The American Library Association

By Jerome Eberle

Founded in response to a call for a Convention of Librarians at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the American Library Association (ALA) promotes libraries, information services, and the librarian’s profession worldwide. A non-government organization (NGO) and essentially non-partisan, the ALA is a strong advocate of education, freedom of access to information and related issues. Membership is open to all, but the majority of members are American library science professionals.

Members of the ALA may join one of 11 specialized membership divisions, such as the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and the Library Information Technology Association (LITA). Members may also join one or more of the 17 specialized or issue-oriented roundtables, such as International Relations and Intellectual Freedom, or roundtables on more library-specific topics such as Library History and Library Support Staff Interests.

The ALA maintains several program-oriented offices such as the Office of Intellectual Freedom, the Office of Government Relations, and the Office for Library Advocacy. These offices provide specialized support to the association in their particular areas. One of the ALA’s most prominent duties is the accreditation of programs leading to master’s degrees in library science and information technology. The Office for Accreditation is the association’s liaison with colleges and universities for that purpose, and provides a host of services related to accreditation.

The ALA hosts a number of conferences, symposia and other gatherings throughout the year. Some, like the annual conference and the midwinter meeting, are general in nature, while others address topics such as budgeting and finance or e-learning. In addition, the ALA publishes a magazine, Booklist, which provides short reviews of newly-published books and other resources to help librarians make purchasing decisions.

About the author: A resident of Chicago and a graduate of North Park University, Jerome Eberle worked with the ALA and in the editorial division of Booklist Magazine.