My Practicum Experience at the ALA Archives

Blog Post by Yung-hui Chou

During the Spring 2024 semester, I worked at the ALA Archives and gained valuable archival experience. For MSLIS students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign like myself, a practicum is a credit-earning field experience supervised by our selected information organization. Given my interest in both archival careers and the history of libraries and librarianship, I couldn’t think of a more suitable practicum site than the ALA Archives.

Climate-controlled records storage at the Archives Research Center, Horticulture Field Laboratory, University of Illinois

I am very thankful to my site supervisor Cara Bertram, the ALA’s Archives Program Officer, for offering me a well-round experience. Cara thoughtfully assigned me projects that sequentially built my knowledge and skills in archival processing. I started with interfiling (adding new items to existing records) and updating finding aids, gradually advancing to arranging and describing an entire record series. Throughout the semester, I participated in a variety of tasks, including inventorying backlog materials, writing biographical notes, digitizing photographs, organizing born-digital materials, creating metadata for digital collections, and collecting information for the archives’ reference services. Working in a small unit means one has the opportunity to handle all aspects of archival work, which is the most beneficial part for practicum students. Continue reading “My Practicum Experience at the ALA Archives”

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”

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:

Continue reading “Out of the Vault, Summer 2023 – ALA Archives Notes”

American Archives Month 2017

Photograph of ALA Archives Stacks in 2015.
A view of ALA Archives stacks, taken by ALA Archives staff in October 2015.

American Archives Month is upon us again, which mean it’s time to celebrate all things archives! At the American Library Association Archives, we’re celebrating by doing what we do best, working with archival collections! We’re busy processing new accessions that have come into the archives, such as the ALA Executive Director’s papers and materials on Banned Books Week. We’re also in the middle of a project to digitize large portions of the GLBT Round Table archives. And we’re always in the process of answering your questions that have come in via email, phone, and in person.

Join in on American Archives Month by asking a reference question at a local archives or archival repository, browse the National Archives website, follow an archives on social media (we have all the best photos!), or join us for #AskAnArchivist Day on Twitter! Continue reading “American Archives Month 2017”

Research Strategies: Publications of the A.L.A.

This holiday season is a great chance to consider the many historic professional gifts of A.L.A. members to colleagues past, present, and future: professional publications rich with information for all. However, there is so much A.L.A. produced literature that it may not be possible for one to read everything in a lifetime. So this ALA Archives gift to you is a strategy (or two) for navigating the many different historic publications of the A.L.A.

An ALA Publications List Poster
A poster of an ALA publications list , circa 1925, in Record Series 13/2/22, Box 1.

Continue reading “Research Strategies: Publications of the A.L.A.”

“Public Library of the High Seas”: ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association

The connection between the ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association (AMMLA) is a little-known example of collaboration and cooperation between organizations. AMMLA developed out of the World War I Library War Service and ALA’s efforts to provide books and resources to men aboard U. S. vessels. (For more information about the Library War Service, please see our research guide). After the war ended, the library service for American servicemen was turned over to the War and Navy Departments, and the Library War Service Committee hoped that it’s work aboard U.S. ships would be taken over by either shipowners or another organization [1]. Finally, after the request from ALA to form a peace-time library service for this purpose, Alice Sturdevant Howard, Chief of the Social Service Bureau of the Recruiting Service of the United States Shipping Board, organized the American Merchant Marine Library Service in 1921 [2]. To aid the effort, ALA donated the leftover book stock used in the Merchant Marine Service as well as some unexpended funds [3]. Continue reading ““Public Library of the High Seas”: ALA and the American Merchant Marine Library Association”

Research Strategies: Publications About the A.L.A. and Librarianship

One method for searching an institutional or organizational archives is through a review of publications about the organization. Some external publications capture ephemeral information about an organization and complement other archival information. Such formal or informal publications can be produced by the organization, by institutions, by groups, or by people. Read on to see some examples of what an archives may hold in a Record Group 0!

Continue reading “Research Strategies: Publications About the A.L.A. and Librarianship”

Activism and Advocacy in ALA: Women’s Organizations

Found in RS 99/1/13
Theresa West Elmendorf, the first female president of ALA, elected in 1911.

There are several units within the American Library Association that support women in the library profession and as a whole. Many of these groups arose during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s-80s in response to political and social movements outside of the ALA. Women in librarianship wanted the predominately-female profession to be regarded with the same respect and pay scale as other professions as well as more equity in ALA leadership.

One of the first major committees that is still around today is the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL). This committee came about after several years of advocating by ALA members and the eventual approval at the 1976 Centennial Conference in Chicago.[1] Initially, a proposal was presented during the 1974 Annual Conference[2] and then discussed by Council during the 1975 Midwinter Meeting.[3] The ALA Executive Board endorsed a set of guidelines put forward in 1976, drafted by a standing committee appointed by the ALA president.[4] The committee has a list of seven responsibilities, all of which support the growth of women inside and outside of the field of librarianship. COSWL also sponsors several research projects, publications, and subcommittees related to women in libraries, such as the Advance Women in Library Management, Minority Women Oral History Project, and the COSWL Study. ALA currently maintains a list of resources on the COSWL homepage related to women’s issues.

Continue reading “Activism and Advocacy in ALA: Women’s Organizations”

Research Strategies: Reading and Accessing Database Records

Now that we can locate record series, we can learn how understanding and searching record series descriptions are important tools for research. Let’s appreciate the anatomy and physiology of these database records and supplemental resources.

A List of ALA Archives Record Series Database Record
A Screen Capture of a Current ALA Archives Record Series Database Record

Continue reading “Research Strategies: Reading and Accessing Database Records”

Research Strategies: Navigating a Record Series Structure

One method for searching the holdings of an institutional or organizational archives (like the ALA Archives) is through a review of the record series structure. Like a library’s classification system, a record series structure is developed to help conceptualize where archivists may file documents or records. In addition to keyword searches, a review of how archivists file donations is a helpful strategy for locating items. Read on to learn how to search an archives without using a keyword search!

A Photograph of Clement Andrews and Adam Strohm at Santa Cruz, Calfornia, around the time of the 1911 Pasadena, California, ALA Annual Conference
Be like librarians Andrews and Strohm, admiring impressive foundations of organic entities (like libraries, archives, and trees) much larger than ourselves!

Continue reading “Research Strategies: Navigating a Record Series Structure”