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ALAAction No. 3 in a series

Education and Continuous Learning

Education and Continuous Learning is one of five key action areas adopted by the American Library Association to fulfill its mission of promoting the highest quality library and information services for all people. Providing librarians, library staff and trustees with opportunities for professional development and promoting continuous, lifelong learning for all people is integral to that mission. This brochure highlights ALA's activities in this area and invites your support.

Why Education and Continuous Learning

Continuing education has never been as important as it is today.

The ongoing revolution in information technology demands changes not only in what we learn, but also in how we learn in the classroom and beyond. To succeed in this new environment means knowing how to access information, but also how to analyze and use it efficiently and effectively.

Keeping up with the explosion in information and technology challenges those in the work force to continually renew their skills and expand their knowledge. But education and lifelong learning are equally as important for the growing number of older Americans who may or may not be actively employed.

For people of all ages, lifelong learning is the key to longer, healthier, more satisfying and productive lives.

For librarians, continuous learning is critical to renewing the expertise and skills needed to teach and assist members of the public in the new information age.

The American Library Association aims to promote the highest quality library service by providing leadership and support for both the professional education of librarians and the development of library programs and services that support continuous learning for the public.

Why Libraries

Libraries have always been places where people of all ages and means can connect to ideas, information and each other.

Today, communities large and small are reinvesting in public libraries as centers for culture and lifelong learning. A 1999 survey, conducted by the ALA Public Programs Office with funding from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, confirms the role of the public library as a dynamic cultural center with book discussion groups, author presentations and other cultural programming offered by nearly nine out of 10 public library respondents.

A similar study, funded by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, reports an abundance of educational programming for school-age youth, including summer reading programs, author appearances, musical and drama performances. More than a third of the 1,248 respondents offer instruction in using the Internet, and a quarter offer special homework help.

Libraries also are leaders in the adult literacy movement. Approximately one in four public libraries offers reading programs for adults. Many libraries also offer family literacy programs designed to ensure that both parents and children become readers and lifelong learners.

Like the public library, school and academic libraries have a key role to play in preparing youth to be lifelong learners. Using digital technologies, as well as traditional formats such as books and magazines, librarians in school and college libraries teach students how to find and use information for their studies, future employment and lifelong enjoyment.

America's libraries are uniquely positioned to serve as community centers that enable people of all ages to keep learning throughout their lives. In person and online, libraries connect even the smallest communities with the whole world of ideas and information.


The American Library Association (ALA) has been a leader in education since it was founded more than a century ago. Continuous learning efforts focus both on the library profession and the public in keeping with ALA's mission to deliver the highest quality library and information services to all people.


ALA has a unique role to play in assessing the continuing education needs of its members and of those in the profession; coordinating programs to meet those needs; communicating their availability; and delivering training where appropriate. As a priority for the association, continuing education is sponsored and delivered by every office and division within ALA.

Continuing Education/Personnel

ALA's Office for Library Personnel Resources (OLPR) is dedicated to education and learning programs and the development of management and human resource policies that best serve the needs of libraries and their employees. OLPR also offers financial and employment information and assistance to librarians. A special focus is recruitment to the profession.

OLPR maintains a number of committees and round tables including the Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange Round Table (CLENERT). This group provides leadership and a forum for ideas and concerns among library and information personnel responsible for continuing education, training and staff development.

The Committee on Education makes policies and recommendations in the area of continuing library education and acts as a clearinghouse of information on all aspects of education for library and information studies, for the profession and for the public-at-large.

ALA offers a number of scholarships to graduate students pursuing degrees in library and information studies. These include the Spectrum scholarships, designed to recruit African Americans/African Canadians, Asian/Pacific islanders, Latinos/Hispanics and Native People of the U.S. or Canada to the profession.

In 1999, the American Library Association convened the first Congress on Professional Education to address the values and core competencies of the library and information profession and to develop strategies for action. Accreditation, continuing education, recruitment and diversity were among the issues discussed.


