Wednesday, March 08, 2006

ALA 101 - Part 2: Divisions

ALA has eleven divisions. Within ALA, the divisions have distinct responsibilities, and the authority to speak on subject areas within their purview. The divisions are often divided into two kinds: type of library and type of activity.

I will not provide links to each division, but they each have separate sections on the ALA web site [the page I chose lists all the divisions with links].The "type of library" divisions (in alphabetical order, of course) are:
  • American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
  • Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
  • Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA)
  • Public Library Association (PLA)
The "type of activity" divisions are:
  • Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS)
  • Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)
  • Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA)
    [Merged with Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA) to form
    Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations
    (ALTAFF) edit 2/14/10)]
  • Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA)
    [Now called Library Leadership and Management Association LLAMA) edit 2/14/10)]
  • Library Information Technology Association (LITA)
  • Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)
  • Young Adult Services Association (YALSA)
To belong to a division, you must first belong to the American Library Association. Each division sets and charges its own dues. Those dues finance the activities of that particular division, with a portion going to support the overhead services provided by "big ALA." These services are spelled out in the ALA Policy Manual, and run to almost four pages of very small type.

Divisions have a great deal of autonomy. Each division has its own staff (although some of the smaller divisions share staff). They run programs, and create their own internal structure. They tend to have a governing board, and then sections to carry out the work of the division. Several years ago, the Public Library Association did away with its old structure of sections and went to the concept of "clusters."

Because a section is small, and generally consists of colleagues interested in the same topic or smaller focus on librarianship, it is usually easier to begin your activities in a section. Over the years, I have been involved with MARS (Machine Assisted Reference Services section of RUSA -- the newsletter always had Messages from MARS), BRASS (Business Reference and Service Section (also part of RUSA), and ICAN (Interlibrary Cooperation and Networking, a section of ASCLA).

Next will be Round Tables.


  1. It's worth noting that LITA did away with divisions 21 years ago (in 1985), establishing self-organizing Interest Groups as the primary programmatic and organizational unit of the division--with 3-year sunset laws to assure that IGs stay active, and with IGs able to request budgets and propose programs. It's worked very well. (Except for librarians who need proper Committee Appointments for resumes or travel funds--LITA has relatively few committees for its size division.)

  2. And Walt, as a past president of LITA knows whereof he speaks. LITA is a division with which I have had limited contacts, so I defer to his expertise.