The first library card catalog was created at Harvard in 1840.
Caroline Hewins initiates the first story children's story hour at the Hartford (Conn.) Young Men's Institute, a private subscription association that was the predecessor to the Hartford Public Library.
Caroline Hewins also initiated one of the first children's collection. She was the librarian in Hartford for fifty years from 1875 until 1926.
Theresa West Elmendorf was elected the first woman ALA President: 19 years before women could vote in American elections.
The ALA Executive Board appointed the Committee on Mobilization and War Service Plans (later the War Service Committee). ALA undertook to supply books and periodicals to military personnel, at home and overseas. The initial campaign raised $1M for camp libraries, as well as including a book drive.
This Committee accepted an invitation from the War Department's Commission on Training Camp Activities to provide library service to the U.S. soldiers and sailors in America, France, and other locations.
Thomas Fountain Blue was the first African-American to head a public library system. In 1921, he became the first African-American to speak at an ALA program.
"The Reverend Thomas F. Blue, the nation’s first African-American to head a public library, was a respected leader in the civic, religious, and educational life of the Louisville black community.
The first ALA round table met to encourage library patron diversity, " ALA's Work with Negroes Round Table". The round table was began to examine the state of equitable access to library materials for African-Americans. The round table continued for two years before being disbanded. Tensions flared between librarians in the north and the south causing the ALA to suspend the round table.
Children's Day/Book Day, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día), is a celebration of children, families, and reading and held annually on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of advocating literacy for every child regardless of linguistic and cultural background. Through several grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) continues to increase public awareness of the event in libraries throughout the country.
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.
Working with people of all races and sexes has been a goal since early in ALA history. Thirteen of the original members present at the founding of ALA were women.
1956 saw the first integrated annual conference in Miami Beach after years of avoiding the South as a meeting place due to racial segregation.