The LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund

A poster of the Library Bill of Rights as amended by the ALA Council in 1967.
Library Bill of Rights, 1967 (Record Series 1/1/17). Copyright of this image is held by the American Library Association.

Censorship is the act of preventing or obstructing another’s ability to express their thoughts through media, actions, and speech. American citizens are taught from an early age that the United States government will protect its people from censorship, as seen in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. However, this document was originally created to protect citizens from government censorship, not necessarily censorship coming from other citizens (5). Because of this, newer state legislation and court opinions either increase or decrease the ability to censor others in non-federal situations, and both public and private organizations get involved. One of the United States’ most iconic institutions, the public library, is a contested site in the discussion of censorship.

When the American Librarian Association Council accepted the Library Bill of Rights as a governing document in 1939, they also took a stand against censorship:

“Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” (4)

Continue reading “The LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund”

Oral Histories at the ALA Archives

File from the ALSC Oral History Project.

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”

Lotsee Patterson: Advocate for Library Services for Native Americans

Dr. Lotsee Patterson accepting a Beta Phi Mu Award in 2001. Image ALA0003570.

In 2005, the American Library Association announced that it was naming Dr. Lotsee Patterson as one of its honorary members, the Association’s highest honor. It is little wonder that the ALA gave this honor to Dr. Patterson given her lifelong passionate advocacy for quality library services and programs for Native Americans. Continue reading “Lotsee Patterson: Advocate for Library Services for Native Americans”

Richard Lee’s Cartoons: Illustrations of Librarian Humor

Richard Lee cartoon for American Libraries, 2005.

The ALA Archives holds many treasures in unexpected places. The Issue Photographs files of American Libraries magazine in one such place, holding materials like original art and illustrations, such as original cartoons by Richard Lee. Lee’s cartoons for American Libraries are a treasure trove of classic and original library humor and were mostly published in the 1990s and 2000s, though many of the jokes are still relevant to libraries today. Continue reading “Richard Lee’s Cartoons: Illustrations of Librarian Humor”

The Gift of Literacy: Lutie E. Stearns

In the middle of all of the holiday cheer, December is also a month for librarians across the country to think back on those who gave back to their communities.  The late Lutie Eugenia Stearns, born on September 13, 1866, influenced many within the field of librarianship.  With the holiday season upon us, who better to write about than a woman who selflessly dedicated her life to advocate for those whose voices went unheard?

Lutie Stearns began her career as a teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools.  With her apt skills in book collecting, she soon caught the eye of the Milwaukee Public Library’s, Minnie M. Oakley.  After Minnie’s death in 1895, Stearns was then appointed head Librarian. Continue reading “The Gift of Literacy: Lutie E. Stearns”

Snowed in at Midwinter: the ALA Players

A_Group_of_Librarians_in_Nantucket_Massachusetts
Party like it’s 1906! Image from the F. W. Faxon Collection

A recent acquisition to the archives is a small packet containing the bylaws and related documents of the ALA Players (“ALAP”).  As described in the ALA Archives transmittal form, the ALAP was established when a huge snowstorm descended during the Midwinter conference of 1978, causing the group to be snowed in and looking for ways to occupy their time.  The documents reflect the playful attitude of the members during their confinement.  The ALA Players “continued for many years with dancing on Tuesday (or other) nights of each conference.” Continue reading “Snowed in at Midwinter: the ALA Players”