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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

American Library Association

ALA Logo
Abbreviation ALA
Formation 1876
Type Non-profit
Purpose/focus "To provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all."[1]
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois
Location Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC
Region served United States
Membership 65,000
CEO Keith Michael Fiels
President Camila Alire
Budget $33.5 million[2]
Staff approx. 300
Website American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world,[3] with more than 65,000 members.[4]



Founded by Justin Winsor, Charles Ammi Cutter, Samuel S. Green, James L. Whitney, Melvil Dewey (Melvil Dui), Fred B. Perkins and Thomas W. Bicknell in 1876 in Philadelphia and chartered[5] in 1879 in Massachusetts, its head office is now in Chicago.


ALA membership is open to any person or organization, though most of its members are libraries or librarians. Most members live and work in the United States, with international members comprising 3.5% of total membership.[6]

Governing structure

Former ALA President Jim Rettig at the 2008 I Love My Librarian! awards.

The ALA is governed by an elected council and an executive board. Since 2002, Keith Michael Fiels has been the ALA executive director (CEO).[7] Policies and programs are administered by various committees and round tables. One of the organization's most visible tasks is overseen by the Office for Accreditation, which formally reviews and authorizes American and Canadian academic institutions that offer degree programs in library and information science. The ALA's current President is Camila Alire.[8]


The official purpose of the association is "to promote library service and librarianship." Members may join one or more of eleven membership divisions that deal with specialized topics such as academic, school, or public libraries, technical or reference services, and library administration. Members may also join any of seventeen round tables that are grouped around more specific interests and issues than the broader set of ALA divisions.

Notable divisions

National outreach

The ALA is affiliated with regional, state, and student chapters across the country. It organizes conferences, participates in library standards development, and publishes a number of books and periodicals. The ALA publishes the magazines American Libraries and Booklist. Along with other organizations, it sponsors the annual Banned Books Week the last week of September. Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) also sponsors Teen Read Week, the third week of each October, and Teen Tech Week, the second week of each March.


The ALA annually confers numerous notable book and media awards, including the Caldecott Medal, the Dartmouth Medal, the Newbery Medal, the Michael L. Printz Award and the Stonewall Book Award.[9]

YALSA administers the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, the Margaret Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature and the Alex Awards for the ten best adult books with teen appeal. Two newer awards administered by YALSA are the Odyssey Award, for Excellence in audiobook production, and the brand new William C. Morris YA Award, which will be awarded for the first time in 2009 honoring first-time authors of young adult literature.

The ALA also awards the John Cotton Dana Award.


The ALA and its divisions hold numerous conferences throughout the year. The two largest conferences are the annual conference and the midwinter meeting. The midwinter meeting is typically held in January and focused on internal business, while the annual conference is typically held in June and focused on exhibits and presentations. The ALA annual conference is notable for being one of the largest professional conferences in existence, typically drawing over 25,000 attendees.[10] The 2010 Annual Conference is in Washington D.C. June 24 - 29. [11]

Political positions

ALA Seal

The ALA advocates positions on United States political issues that it believes are related to libraries and librarianship. For court cases that touch on issues about which the organization holds positions, the ALA often files amici curiae briefs, voluntarily offering information on some aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it. The ALA has an office in Washington, D.C., that lobbies Congress on issues relating to libraries, information and communication. It also provides materials to libraries that may include information on how to apply for grants, how to comply with the law, and how to oppose a law.[12]

Civil liberties

In 1970, the ALA founded the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender professional organization, called the "Task Force on Gay Liberation".[13][14]

Intellectual freedom

The ALA maintains an Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) headed by Deborah Caldwell-Stone and, formerly for four decades, by Judith Krug. The OIF promotes intellectual freedom, which the ALA defines as "the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored."[15] The primary documented expressions of the ALA's intellectual freedom principles are the Freedom to Read Statement[16] and the Library Bill of Rights. As a result of its stance on intellectual freedom, the ALA is generally opposed to any "censorship" of the material in libraries.[17][18] Interviewed about an attempt to remove a book from a suburban Boston middle school in 2006, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, then deputy director, said, "Our hope is that books are retained rather than removed. Ultimately, every challenge is an attempt to remove ideas from the discourse."[19] About another matter involving Internet filtering, she said, "One person's 'pornography' is another person's 'Venus de Milo' or Michelangelo's 'David.' ... Another person's 'pornography' might be the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue."[20] The OIF compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted to them by librarians across the country.[21]

In 1999, radio personality Laura Schlessinger campaigned publicly against the ALA's intellectual freedom policy, specifically in regard to the ALA's refusal to remove a link on its web site to a specific sex-education site for teens.[22] Critics said, however, that Schlessinger "distorted and misrepresented the ALA stand to make it sound like the ALA was saying porno for 'children' is O.K."[23]

In 2002, the ALA filed suit with library users and the ACLU against the United States Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which required libraries receiving federal E-rate discounts for Internet access to install a "technology protection measure" to prevent children from accessing "visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors."[24] At trial, the federal district court struck down the law as unconstitutional. [25] The government appealed this decision, and on June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the law as constitutional as a condition imposed on institutions in exchange for government funding. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court, adopting the interpretation urged by the U.S. Solicitor General at oral argument, made it clear that the constitutionality of CIPA would be upheld only "if, as the Government represents, a librarian will unblock filtered material or disable the Internet software filter without significant delay on an adult user's request."[26]


