About ALA

Keith Fiels, Executive Director

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, providing association information, news, events, and advocacy resources for members, librarians, and library users.

Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Key Action Areas

In 1998 the ALA Council voted commitment to five Key Action Areas as guiding principles for directing the Association’s energies and resources: Diversity, Equity of Access, Education and Continuous Learning, Intellectual Freedom, and 21st Century Literacy. With the development of a series of strategic plans, beginning with ALA Goal 2000ALAction2005 and ALA Ahead to 2010, these principles have expanded to eight Key Action Areas which are supplemented by ALA2015, the Association’s current strategic plan.

Advocacy for Libraries and the Profession
The association actively works to increase public awareness of the crucial value of libraries and librarians, to promote state and national legislation beneficial to libraries and library users, and to supply the resources, training and support networks needed by local advocates seeking to increase support for libraries of all types.
Diversity is a fundamental value of the association and its members, and is reflected in its commitment to recruiting people of color and people with disabilities to the profession and to the promotion and development of library collections and services for all people.
Education and Lifelong Learning
The association provides opportunities for the professional development and education of all library staff members and trustees; it promotes continuous, lifelong learning for all people through library and information services of every type.
Equitable Access to Information and Library Services
The Association advocates funding and policies that support libraries as great democratic institutions, serving people of every age, income level, location, ethnicity, or physical ability, and providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work.
Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual freedom is a basic right in a democratic society and a core value of the library profession. The American Library Association actively defends the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The American Library Association assists and promotes libraries in helping children and adults develop the skills they need-the ability to read and use computers-understanding that the ability to seek and effectively utilize information resources is essential in a global information society.
Organizational Excellence
The association is inclusive, effective and responsive to the needs of ALA members.
Transforming Libraries
ALA provides leadership in the transformation of libraries and library services in a dynamic and increasingly global digital information environment.

Strategic Plan

Guided by our Key Action Areas, our current strategic plan, ALA2015, identifies five goals for the association which move us toward our envisioned future: a world where libraries, both physical and virtual, are central to lifelong discovery and learning and where everyone is a library user.

ALA is currently in the process of articulating the Association’s strategic direction for the next three to five years. Building on the Key Action Areas, three strategic initiatives have been identified as priority areas of focus for the Association: Advocacy, Information Policy and Professional and Leadership Development.

Intensive planning is currently underway in each of these areas, and a series of face to face and online forums and conversations are scheduled for the fall, winter and spring. These forums and conversations are designed to provide members with an opportunity to shape our vision and the future of our work in these key areas. For information on the strategic planning process, forums and conversations, see ALA Strategic Planning.


ALA’s activities are shaped and guided by a series of governing documents. The Association’s first official document was the Charter of 1879, which was revised in 1942. ALA’s Constitution and Bylaws are approved by the ALA Council and voted by the membership. The ALA Council also adopts the Association’s Policies.

ALA Council is the governing body of ALA. Council determines all policies of the Association and its decisions are binding unless set aside by a majority vote by mail in which one-fourth of the members of the Association have voted.

ALA Executive Board acts for Council in the administration of established policies and programs and is the body that manages within this context the affairs of the Association, delegating management of day-to-day operation to the Association’s executive director.The Executive Board makes recommendations with respect to policy and operation.

ALA president is to be the Association's chief spokesperson and to work closely with the ALA's Executive Director in identifying and promoting library issues nationwide and internationally. The ALA President is recognized as the Association's leader by its members.