Monday, February 22, 2016

Detroit and ALA

The American Library Association has held its annual conference in Detroit, Michigan on four different occasions. The first of these was in 1922 when ALA met from June 26 to July 1. The attendance at the conference totaled 1,839, and those individuals participated in thirty or more associations, sections and round tables which took place at eleven different locations. One of those locations was the newly completed Detroit Public Library’s main building. Conference attendees were also treated to a special day in Ann Arbor, Michigan where they were able to visit the new library building of the University of Michigan. A report on the conference in Library Journal for July, 1922 noted that this was the first conference where none of those who attended ALA’s first meeting in 1876 were not in attendance (although there were still nine survivors of that conference). George B. Utley took office as ALA’s 36th president at the conference. Utley had previously served as ALA’s Executive Secretary from 1911 to 1920. Among those in attendance was Sallie Lou (Mrs. Joseph A.) Thompson whose conference badge is part of my collection of librariana (see below).  On June 27 the first Newbery Medal, for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the preceding year, was awarded to Henrick Van Loon for The Story of Mankind.  A publicity committee at the conference recommended the establishment of a National Library Week, something which didn’t take place for another 36 years. At the conference Reverend Thomas Fountain Blue (1866-1935) who served as the first African American to head a branch library (Louisville Free Public Library 1905-1935) also became the first African American to give a speech before the American Library Association. ALA did not meet again in Detroit until 1965. It also met there in 1970 and 1977, two conferences which I personally attended. The 1970 conference was especially memorable for me since it was my second ALA conference and my first as an employed librarian.

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