In 2003, the ALA passed a resolution opposing the USA PATRIOT Act, which called sections of the law "a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users".[27] Since then, the ALA and its members have sought to change the law by working with members of Congress and educating their communities and the press about the law's potential to violate the privacy rights of library users. ALA has also participated as an amicus curiae in lawsuits filed by individuals challenging the constitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act, including a lawsuit filed by four Connecticut librarians after the library consortium they managed was served with a National Security Letter seeking information about library users.[28] After several months of litigation, the lawsuit was dismissed when the FBI decided to withdraw the National Security Letter.[29]

In 2006, the ALA sold humorous "radical militant librarian" buttons for librarians to wear in support of the ALA's stances on intellectual freedom, privacy, and civil liberties.[30] Inspiration for the button’s design came from documents obtained from the FBI by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request revealed a series of e-mails in which FBI agents complained about the "radical, militant librarians" while criticizing the reluctance of FBI management to use the secret warrants authorized under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.[31]


The ALA "supports efforts to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and urges the courts to restore the balance in copyright law, ensure fair use and protect and extend the public domain".[32] It supports changing copyright law to eliminate damages when using orphan works without permission;[33] is wary of digital rights management; and, in ALA v. FCC, successfully sued the Federal Communications Commission to prevent regulation that would enforce next-generation digital televisions to contain rights-management hardware. It has joined the Information Access Alliance to promote open access to research.[34] The Copyright Advisory Network of the Association's Office for Information Technology Policy provides copyright resources to libraries and the communities they serve.

See also

  • ANSEL American National Standard for Extended Latin Alphabet Coded Character Set for Bibliographic Use
  • Book Links magazine that helps teachers, librarians, school library media specialists, and parents connect children with high-quality books
  • Booklist a publication that provides critical reviews of books and audiovisual materials for all ages, geared toward libraries and booksellers
  • Challenge (literature) an attempt to have books removed from a library
  • International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)
  • Library Bill of Rights the rights of library users to intellectual freedom and the expectations the association places on libraries to support those rights
  • Theresa Elmendorf, first woman ALA President, 1911-12


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "American Library Association - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ (ALA Charter)
  6. ^ "ALA International Member Survey". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  7. ^ ALA (2002-04-22). "Keith Michael Fiels named ALA's new Executive Director". Press release. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  8. ^ Dr. Camila Alire begins term as 2009-10 ALA president
  9. ^ "Book/Media Awards". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  10. ^ "Conference Services". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  11. ^ "Upcoming events". American Library Association. 
  12. ^ "Washington Office Issues". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  13. ^ "ALA Welcome to the GLBT Round Table". Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  14. ^ Gittings, Barbara (1990). Gays in Library Land: The Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years. Philadelphia. 
  15. ^ "Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  16. ^ "Freedom to Read Statement". 
  17. ^ "Library Bill of Rights". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  18. ^ Rosen, Christine (2010-02-08). "From Wisdom to Wi-Fi; A Library Is No Longer a Mere Home for Books; It Is a Wired-Up Information Center". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-02-10. "The American Library Association routinely casts itself as a scourge of 'censorship' and a defender of civil liberties." 
  19. ^ Kocian, Lisa (2006-11-12). "6th-grade book stirs rethinking". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  20. ^ Sheehan, Tim (2008-04-01). "Libraries Struggle with Internet Surfing Rules". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ ""Dr. Laura" Continues Criticism of ALA". Library Journal. ALA. 1999-05-10. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  23. ^ Presley, Sharon (Winter 2001). "Don't Listen to Dr. Laura". Free Inquiry 41 (1). Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  24. ^ "Text of the Children's Internet Protection Act". 
  25. ^ United States v. Am. Lib. Asso., 201 F.Supp.2d 401, 490 (2002)
  26. ^ "US v ALA 539 U.S. 194, 2003". FindLaw. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  27. ^ "Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act and Related Measures that Infringe on the Rights of Library Users". ALA. 2003-01-29. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  28. ^ Cowan, Alison Leigh (2006-05-31). "Four Librarians Finally Break Silence in Records Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-07. 
  29. ^ "FBI drops demand for information from Connecticut library group". Raw Story. 2006-06-26. Retrieved 2007-02-07. 
  30. ^ ""Radical, Militant Librarian" Button". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  31. ^ ALA (2006-01-17). "ALA introduces "Radical, Militant Librarian" button". Press release. Retrieved 2007-03-07. 
  32. ^ Nisbet, Miriam (October 2006). "2006 Copyright Agenda" (PDF). ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  33. ^ "Re: Orphan Works Notice of Inquiry". Library Copyright Alliance / U.S. Copyright Office. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  34. ^ "Copyright Issues". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 

External links

About Charles Ammi Cutter

Simple English

ALA logo

The American Library Association (ALA) is an organization which does not receive money. It is in the United States. It helps libraries and library education all over the world. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world.[1] It has more than 62,000 members.[2] Justin Winsor, Charles Ammi Cutter, Samuel Swett Green, James L. Whitney, Melvil Dewey, Fred B. Perkins and Thomas W. Bicknell began the organization in 1876. It began in Philadelphia, but its head office is in Chicago now. Anybody can join, but most of its members are librarians. Most members live and work in the United States. Members from other countries make up about 3.5% of the members.[3]


  1. "American Library Association - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  2. "Report to Council and Executive Board," by ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels, EBD#12.36 2009-2010, 18 June 2010 (misdated as 18 June 2009). "Overall ALA Membership as of May 2010 stands at 62,251."
  3. "ALA International Member Survey". ALA. Retrieved 2006-11-14. 

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