Library Outreach

[last update 30 September 2003]


ALA exists "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."  As the Association's policies have
developed, "all" has come to embrace persons of differing race and ethnicity, sexual
orientation, language, abilities, economic status, political position, religion.  It implies an
activist, not a passive, stance. 

KEY ACTION/PRIORITY AREAS:  Diversity, Equity of Access, Advocacy/Public Awareness, 21st Century Literacy. 
RELATED ISSUES:  Advocacy, Digital Divide, Fees for Library Services, Library Funding, Literacy


  • ALAction 2005By 2005, ALA will be recognized as the leading voice for equitable access to knowledge and information resources in all formats for all people.
  • Policy 1.3ALA will promote efforts to ensure that every individual has access to needed information at the time needed and in a format the individual can utilize, through provision of library and information services.


  • "Outreach" is increasingly seen as broad, equitable service delivery, as opposed to specialized services delivered to traditionally underserved populations.
  • Outreach service delivery to underserved and often under-presented populations remains an easy target for budget cuts.
  • Within the Association, outreach to traditionally underserved populations and diversity are often confused and lumped together, as though they were one issue.


  • ALA Office for Literacy & Outreach Service/OLOS Advisory Committee
  • ALA Public Information Office/Public Awareness Committee
  • ALA Divisions


  • Association of Rural and Small Libraries
  • Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services


  • 1948 - A National Plan for Public Library Service (ALA Postwar Planning Committee)
  • 1954 -- Adult Education Activities in Public Libraries (Helen H. Lyman)
  • 1956 - Library Services Act was signed. Between 1957 and 1964, this act extended library services to more than 40 million people living in areas with less than 10,000 population.
  • 1961 - The Library Bill of Rights was amended to include: The rights of an individual to the use of a library should not be denied or abridged because of his race, religion, national origins, or political views.
  • 1962/63 - LAD (now LAMA) undertook a research project on freedom of access to libraries, resulting in publication of Access to Public Libraries.
  • 1968 - The final report Special Council Committee on Freedom of Access to Libraries: "Therefore we unequivocally suggest that the development and improvement of library services to the culturally disadvantaged and underprivileged be viewed as a major goal of the American Library Association as long as it may be necessary."
  • 1969 - The [ALA] Coordinating Committee on Library Service to the Disadvantaged (est. 1968) published Library Service to the Disadvantaged: A Study Based on Responses to Questionnaires from Public Libraries Serving Populations of Over 15,000
  • 1970 - President Nixon established NCLIS, which articulated this goal: "To eventually provide every individual in the United States with equal opportunity of access to that part of the total information resource which will satisfy the individual's educational, working, cultural and leisure-time needs and interests, regardless of the individual's location, social or physical condition or level of intellectual achievement."
  • 1971 - ALA Council approved a resolution from the Gay & Lesbian Task Force of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table: "...The association recommends that libraries and members strenuously combat discrimination in service to and employment of individuals from all minority groups, whether the distinguishing characteristics of the minority be ethnic, sexual, religious, or of any other kind."
  • 1972 - The ALA Office for Library Service to the Disadvantaged was established, with a standing Advisory Committee. OLSD became the Office for Library Outreach Services (OLOS) in 1980 and Office for Literacy and Outreach Services in 1995.
  • 1983/86 - RASD (now RUSA) project provided libraries with planning and benchmarking information: Adult Services in the Eighties
  • 1984/85 - ALA President E.J. Josey appointed a special presidential Committee on Library Services to Minorities (later the Council Committee on Minority Concerns, then Minority Concerns and Cultural Diversity, now Committee on Diversity). The special committee issued a report: Equity at Issue: Library Services to the Nation's Major Minority Groups.  A follow-up report, Addressing Ethnic and Cultural Diversity: A Report on Activities of the American Library Association, 1986-1989, was issued in 1990.
  • 1986 - ALA Council approved a revised mission statement for the Association. (see SCOPE)
  • 1989 - ALA Council supported linguistic pluralism, opposing any legislation that would restrict diversity in library collections and urging library services (and collections) in languages commonly used within a community.
  • 1991 - ALA Council adopted "Library Services to the Poor" - " is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies."
  • 1996(a) The Library Services and Technology Act passed, including information empowerment through special services and increased focus on information access through technology (b) As part of the implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries (e-rate) was passed.
  • 1997 - OLOS initiated the Diversity Fair at Annual Conference, highlighting outreach efforts with a diversity focus.
  • 1998 - OLOS Advisory Committee established the Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture, with a featured speaker addressing outreach to traditionally underserved, at Annual Conference.
  • 2001 -ALA Council approved "Library Services for People with Disabilities" policy.
  • 2003 - ALA President Maurice J. Freedman appointed an 18-month Task Force on Rural School, Tribal and Public Libraries, to identify current resources and develop recommendations for expanding ALA's focus and impact on rural library services.


Issue Summaries

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