The ALA Office for Accreditation is the authoritative source for the profession and the public on library and information studies. The office provides opportunities to practitioners, educators and the public to give input into the setting of standards for master's level programs in the field of library and information studies. ALA's Committee on Accreditation is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the agency authorized to review, evaluate and accredit library and information studies graduate programs. The office publishes an annual Directory of Institutions Offering Accredited Master's Programs.

The American Library Association is also a member of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a nongovernmental, nonprofit coalition that performs the professional accreditation of teacher education programs. ALA recognizes a master's degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by NCATE as an appropriate professional degree for school library media specialists.

Conferences and Institutes

The Annual Conference of the American Library Association is the largest event dedicated to the professional growth of librarians in the world. More than 21,000 librarians, library staff, trustees and others attend each year. ALA divisions, round tables and committees present more than 250 programs and preconferences on a wide variety of topics. More than 850 companies showcase the latest information products and services.

In addition, three ALA divisions – the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Public Library Association (PLA) – offer separate national conference programs and exhibits for their members.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), the American for Library Trustees & Advocates (ALTA) and the Reference User Services Association (RUSA) jointly offer biannual national institutes that focus on continuous education for members, trustees and other professionals to keep them updated on trends in librarianship. The Library Information and Technology Association (LITA) also offers an annual national institute.

The Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) and the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) conduct extensive regional programming focused on specific topics and needs of their members. Other divisions and offices offer single or multiple-session workshops, plenary sessions and networking opportunities on a regional basis. Several divisions also provide distance learning via teleconferencing.

Since 1994, the Young Adult Library Services Association has trained its members to help public library staff provide quality service to young adults. As part of the Serving the Underserved: Customer Services for Young Adults project, these trainers have made more than 170 presentations at public libraries and at state, regional and national conferences. Topics addressed include adolescent development, reading interests, behavioral problems and computer services for teens.


ALA is the largest publisher for the library and information sciences profession. ALA and its divisions and round tables publish more than 50 journals and newsletters, as well as more than 60 books each year. These publications cover a wide range of subjects and are sold all over the world. Some have been translated into Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Portugese and Spanish.

ALA Editions publishes professional books for the library and information services community. The official membership publication is American Libraries, a monthly magazine. American Libraries is available online and recently began offering a free weekly e-mail news service with updates and breaking information. Booklist is a leading review publication of current books and nonprint materials. Book Links magazine explores how literature can enhance learning for children. Choice magazine reviews resources of importance to academic libraries., launched in 1999 as a new electronic subscription review service, provides access to the complete database of reviews from 1988 to the present (70,000 reviews) as well as a monthly e-mail bulletin.

ALA also prepares helpful book lists for the profession. The American Association of School Libraries (AASL) and the Public Library Association (PLA) annually publish University Press Books Selected For Public and Secondary School Libraries, an invaluable resource for collection building in secondary school and public libraries. Choice annually publishes its Outstanding Academic Book List (OAB) of approximately 600 academic titles. The OAB designation is highly regarded by librarians and publishers alike.

Online Resources

Information on professional development activities and opportunities can be found on the ALA Web site. ALA and its divisions also provide approximately 300 electronic discussion lists to promote communication on a range of issues. Through these discussion groups, as well as hundreds of committees, ALA provides numerous opportunities for networking and mentoring within the association.

To assist school librarians in keeping up with the rapidly changing world of information technology, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) offers the ICONnect initiative. ICONnect provides beginning and advanced online courses to teach library media specialists to navigate the Internet and make meaningful curriculum connections for students. ICONnect provides annotated, evaluated Web sites in all curriculum areas to assist media specialists with integrating the Internet into the classroom.


In addition to professional education for librarians, the American Library Association encourages and supports libraries as community centers for lifelong learning. These activities take several forms.

Linking libraries and culture

With leadership from the ALA Public Programs Office, the American Library Association helps create opportunities for the public for lifelong learning through libraries. The office promotes and supports all types of libraries in their role as cultural centers by providing programming models, financial and other resources, training and technical assistance and networking opportunities.

Discussion programs are at the heart of the ALA Public Programs Office. These are designed to more firmly establish the library as a community cultural center by bringing together current and future readers, writers, scholars, artists and lifelong learners.

