Progressive Era Legacy of the Alabama Library Association (ALLA)

The Alabama Library Association (ALLA) stands as a testament to the Progressive Era's influence on the development of library services and advocacy.

Established in 1904 with an esteemed cohort of charter members, including the influential figures Thomas M. Owen and Marie Bankhead Owen, the association has been pivotal in shaping Alabama's library landscape.

As a member chapter of the American Library Association and the Southeastern Library Association, ALLA operates within a well-defined organizational structure, providing professional development, advocacy, and a platform for addressing critical issues.

This article explores the establishment, evolution, and ongoing impact of the Alabama Library Association, illuminating its enduring legacy as a driver of progress within the state's library community.

Key Takeaways

  • The Alabama Library Association (ALLA) was established in 1904 during the Progressive Era.
  • ALLA is divided into three divisions: College, University, and Special Libraries; Public Libraries; and Youth Services and School Libraries.
  • ALLA offers professional development workshops, an annual convention, and serves as an advocacy group for library and educational interests.
  • ALLA has addressed important issues such as providing library service in rural Alabama during the Great Depression, racial segregation and desegregation in the 1940s and 1950s, and opposing restrictions on library materials related to homosexuality in 2005.

Establishment and Founding Members

The Alabama Library Association was established in 1904 in Montgomery with 50 charter members, including prominent figures such as Thomas M. Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen, John W. Abercrombie, and Charles C. Thach. The establishment of ALLA marked a significant milestone in the state's library development.

Thomas M. Owen, the first president, played a pivotal role in shaping the organization's early direction. The founding members' vision was to create a platform for knowledge-sharing and professional development in the library field.

Their dedication and leadership laid the foundation for ALLA's subsequent growth and influence. The commitment of these founding members to advancing library services and librarianship in Alabama continues to inspire the association's mission and values today.

Organizational Structure

Established in 1904 with 50 charter members, the Alabama Library Association (ALLA) is structured into three divisions: College, University, and Special Libraries; Public Libraries; and Youth Services and School Libraries.

  1. Committee Responsibilities
  • ALLA conducts its business through approximately 20 committees.
  • Committees cover areas such as legislative advocacy, intellectual freedom, and professional development.
  • Members participate in various committees to contribute expertise and shape the association's initiatives.
  1. Membership Benefits
  • ALLA members can join specialized interest groups called round tables.
  • Members gain access to professional development workshops and an annual convention.
  • The association provides a platform for sharing research and staying informed about important issues and trends in librarianship.

The organizational structure of ALLA ensures that committee responsibilities are clearly defined, allowing members to actively participate in shaping the association's initiatives.

Additionally, membership benefits provide opportunities for professional development and knowledge sharing.

Specialized Interest Groups

Formed in conjunction with the Alabama Library Association, specialized interest groups, known as round tables, facilitate focused discussions and collaboration among members with shared professional interests. Joining these groups offers numerous benefits, including the opportunity to collaborate and network with professionals who share similar goals and challenges.

Members can exchange knowledge and best practices, leading to enhanced professional development. Specialized interest groups also provide a platform for members to address specific issues within their field and stay updated on the latest trends and developments.

Through these groups, members can establish valuable connections, share resources, and work together to advance their collective interests. Overall, these groups serve as valuable forums for members to engage in meaningful discussions and cooperative efforts to further their professional growth and impact.

Governance and Leadership

An integral aspect of the Alabama Library Association is its governance and leadership structure, which plays a pivotal role in directing the organization's strategic initiatives and operations.

Governance and Leadership of ALLA:

  1. Role of Executive Council: The executive council, elected by the members, is responsible for overseeing the overall management and decision-making processes within the association.
  2. Leadership Positions: The executive council comprises various leadership positions, including president, secretary, treasurer, and members-at-large, each playing a crucial role in steering the organization towards its objectives.
  3. Strategic Direction: The leadership sets the strategic direction for the association, ensuring that it remains aligned with its mission and responds effectively to the evolving needs of its members and the library community.
  4. Operational Oversight: The leadership provides operational oversight, guiding the activities of approximately 20 committees and ensuring the efficient functioning of the association.

This governance and leadership framework enables the Alabama Library Association to effectively serve its members and advance the interests of the library profession.

Professional Development and Events

The Alabama Library Association's commitment to professional development and events is exemplified through its provision of workshops and an annual convention, fostering a culture of continuous learning and collaboration among its members. The upcoming workshops cover diverse topics such as digital literacy, collection management, and information technology, catering to the evolving needs of library professionals. The annual convention serves as a platform for members to engage with industry experts, share best practices, and network with peers from across the state. This event facilitates the exchange of innovative ideas and strategies to enhance library services. The table below provides a glimpse of the enriching opportunities offered by the Alabama Library Association.

