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American Library Association (ALA)

1. Introduction: In 1853 a group of librarians, scholars, teachers and clergymen met in New York for the foundation and management of a collection of books or knowledge for public use. In May, 1876 a few library devotees, by taking the hint from the meeting of 1853, proposed a like gathering in connection with the great exhibition in Philadelphia. The announcement of the meeting that would be held in October 4, 1876 was sent to the leading libraries and to the leading librarians abroad. As a result of this gathering which includes luminaries like Melvil Dewey, Charles Ammi Cutter (Boston Athenaeum), Justin Winsor (Boston Public, Harvard), William Frederick Poole (Chicago Public, Newberry), and Richard Rogers Bowker, the American Library Association (ALA) was formally inaugurated on October 6, 1876. ALA’s head office is now in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The ALA archival materials, non-current records, are currently held in the University of Illinois archives. These materials can only be used at the University of Illinois.

2. Aims and Objectives: The aim of ALA is “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”.

3. Governance: ALA’s activities are shaped and guided by a series of governing documents. The Association’s first official document was the Charter of 1879, which was revised in 1942. ALA’s Constitution and Bylaws are approved by the ALA Council and voted by the membership. The ALA Council also adopts the Association’s Policies.

ALA Council is the governing body of ALA. Council determines all policies of the Association and its decisions are binding unless set aside by a majority vote by mail in which one-fourth of the members of the Association have voted.

ALA Executive Board acts for Council in the administration of established policies and programs and is the body that manages within this context the affairs of the Association, delegating management of day-to-day operation to the Association’s executive director. The Executive Board makes recommendations with respect to policy and operation.

ALA president is to be the Association's chief spokesperson and to work closely with the ALA's Executive Director in identifying and promoting library issues nationwide and internationally. The ALA President is recognized as the Association's leader by its members.

4. Functions and Activities: 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. Some of the notable division of ALA are
i) ALA Editions (book publishing)
ii) American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
iii) Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS)
iv) Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)
v) Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
vi) Library Information Technology Association (LITA)
vii) Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA)
viii) Public Library Association (PLA)
ix) Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)
x) Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

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. ALA membership is open to any person or organization, though most of its members are libraries or librarians. Some the activities of ALA are

a) Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules – II: AACR-II was jointly prepared by American Library Association, The British Library, The Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, The Library Association, UK, and The Library of Congress. The code was edited by Michael Gorman and Paul W. Winkler. It was published in 1978 by the American Library Association and Canadian Library Association.

b) Resource Description and Access: The American Library Association, the Australian Committee on Cataloguing, the British Library, the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), and the Library of Congress constitute Joint Steering Committee. The Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC) is responsible for maintaining Resource Description and Access (RDA). JSC was previously responsible for maintenance of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR). RDA is published by the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Association, and Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

c) Library Bill of Rights: The first Library Bill of Rights (LBR) was drafted by Forrest Spaulding, director of the Des Moines Public Library, in 1938, to set a standard against censorship and was adopted by the ALA in 1939, and has been revised several times since. This has been recognized as the moment defining modern librarianship as a profession committed to intellectual freedom and the right to read over government dictates.

d) Bestsellers, and Reviews: Each year the American Library Association produces lists such as Best Books for Young Adults, Notable Children’s’ Books, and Notable Books for adult collections. Certain ALA divisions cooperate to produce University books for secondary school libraries and university press books for public libraries.

e) Copyright: 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".

f) Weeding Policy: The Council of American Library Association holds the view that in public libraries “annual withdrawals from the collection should average at least 5 percent of the total collection”.

g) Events: The ALA and its divisions hold numerous conferences throughout the year. The two largest conferences are the annual conference and the midwinter meeting. The latter 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. Along with other organizations, ALA 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.

h) Awards: The ALA annually confers numerous book and media awards, primarily through its children's and young adult divisions (others are the Dartmouth Medal, Coretta Scott King Awards, Schneider Book Awards, and Stonewall Book Award). In addition, the ALA helps to promote diversity in the library profession with various outreach activities, including the Spectrum Scholarship program, which awards academic scholarships to minority library students each year.

i) Publications: The ALA publishes the magazines American Libraries and Booklist.

5. Conclusion: 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 with more than 62,000 members. This association has not changed its name since its inception. The Association has worked throughout its history to define, extend, protect and advocate for equity of access to information.
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