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! Read More »

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#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. Read More »

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“The First Convention of the Kind”: The 1853 Librarians’ Convention

Letter of support for the convention.

Before the first American Library Association Conference in 1876, there was the 1853 Librarians’ Convention. The idea was first presented in 1852, in Charles Norton’s Norton’s Literary Gazette and Publisher’s Circular, though it would take another year for the idea to take root. After much correspondence a group of librarians put out an official proposal for a convention in May of 1853. The proposal, “Call for a Convention of Librarians”, was published in Norton’s Literary Gazette, stating: Read More »

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“Develop the Power that is Within You”: The Harvey Dunn Poster Campaign


Sometimes in the archives you look for one thing and find something completely different, but wonderfully fascinating. A letter for the Harvey Dunn Poster Campaign is one of those great and random finds in the archives. The letter, dated June 26, 1923, was a call for librarians to hang up a poster of a man reading a book in a factory, the image of the poster was originally from a painting by Harvey Dunn. Carl Milam, then Secretary of the ALA, stated that the, “Harvey Dunn poster … speaks directly to the people who need to learn of the hidden treasures which are theirs for the asking.”[1] Read More »

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Tour of the ALA to the Pacific Coast


Sketch of S. S. Green from the Los Angeles Times, Oct 24, 1891.

In October 12-16 of 1891, the first ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco was held. It was the first conference to be held on the Pacific Coast and 83 people were in attendance, with Samuel Swett Green presiding as president. Even after over a hundred years, some of the topics discussed during the sessions would not be out of place at the 2015 Annual Conference. ALA members talked about library architecture, library administration, the use of libraries in schools, library legislation, and public support for public libraries. Read More »

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Celebrating National Bookmobile Day at the ALA Archives

Fraser Valley Union Library Bookmobile. ALA0002246. Found in record series 18/1/57, Box 5, Folder: Bookmobile - Outside Shelving, 1939-1976

Fraser Valley Union Library Bookmobile. Found in record series 18/1/57, Box 5, Folder: Bookmobile – Outside Shelving, 1939-1976

A relatively new addition to National Library Week, the first National Bookmobile Day was celebrated in 2010, to recognize over one hundred years of service that bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach services have contributed to bringing information, technology, and resources to all readers.[1]

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National Library Workers Day: “Libraries Work Because We Do!”

nlwd_15 apa homepage image

Courtesy of ALA Allied Professional Association

Today is National Library Workers Day, part of National Book Week. It’s a day to recognize the contributions made by library workers and all they do to keep libraries and library programs running. During the last few weeks, the ALA Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) has been promoting National Library Workers Day (NLWD) by providing a space to recognize stellar library workers, providing NLWD merchandise, giving suggestions for celebrations, and going on a social media blitz with photographs from the ALA Archives of library workers. Read More »

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National Library Week: “For a Better-Read, Better-Informed America”

National Library Week 1958 letterhead

National Library Week 1958 letterhead

Sponsored by the National Book Committee, Inc., and in cooperation with the American Library Association, the first National Library Week was launched on March 16-22, 1958.  Citing a 1957 survey showing that only 17% of Americans polled were reading a book, the inaugural National Library Week slogan was “Wake Up and Read!”  The National Library Week initiative was the first nationwide effort to promote literacy for personal and national improvement, to celebrate the role of libraries in making reading materials accessible to everyone, and to highlight the varied career opportunities available within the library profession.[1]

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