our profession.

The month kicks off with #AskAnArchivist Day on Twitter, when archivists from around the country answer your questions! Last year the American Library Association Archives participated in this event and plans on doing so again next week Thursday, October 1. All day (at least during working hours), we will be answering your questions on Twitter. Just tag us with our Twitter handle, @ALA_Archives, and use #AskAnArchivist with your question. Continue reading “#AskAnArchivist Day”

New Accessions at the Archives

Interns Gabrielle Barr and Lisa Lorenzo hard at work to preserve ALA history! Photo courtesy of American Libraries.

The ALA Archives has been busy working on large accessions of records sent to us by American Libraries magazine and the ALA Library.  These new accessions will total up to 40 bankers boxes once all of them have been shipped over, and the archives staff is excited to receive them.

The archives staff is currently working on boxes sent to us from the ALA Library.  These records are a rich collection of photograph vertical files that not only document the history of the ALA, but of the librarian profession itself.  There are of course photos and negatives of various ALA conferences, events, and staff, but there are also photographs of bookmobiles, libraries, exhibits, various library technologies, and even book trucks! Continue reading “New Accessions at the Archives”

40 Years of ALA Archives at the U of I

One of many photos at the ALA Archives
Book Week Publicity, circa 1940. One of many photos at the ALA Archives.

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 the ALA archives were housed in a warehouse in Chicago and, while it was conveniently located near ALA Headquarters, the records were not easily accessible.  The ALA Librarian and staff had worked hard to care for the archives, however it was a great task in addition to their other obligations. [1]

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