ALA Policy Reference File

History of the Policy (Current) Reference File

ALA policies have not always been readily accessible.  When, many years ago, it was decided to gather policies up into a single readily-available manual, many decisions had to be made.  Among these were decisions that: the Manual could not accommodate the whole text of some longer policies; process documents such as implementation guidelines and criteria did not belong in the Manual; Interpretations would not be included in the Manual.  All policy-related documents that were left out of the Manual proper were organized into what ALA staff came to call the “Current Reference File” which now, for greater clarification, has been  renamed the Policy Reference File (PRF.)

The PRF is maintained by ALA staff. It is organized by policy number, and has been kept in a set of looseleaf notebooks that have been kept at ALA Headquarters, and brought to conferences so they would be consulted if necessary.  In addition to containing the full text of policies deemed too long to be in the Manual, the PRF contains interpretations, process documents, the original Council Document that presented the Policy, and other policy-related miscellany. Many policies contain explicit reference to material in the PRF, but many do not. 

This segregation of materials has often caused confusion and frustration, as well as unawareness of policy contained outside the Manual, and a sense that there are “secret” policies.

From Paper to Digitalization

Council requested that this myriad collection of typed and hand-notated reference materials be preserved through digitalization in the event the original looseleaf notebooks were damaged or lost. As well as to provide a convenient and secure method to share the materials with membership.

The digitalization process was completed in the Spring of 2009 by the ALA Library staff.  Each page of the current reference file was scanned and underwent optical character recognition (OCR) so that the contents can be fully searched in a matter of seconds; eliminating the need to browse the files page by page in order to locate information.

Like the Policy Manual, both the paper and digitalized version of  Policy Reference File are divided into two distinct sections.

  • Section one provides the supporting materials for Organization and Operational Policies numbers 1 through 12.
  • Section two provides the supporting materials for Postions and Public Policy Statement, numbers 40-61.

Now, at future conferences, the paper version of the Policy Reference File can remain safely at ALA Headquarters and ALA staff and council members can perfom quick and thorough searches of  the digitalized versions saved to their laptops. 

Understanding and Working with the Electronic Policy Reference File

Adobe Reader 9 PDF Portfolio

image of policy reference manual in pdf portfolio format

The two sections of the Policy Reference File have been assembled in an Adobe Acrobat's new PDF portfolio format and require Adobe Reader 9 to function optimally. 

A PDF portfolio contains multiple files assembled into an integrated PDF unit. The original files retain their individual identities but are assembled into one PDF Portfolio. In the case of the Policy Reference File, users can open, browse, search and print individual or combined component files in the PDF Portfolio. The PDF portfolio has been secured so it can not be edited and therefore is a true archive.  This new PDF portfolio technology has truly enabled the ALA to create a digital facsimile of the Policy Reference File which best reflects the organizational structure of the paper original without losing anything including hand-written comments.

The decision was made to keep these two sections as two complete files, so that the Policy Reference File can truly function as a digital reference resource that can be electronically searched in a matter of seconds. If the files were chopped into smaller sections, the search process would also become redundant and the work-flow more laborious. Thusly, since these files were not created from electronic originals and are OCR'd image files, the file size of each section is large: section one is 81 Megabytes and section two is 55 Megabytes and therefore can not be easily e-mailed or downloaded.

For Members Using Assistive Technologies

At this time, due to their Flash-based technology, Adobe Acrobat Portfolios are not accessible without the modification of individual user Preferences within Adobe Acrobat Professional 9 or Adobe Reader 9.  To access the OCR'd PDF component files of a portfolio, one need to open either Adobe Acrobat Professional 9 or Adobe Reader 9, go to the Edit menu, select Preferences and from the Categories listing select Accessibility, under Other Accessibility Options select the option labeled “Always show portfolios in platform control.”

For Members with High-Speed Internet Access

Warning: High-speed internet access is required to download these files.  Depending on how fast your connection is, or if your organization has an internet policy that limits the file size of downloads, you may not be successful in downloading the file. 

Even with a high-speed connection and no organizational limitations on downloadable file sizes, files over 30 Megabytes can take a minute or more to fully download and a white screen may display until the download is complete.  Check the status bar in the lower left corner of your internet browser to see how the download is progressing.  Once the file downloads, we suggest you save it to your computer for quicker retrieval.

For Members without High-Speed Internet Access or with Organizational Internet Download File Size Limitations

Please send an email  to  Willie Glispie requesting that a compact disc (CD) of the Policy Reference File be mailed to you.  Include your name, member ID and mailing address in the content of the message.