The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit library association based in the United States with over 57,000 members that supports libraries and libraries worldwide. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world. It was created to preserve and promote the public library system in the United States, and they’ve been making strides ever since they were founded in 1876. Over the years, this incredible organization has expanded their mission to include all kinds of literacy projects that go far beyond books, like speaking out against censorship and supporting free speech rights across the country, advocating for immigrant rights, and more. Learn more about how the ALA has supported libraries and literacy projects for over 120 years and how you can get involved today!
For the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 103 librarians – 90 men and 13 women – came together for a Convention of Librarians at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. There were attendees from all over the world at the event, including those who travelled all the way from Chicago and England. The object of the association, which was established at that meeting, was to make librarians’ present work easier and less expensive. In the 1930s, library activists put pressure on the American Library Association to pay more attention to the current events and societal issues.
Throughout its history, the association has defended the rights of anyone and everyone to access information without hindrance. After The Grapes of Wrath was banned in the late 1930s, the committee began to speak out against censorship. Their pursuit of equal rights during many of America’s biggest social issues like segregation and the Vietnam War demonstrates their perseverance. They trust in leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to increase education and make information easily accessible to everyone.
The Office of Literary and Outreach Services celebrated the first National Bookmobile Day in 2010. National Bookmobile Day is an annual occasion celebrating the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the committed professionals who carry out quality bookmobile outreach in their neighborhoods. They started recognizing an annual Banned Websites Awareness Day. By doing so, it is AASL’s hope to bring attention to the overly aggressive filtering of educational and social websites used by students and educators. The ALA hosts a conference for library professionals every year, and this year’s conference is on June 23rd through the 28th in Washington DC. Among other things, the conference will have a 550+ attendee marketplace, nine different LIVE stages, and keynote speeches by popular authors.
How can you help?
The ALA represents an impressive coalition of librarians and library workers—and, as it turns out, the ALA fights for good causes. Make sure your local library has the books, materials, and support it needs to continue fostering literacy across the country by donating or volunteering at your local library. And beyond helping libraries buy needed supplies, you can also volunteer your time in a variety of ways: shelving books; staffing events; organizing displays; planning special programming like summer reading programs and story times; leading book discussions with patrons; participating in school visits with authors and illustrators. Money donated to a library can be used to purchase items like book drop cabinets and new book carts. Regardless of what plan you have to help your library, have fun while doing it!