The American Library Association (ALA)

 There are many professional organizations that can help literacy experts stay  involved in the profession beyond their classroom or school assignment. Students in the spring semester of READ 6325 explored various professional organizations and are sharing what they learned through this blog series.

By S. Schelstrate

 The American Library Association (ALA) was founded in 1876; college and reference librarians in 1889, moved onto add trustees in 1890 and then catalogers in 1900.  This professional organization focuses on all types of libraries and library aspects.  It has eleven divisions:

  • American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
  • Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
  • Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS)
  • Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)
  • Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations
  • Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA)
  • Library and Information Technology Association (LITA)
  • Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA)
  • Public Library Association (PLA)
  • Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)
  • The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

 Their collective function is to set accreditation standards, advocate for libraries, hold conferences, create standards and provide support for libraries and librarians.  They also are party to several round tables such as Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange (EMIERT), Federal and Armed Forces Libraries (FAFLRT), Library History (LHRT), Library Research (LRRT), and Video Round Table (VRT). 

You can become a member by visiting their website at, by printing and mailing/faxing the form or by calling 1-800-545-2433 (press 5).  You do not have to currently be a librarian to become a member.  They also accept students, support staff, trustees and friends, international librarians, and retired librarians.  Membership fees vary from $33 to $130 a year.

In addition to an annual conference which this year will be held June 23-28 in New Orleans, Louisiana ( they also host institutes, symposia and workshops, division conferences, and a midwinter meeting.  They also hold online conferences and tutorials in the areas of collection management, issues and advocacy and management issues, webinars, webcasts, and e-forums.

ALA also sponsors many publications including the ALA Research Series, magazines such as American Libraries, Booklist (and Booklist online), Book Links (an online book connector), as well as several more publications by each division and round table.  They present book awards such as:

  • Batchelder (ALSC)
  • Belpré (ALSC)
  • Booklist Editors’ Choice
  • Booklist Top of the List
  • Caldecott (ALSC)
  • Carnegie (ALSC; available only in bulk, see below)
  • Coretta Scott King (EMIERT)
  • Edwards (YALSA)
  • Excellence in Nonfiction (YALSA)
  • Geisel (ALSC)
  • Morris (YALSA)
  • Newbery (ALSC)
  • Notable (ALSC)
  • Odyssey (ALSC/Booklist/YALSA)
  • Printz (YALSA)
  • Schneider (ALA)
  • Sibert (ALSC)
  • Steptoe (EMIERT)
  • Stonewall (GLBTRT)
  • Wilder (ALSC)

The ALA also publishes an annual list of Banned and Challenged Books and promotional items for their yearly event celebrating these noted publications (

 Perhaps most interesting to those desiring a library certification the ALA offers several scholarships and grants ( well as employment resources ( and leadership development opportunities. 

Their online store can be found at and offers READ posters, bookmarks, and other advertisements in addition to reading programs, pamphlets, videos, books/professional development, gifts, clothing, incentives, books for both public and academic librarians, digital art, eEditions, eCourses, and product sets.

Current promotions include “Why I need my Library”– a video contest for teenagers that can win $3,000 for their library ( , and Learners4Life video contest—students explain how their school library and technology assists them in becoming life-long learners (

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