American Library Association Announces New Transformational Grant from Mellon Foundation
For Immediate Release
Communication & Marketing Office
CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce a new grant in the amount of $5,515,000 from the Mellon Foundation to help ALA advance its mission of enhancing the profession of librarianship and ensuring access to information for all. The grant, which marks Mellon’s most significant investment in ALA mission work thus far, will positively impact several programs and initiatives, including those dedicated to expanding advocacy for intellectual freedom and countering censorship and book bans, scholarships and career development support for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) librarians, scaling adult and digital literacy instruction, the continuation of COVID-19 relief funding, organizational capacity building in libraries, and more.
“At a time when libraries and librarians are facing immense pressure and scrutiny, it is affirming and deeply meaningful to have the support of community champions like the Mellon Foundation, who understand our plight and are willing to invest in our mission,” said ALA President Lessa Pelayo-Lozada. “This transformational gift will enable ALA to expand its existing programs and establish new initiatives to better serve librarians and communities across the nation.”
In addition to bolstering ALA’s intellectual freedom initiatives, the grant will help the association strengthen its programs for BIPOC librarians through expanded scholarships, resources and educational support, helping to ensure their path to success within the profession. The grant will also provide a significant boost to ALA’s staffing and infrastructural needs, providing much-needed updates to the organization’s technology and improving the overall membership experience.
Another goal for ALA is to utilize the grant to foster wider national access to literacy instruction to combat low literacy rates among adults in America—a rising crisis among urban and rural communities as they contend with income gaps, low high school graduation rates and a growing number of residents who may not be able to read in their first language or in English. The grant will also be used to amplify ALA’s efforts to bridge the digital divide and mitigate barriers to information access.
“Libraries remain among the country’s largest providers of adult basic education, literacy, and digital access and instruction. ALA has historically helped to shape the national conversation in each of those areas,” said ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall. “The Mellon Foundation’s catalytic investment in our work allows us to continue to drive innovation and future-oriented thinking towards service areas that will ultimately help position libraries for long-term impact and their users for personal agency and socioeconomic mobility.”
This critical funding comes on the heels of two other recent grants awarded to ALA by the Mellon Foundation. Last year, the foundation committed nearly $600K in support of ALA’s collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), aimed at improving and expanding library services for incarcerated individuals. In 2020, Mellon committed $2.5 million to support ALA’s foundational mission work, programmatic capacity building, and emergency grants for multitype libraries, bringing the foundation’s total investment in ALA to more than $8.5 million in the last three years.
“Throughout the United States, our librarians are community leaders, offering crucial guidance and expertise on issues as varied as literacy and the digital divide, language classes and favorite books,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “We are proud to support the ALA as it trains the next generation of librarians and strengthens the infrastructure and programs they depend on to ensure our libraries remain centers of learning, community building and civic engagement.”
ALA is a 501(c)(3) organization that relies heavily on philanthropic support in order to fulfill its mission and commitment to advancing the profession of librarianship and serving communities across the nation. To make a donation, visit ala.org/donate.
For more news and information, visit www.ala.org.
ABOUT THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and we believe that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. For more information, visit www.mellon.org.
ABOUT AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is “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.” For more information, visit www.ala.org.