Thursday, September 29, 2011

ALA's Dodranscentennial, 1951

To celebrate its seventy fifth anniversary in 1951the American Library Association chose to use this occasion not to reflect on its past but to increase its relevancy to the present. It selected the theme "The Heritage of the U.S.A. in Times of Crisis" for its anniversary celebration and for the annual conference which took place in Chicago. It sought to engage the American public and America's libraries in a discussion of this theme. The 75th Anniversary Committee of ALA which was chaired by Ralph E. Ellsworth was able to get three books published to support its anniversary theme. One of those books This American People by Gerald Johnson (Harper Brothers, 1951) was also excerpted in the July 31, issue of Look Magazine. Look Magazine also distributed 2,000 posters to libraries to promote the theme. ALA received a $150,000 grant from the Fund for Adult Education of the Ford Foundation to conduct a follow-up library discussion project which it called the "American Heritage Project".

Also part of the seventy fifth anniversary was National Library Day which occurred on October 4, 1951, on the anniversary date of the start of the meeting of librarians in Philadelphia which resulted in the founding of ALA. Although special observances of this day were held in Philadelphia, National Library Day was promoted as a day to promote libraries throughout the nation and was a precursor to National Library Week which began in 1958. In the ALA Bulletin for September, 1951 Ellsworth told ALA's members: "It should be made clear that the ultimate purpose of all activities concerning observance of ALA's 75th anniversary is to get more books read by the public. Observance of National Library Day in each community, therefore is a challenge to the librarian to further this purpose." In addition to President Harry Truman's proclamation of National Library Day, the governor's of 27 states and Puerto Rico officially proclaimed October 4, 1951 as National Library Day.

Throughout 1951 the ALA Bulletin (the source for most of the information in this post) kept ALA members informed of anniversary activities with frequent updates by Ellsworth. A special cover for the ALA Bulletin with a seventy fifth anniversary motif was used on all issues. In honor of the seventy fifth anniversary of ALA, the Library Journal identified forty individuals for a "Library Hall of Fame" in its March 15, 1951 issue. It is also noteworthy that there was an unsuccessful attempt to get a postage stamp in honor of ALA for this occasion. The ALA Archives maintains the conference records for the seventy-fifth conference.

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