The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world.
Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission 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.”
ALA’s Core values, key action areas and strategic directions
On June 28, 2015, the ALA Council adopted a new Strategic Plan (2017 Update) and the Association’s new strategic directions for the next three to five years. Building on the Council-adopted Key Action Areas, three strategic initiatives have been identified as priority areas of focus for the Association. At the 2017 Midwinter Meeting, ALA Council approved a fourth direction on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The four strategic directions are:
- Information Policy
- Professional & Leadership Development.
- Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
In September 1853, a convention was held in New York City with the intent of forming a permanent organization. The conference was attended by 80 men. Charles C. Jewett (Smithsonian Institution) was elected president. Seth Hastings Grant (New York Mercantile Library) was elected secretary. A committee of five members was appointed to organize a second meeting in 1854. That meeting was not held.
Founding of the American Library Association
Several calls for a conference to be held were sent out. Frederick Leypoldt, Melvil Dewey, Justin Winsor, Charles A. Cutter, E.L. Jones, William F. Poole, Samuel S. Green, James L. Whitney, Fred B. Perkins, and Thomas W. Bicknell all signed various of these calls to have a meeting to form a professional organization of librarians.
During the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, 103 librarians, 90 men and 13 women, responded to a call for a “Convention of Librarians” to be held October 4-6 at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. At the end of the meeting, according to Ed Holley in his essay “ALA at 100,” “the register was passed around for all to sign who wished to become charter members,” making October 6, 1876 the birthday of the American Library Association.
Among those in attendance at the meeting were Justin Winsor (Boston Public, Harvard), William Frederick Poole (Chicago Public, Newberry), Charles Ammi Cutter (Boston Athenaeum), Melvil Dewey (Amherst), and Richard Rogers Bowker (Publisher’s Weekly). Attendees came from as far west as Chicago and from England.
The aim of the Association, in that resolution, was “to enable librarians to do their present work more easily and at less expense.”