Upcoming Workshops Date Location
Digital Literacy TBD TBD
Collection Management TBD TBD
Information Technology TBD TBD

Advocacy and Information Sharing

Advocacy and information sharing are integral components of the Alabama Library Association's mission.

Alabama Library Association's Advocacy and Information Sharing

  1. Library Advocacy: ALLA serves as a strong advocate for library and educational interests, addressing important issues such as diversity, multiculturalism, and freedom of information.
  2. Research Sharing: Members have the opportunity to share research on library-related issues through various forums, facilitating the dissemination of knowledge and best practices.
  3. Issue Awareness: The association keeps members informed about important issues and trends in librarianship, ensuring they stay abreast of the latest developments.
  4. Legislative Opposition: ALLA actively opposes legislation that may hinder access to information, as demonstrated by its stance against a bill restricting library materials related to homosexuality in 2005.

Historical Challenges and Triumphs

Challenges in the form of racial segregation and legislative opposition have marked the historical journey of the Alabama Library Association. The Association grappled with racial segregation and desegregation issues in the 1940s and 1950s, leading to the momentous decision to open membership to all races in 1964.

In 2005, the Association opposed a bill aiming to restrict library materials related to homosexuality, affirming its stance against discrimination and censorship.

These historical challenges have become pivotal triumphs, shaping the Association's commitment to inclusivity and advocacy. The Alabama Library Association's unwavering stance against racial segregation and opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation exemplifies its enduring dedication to fostering diverse and equitable library services.

The Association's legacy of confronting and overcoming these challenges underscores its pivotal role in promoting equality and access within the library profession.

Additional Resources and References

Addressing historical challenges and contributing to the Alabama Library Association's enduring legacy involves providing diverse and relevant resources and references. This is essential in promoting inclusivity and extending the impact of the association on various communities.

Key aspects to consider include:

  1. Importance of Diversity in Libraries: ALLA supports the need for a diverse and multicultural workforce in libraries, aiming to provide inclusive services to all patrons.
  2. Impact of the Alabama Library Association on Rural Communities: During the Great Depression, ALLA conducted a survey on providing library service in rural Alabama, highlighting its commitment to addressing the unique needs of rural areas.
  3. ALLA Handbook 2018 Revision: A comprehensive resource published by ALLA, offering insights into the association's structure, initiatives, and historical significance.
  4. External Links and Journals: 'The Alabama Librarian' and 'Proceedings of the First Meeting of the Alabama Library Association' provide valuable historical and contemporary perspectives on ALLA's contributions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Specific Requirements for Becoming a Member of the Alabama Library Association?

To become a member of the Alabama Library Association, applicants must complete an online application, pay annual dues, and adhere to the association's code of ethics. Members gain access to professional development opportunities, advocacy efforts, diversity initiatives, and can attend the annual convention.

How Does the Alabama Library Association Support the Professional Development of Its Members?

The Alabama Library Association supports the professional development of its members through supportive mentorship and continuing education opportunities. These initiatives provide a platform for knowledge exchange and skill enhancement, fostering a dynamic and evolving library profession.

What Are the Specific Advocacy Initiatives That the Alabama Library Association Is Currently Involved In?

The Alabama Library Association is actively involved in advocacy initiatives, focusing on library funding, outreach programs, and current projects. The association supports its members through professional development workshops, research forums, and diverse workforce advocacy.

Can Non-Members Attend the Professional Development Workshops and Annual Convention Organized by the Alabama Library Association?

Yes, non-members can attend professional development workshops and the annual convention organized by the Alabama Library Association. These opportunities provide valuable access to industry insights, best practices, and networking, contributing to professional growth.

How Does the Alabama Library Association Address the Need for Diversity and Multiculturalism in Libraries?

The Alabama Library Association addresses the need for diversity and multiculturalism in libraries through initiatives such as the Multicultural Information Round Table, advocating for a diverse workforce, and supporting research on library-related issues.


In the grand library of life, the Alabama Library Association stands as a beacon of knowledge and progress. Its roots run deep, and its branches reach far and wide, nurturing the growth of the library community.

Through the winds of change and the storms of adversity, the association has stood firm, providing shelter and guidance. Its legacy is a testament to the enduring power of unity, advocacy, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Our Reader’s Queries

What is the purpose of the ALA?

The American Library Association leads the way in advancing and enhancing library and information services, and the profession of librarianship, to support learning and guarantee access to information for everyone.

Who runs the ALA?

The American Library Association, or ALA, boasts a membership of 49,705 as of 2022. Leslie Burger serves as the Executive Director, while Emily Drabinski holds the position of President.

Which association is world’s biggest library association?

The American Library Association (ALA) holds the title of being the longest-standing and most extensive library association globally.

What are the largest libraries in Alabama?

The Birmingham Public Library stands as a mammoth among library systems in the southeastern United States. With 19 branches and a central library in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, it boasts an impressive reach that extends throughout the city.

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