Here’s everything you need to know about the world’s oldest and largest library association- the American Library Association.
ReadersMagnet is very excited to be a part of the upcoming American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition, which will take place this June 23-28, 2022. Though this is not the first time that ReadersMagnet linked with ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition (ReadersMagnet worked with Combine Book Exhibit in the past for ALA book events), this is their first time as an official exhibitor. The ALA event is a breath of fresh year from ReadersMagnet’s usual line-up of book fair events.
So, how did the American Library Association come to being, and what makes it unique from other events?
ALA: Its Precursor and Founding
Before the American Library Association was founded, several calls for a conference were sent out. A convention was held in New York City in September of 1853. The said conference called for forming a permanent organization of librarians and friends of the library. It was attended by 80 participants, including Charles C. Jewett from Smithsonian Institution, who was elected president. Seth Hastings Gran of New York Mercantile Library was elected secretary, and a five-person committee was appointed to organize a second meeting. Unfortunately, that said meeting did not materialize.
There were other efforts to create a professional association of librarians. Many of these efforts were supported by 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. Finally, in 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, history was made as 103 librarians (90 men and 13 women) responded to a call for a “Convention of Librarians” to be held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that October 4-6. In his essay “ALA at 100”, Ed Holley recounts how at the end of the meeting (October 6), the register was passed around for all to sign who wished to become charter members. Therefore, the official founding date for the American Library Association is October 6, 1876.
Annual Conference and Exhibition
Aside from its founding date, the 1876 meeting also serves as the first-ever ALA conference. The following year, the conference was held in New York on September 4-6, 1877, with just 66 in attendance. Barely a month after, an international meeting attended by 21 participants was held in London on October 2-5, 1877. Each conference year would only yield a few hundred in attendance for a few decades. During the early 1900s, participants in the American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition would reach thousands. Each year, the ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition venue are different, and almost every state has hosted the event at least once. In 2007, the American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition reached another milestone with a record-high number of 28 499 conference attendees. The conference was held in Washington, DC, a frequent venue for the ALA event.
In 2020, the organizers decided to hold the annual event remotely because of the pandemic. The following year, ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition was also held virtually.
Post-Pandemic ALA Annual Event
With restrictions easing up, the American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition organizers decided to go back to the in-person format and schedule the yearly event for this coming June 23-28, 2022, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, USA. This year, thousands are expected to attend the said event, and ReadersMagnet Self-Publishing will be among the exhibitors displaying books and book signing events.