ALA's popular "Let's Talk About It" program has attracted more than four million Americans to local libraries for thematic discussion series based on books since it was launched in 1983. The series has been re-launched in 1999 to a new generation of readers, writers and librarians.

Other discussion series include "Lives Worth Knowing" and "National Connections." The latter uses children's literature to offer adult literacy students an opportunity to discuss timeless themes and to make connections, sometimes for the first time, between books and their own lives. In 1998, ALA introduced its first film discussion series entitled "From Rosie to Roosevelt: A Film History of Americans in World War II."

"StoryLines America: A Radio/Library Partnership Exploring Our Regional Literature" explores regional literature through a partnership between libraries, regional scholars and National Public Radio (NPR) stations. The project includes 13 live, one-hour book discussions in which listeners have the opportunity to interact with guests and on-air hosts through a toll-free telephone number.

Traveling exhibitions such as "The Many Realms of King Arthur" provide opportunities for local tie-in programs including lectures, film series, book discussions, concerts, displays and activities for children and adults.

One of the most successful projects administered by the ALA Public Programs Office is "LIVE at the Library," which is focused on helping librarians develop and support cultural programs in their library, including author readings, writing workshops, book discussions and performances. Begun in 1992, this project has attracted more than 40,000 people to literary events at small and mid-sized public libraries throughout the Midwest and is now expanding nationally.

The efforts of the ALA Public Programs Office are designed to link libraries, communities and culture while creating unique partnerships and opportunities for collaboration. Funders and partners of ALA Public Programs include the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Video Resources, state humanities councils, museums, public radio stations and literary organizations.

Leading the way in cyberspace

ALA is a nationally recognized leader in providing educational resources for parents, children, librarians and teachers for information and education about the Internet. In September of 1998, ALA took part in the launch of America Links Up, a national public awareness campaign to ensure that children have a safe and rewarding online experience. The campaign was sponsored by a coalition of organizations including ALA, the U.S. Department of Education, America Online, The Children's Partnership and other education, industry and children's advocacy groups. As a result of ALA's outreach efforts, more than 250 libraries across the country hosted Internet "teach-ins" during the campaign's launch.

ALA continues to update and expand its online resources for parents and children. ALA's 700+ Great Sites – a cybercollection of Web sites reviewed and recommended by children's librarians of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) – is the most accessed area on ALA's Web site. Other popular resources include Teen Hoopla: An Internet Guide for Teens, from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA); FamiliesConnect, online resources for families to learn to use the Internet together, from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL); and KidsConnect, an online question-answer service for K-12 students, operated by AASL and the Information Institute of Syracuse (N.Y.), Syracuse University, with funding from Microsoft Corporation.

More than half a million copies of The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kidsbrochure with safety tips and recommended sites for children have been distributed by the ALA Public Information Office to libraries nationwide. In partnership with America Online, ALA has hosted "Internet Driver's Education" programs at more than a dozen libraries and other locations across the country.

Promoting learning for all

Helping all people to be lifelong learners is the goal of Roads to Learning, an initiative to improve services to people with learning disabilities, their families, professionals and other interested individuals. The project, administered by the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Libraries (ASCLA) and funded by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, aims to bring information about learning disabilities to the general public through libraries while increasing public libraries' capacity to serve their communities in this area.

Local learning disability partnerships, begun in 1998, enable community members and library staff to work and learn together while improving library collections and services. National, regional and state workshops are an integral part of Roads to Learning. A Web site, information fairs and programs, print and online resource lists and other educational materials help extend the availability of learning tools and bring hard-to-find help to parents of children with disabilities.

Recognizing excellence

The public turns to ALA for recommended reading and quality resources for people of all ages. In addition to Booklist and Book Links, ALA provides lists of notable and outstanding books and other resources. These include the Coretta Scott King Awards recognizing outstanding books for children by African American authors and the Pura Belpré Award honoring excellence in children's literature about the Latino experience.

