ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award (HISTORICAL)

About the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award The ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award recognizes a library that demonstrates excellence in library programming by creating a cultural/thematic program type or program series, presented during the preceding year (September 1 - August 31), that engages the community in planning, sponsorship and/or active participation, addresses an identified community need, and has a measurable impact.

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2020 Winner(s)

Alexandria Library

Alexandria, VA

We Are the Alexandria Library Sit-In was a year-long celebration of the 80th anniversary of a historic protest at the library.  This 1939 protest of the city’s whites-only public library was one of the first sit-ins of its kind in the nation.

In the 1930’s, like most libraries in the Jim Crow South, African Americans were not allowed library access. In 1939, after an ongoing effort to convince officials to establish equal access to community resources, 26-year-old resident and attorney Samuel W. Tucker organized five other African American residents to participate in a sit-in protest.  On August 21, 1939, William “Buddy” Evans, Morris Murray, Edward Gaddis, Clarence Strange, and Otto Tucker each asked to register for a library card. After being turned down, each sat silently at a different table and began to read a library book. Police officers arrested the group and charged them with disorderly conduct.

The program series, “We are the Alexandria Library Sit-in,” involved family members of protest descendants in the planning for this anniversary event.  The library engaged the community through a variety of programs, including school visits, a yearlong film festival, anniversary week events, posters, commemorative library cards, pins and postcards. The events, which also involved Alexandria city leadership, drew standing room only crowds and truly served as a model for programming for other libraries across the nation.