The American Library Association has a library?

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Yes, the American Library Association has a library, and has had since September 30, 1924.  The purpose of the library was then, as it is now, to provide information needed by ALA staff as they carry out the work of the Association and to provide information to members and others who contact ALA with questions about librarians, librarianship and ALA programs.

The ALA Library has about 8,000 monographs, subscribes to some 250 periodicals, and adds about 350 volumes a year, both paper and digital, and monographic and serial. The library’s staff responds to over 6,000 inquiries each year. More than half of these are received—and answered--via e-mail or other electronic means; another 40 percent are phone, with the rest being in person, fax or mail inquiries.  The scope of the collection is limited to librarianship, association management, and general management, with a few special collections.  With the exception of ALA publications, the ALA Library is not a library of record, but a working collection that supports the information needs of the headquarters staff, plus the materials needed to answer the questions received.

The ALA Library has a home page, which provides access to a number of fact sheets on regularly sought information, a list of Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs), and a comprehensive list of ALA periodicals. Library staff maintain a Facebook page, a wiki, and several Twitter feeds.

As with any library, the range of questions is broad.  Some are simple (when is National Library Week?), but others are complex and challenging.  For ALA staff and officers, we frequently assist with historical research using the published record, seeking out when and why a particular activity or policy began.  For practitioners, we provide links to current resources needed to help with the problem at hand; for the last few years, we've been capturing our findings for these inquiries on the Professional Tips Wiki.  When we do get questions from the general public--and we do!--we answer when the question is about libraries and their work, of course. For out of scope questions (e.g., what is the temperature on Mars?) and the exceptions to our service mission (extensive background research for graduate projects, compilation of extensive bibliographies, requests for information connected with contests, or completion of school or work assignments), we encourage people to visit their local library--whether public, school, or campus--to tap into the enormous expertise we know is available among our members and other library workers.  

We receive questions from across the country--and from around the world, wherever there are libraries and library workers.  We're hoping that by sharing these questions and our answers, we'll help others who have the same question.  We're also hoping that you'll help us, by adding your expertise in the form of comments.

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