The annual Newbery and Caldecott medals, administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), are the highest honors for writing and illustration of children's literature. ALSC also sponsors other awards and "notable" lists of children's books, recordings, videos, computer software and Web sites.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) prepares book lists especially for young adults. These include Best Books for Young Adults, Popular Paperbacks, Quick Picks and Audiobooks. YALSA also presents the Alex Awards to recognize the top 10 books published for adults but with strong appeal for teens.

Other "best" lists include lists of notable books and reference materials published by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) and the Top Titles for Adult New Readers published annually by the Public Library Association (PLA) in the May/June issues of Public Libraries magazine.

What YOU Can Do

  1. Make professional education and continuous learning a high priority for all library staff.
  2. Educate others about how libraries are the center for lifelong learning in the community.
  3. Advocate for continued support of libraries as educational institutions. Work with library boards, the media and elected officials at all levels of government.
  4. Meet with your community (academic, school or public) to determine what types of educational programs people are most interested in seeing at the library. Hold a meeting where library users can share their ideas.
  5. Investigate new opportunities for continuous learning at your library. Collaborate with other organizations offering continuing education courses and programs for the public.
  6. Determine if additional funds are needed to expand and promote programs and provide technical resources and training at your library. Work to ensure that library funding is not reduced.
  7. Develop programs that promote lifelong learning for the public. Work with the ALA Public Programs Office to host book discussions and traveling exhibits of interest to your community.
  8. Make sure that you and your colleagues have the proper training and skills to assist library patrons and teach them about emerging technologies such as the Internet.
  9. Strengthen the role of new technology and information literacy as teaching tools in libraries. Develop programs that show how new technology can provide both adults and children with continuous learning opportunities.
  10. Take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by ALA. Volunteer for committees that focus on education and continuous learning within ALA and its divisions and in state and regional library associations.

A Sampling of ALA Resources

For more information, contact sponsoring units. To order titles from ALA Editions, call 800-545-2433, press 7. ALA members receive a 10% discount.

ALA Annual Conference
The largest gathering of librarians in the world with programs and discussions on a full range of topics. Held in June of each year. See the April issue of American Libraries magazine for conference preview and registration information.

ALA Division Conferences and Training Programs
Listing of division conferences and regional institutes.

ALA/Division/Round Table Scholarship Program
Office for Library Personnel Resources.
Pamphlet describing various scholarships offered by ALA and its divisions and round tables, including amount of award, criteria and application process. Updated annually.

ALA Editions Catalog
Professional books for the library and information services community. To request a free catalog, call 800-545-2433, ext. 2425.

ALA Graphics Catalog
Posters, bookmarks, t-shirts, stickers and other items promote libraries and learning. To request a free catalog, call 800-545-2433, ext. 5046.

ALA is Continuing Education
Office for Library Personnel Resources, 1999.
Brochure listing continuing education and professional development opportunities for librarians, library staff and trustees outside of the ALA Annual Conference. Includes ALA Video/Library Video Network, preconferences, national division conferences, regional institutes and workshops, publications, speakers bureau lists, financial support and other resources.

America Links Up
Public education campaign to teach parents and children about the Internet and ensure that children have a safe and rewarding online experience.

American Libraries
Official monthly magazine of the American Library Association, available as a perquisite of membership. Available to libraries and other institutions: $60 per year, U.S./Canada/ Mexico; other, $70/year. Free weekly e-mail news service available.

American Library Association review publication of current books and nonprint materials for adults and children published 22 times a year. Available for $69.50/year or $130 for two years. Subscriptions sent outside U.S., $85/year. Order from Booklist/Web, 434 W. Downer Place, Aurora, IL 60506. Phone: 630-892-7465. Or contact Pat Foley at 800-545-2433, ext. 5716 or

Bimonthly magazine designed for teachers, librarians, library media specialists, booksellers, parents and others interested in connecting children with high quality books. Available for one year (6 issues), $18.95; two years (12 issues), $34.95; three years (18 issues), $47.95. Subscriptions outside the U.S. and Canada are $24/year or $48 for airmail delivery. Order from Book Links/Web, 434 W. Downer Place, Aurora, IL 60506. Phone: 630-892-7465. Or contact Joanne Wilkinson at 800-545-2433, ext. 5715 or

Reviews of significant current books and electronic media of interest to those in higher education. Published 11 times/year. Available for one year, $200 (U.S./Canada/Mexico). Subscriptions outside U.S./Canada/Mexico, $242.50 annually or $325.00 for airmail delivery. To order, e-mail:
Electronic review service providing access to Choice's complete database of reviews since 1988 plus a monthly e-mail bulletin. Twelve-month subscription, $395 per year for a 20-user license.

American Association of School Librarians. Online resources for families to learn about the Internet together, including the basics, safety and other tips for making the most of the Internet.

Financial Assistance for Library and Information Studies
ALA Committee on Education.
Handbook of financial assistance offered by state library agencies, state library associations, educational institutions and local libraries in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico as well as national and regional awards. Produced with a grant from H.W. Wilson Company.

The Future is Information
Office for Library Personnel Resources.
Information packet about careers in library and information studies. Includes Directory of Institutions Offering Accredited Master's Programs, factsheets, scholarship information, career guides and related articles.

Great Sites 
Includes more than 700 sites recommended, annotated and organized by children's librarians plus links to the KidsConnect question-answer service for students, The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace and more, all developed by the American Library Association and its youth divisions.

American Association of School Librarians.
Online classes and links to educational Web sites. For school library media specialists, teachers, families and mini-grant winners.

Online question-answer service for K-12 students. Operated by the American Association of School Librarians in partnership with the Information Institute of Syracuse (N.Y.), Syracuse University, with funding from Microsoft Corporation.

The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kids
ALA Public Information Office. An introduction to the Internet, safety tips and quality Web sites for children.

Library & Information Studies Directory of Institutions Offering Accredited Master's Programs
ALA Office for Accreditation and ALA Office for Library Personnel Resources. Annual listing of accredited master's programs in the United States and Canada, organized by state and Canadian province. Includes contact information, degrees and certificates offered and distance education opportunities. Also includes "Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library and Information Studies."

National Connections
ALA Public Programs. Project description and updates on new reading and discussion series for new adult readers.

NEH and America's Libraries
National Endowment for the Humanities, 1998. A brochure detailing NEH grants to libraries and library-related programs and projects. Available from the ALA Public Programs Office. Free.

Roads to Learning: The Public Libraries' Learning Disabilities Initiative
Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies. LD resources and ideas for library resources; links to learning disability organizations; basic learning disability information; training opportunities; and assistive technology.

Teen Hoopla: An Internet Guide for Teens 
Young Adult Library Services Association. Links to quality sites of special interest to teens, organized by categories for personal, school and other needs, also book reviews by teens.

The Whole Person Catalog, No. 4
ALA Public Programs, 1998. The librarian's source for information about cultural programming for adults. Includes information about exhibitions, book discussion groups and other literary programs offered through the American Library Association, state libraries and local humanities councils. Free.


ALA Conference Services
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 3220
Fax: 312-380-3224

ALA Office for Accreditation
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 2432
Fax: 312-280-2433

ALA Public Information Office
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 5041/5044
Fax: 312-944-8520

ALA Public Programs Office
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 5045
Fax: 312-944-2404

American Association of School Librarians
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4386
Fax: 312-664-7459

Association for Library Trustees and Advocates
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 2161
Fax: 312-280-3257

Association of College and Research Libraries
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 2521
Fax: 312-290-2520

Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4398
Fax: 312-944-8085

Association for Library Collections & Technical Services
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 5038
Fax: 312-280-5033

Association for Library Service to Children
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 2163
Fax: 312-944-7671

Library Administration and Management Association
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 5038
Fax: 312-280-5033

Library and Information Technology Association
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4270
Fax: 312-280-3257

Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4277
Fax: 312-280-3256

Public Library Association
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 5752
Fax: 312-280-5029

Reference and User Services Association
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4398
Fax: 312-944-8085

Young Adult Library Services Association
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4390
Fax: 312-664-7459

American Library Association
50 E. Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Telephone: 312-944-6780
Toll-free: 800-545-2433
TDD: 312-944-7298
Fax: 312-944-9374


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