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Updates from the American Library Association

Published onJul 30, 2023
Updates from the American Library Association

ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall named to TIME100 list

“Free people read freely.” That was the enduring message from ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall’s TIME100 gala toast, and it brought the audience to their feet. Director Hall was honored as one of the 2023 TIME100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The list, now in its twentieth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals.

Tracie D. Hall is the tenth person to serve as ALA Executive Director, and the first Black woman. She is a champion for early literacy and adult literacy, library services for the incarcerated, narrowing the digital divide, and increasing economic advancement opportunities for marginalized communities.

Watch Director Hall’s toast on Youtube. And read the full press release from ALA on their news page.

Book Bans and Censorship 

Efforts to ban or censor library books have increased substantially over the last two years, and book challenges continue in 2023, on pace to surpass record numbers in 2022. ALA tracked 1,269 demands to censor library materials in 2022, almost double the 729 challenges in 2021. Those demands reflected 2,571 unique titles targeted, a 38% increase over 2021. The vast majority of those titles are written by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQIA+ community. ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom notes that these efforts are increasingly coordinated:

The prevalent use of lists of books compiled by organized censorship groups contributed significantly to the skyrocketing number of challenges and the frequency with which each title was challenged. Of the overall number of books challenged, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles. Of the books challenged, 40% were in cases involving 100 or more books

Prior to 2021, the vast majority of challenges to library resources only sought to remove or restrict access to a single book. 

In Washington State, the Wenatchee School Board received a challenge in late May from concerned parents, who encouraged community members to attend the May 24th School Board meeting and express their concerns. In an encouraging twist, several dozen community members showed up to defend the books being challenged, and to speak out against censorship and in support of their LGBTQIA+ neighbors. 

Read more coverage from Wenatchee World here.

Forward Together wrap-up

In 2018, the American Library Association embarked on an ambitious project to restructure and reimagine the association, with goals of increased responsiveness to ALA members, more opportunities for member engagement, especially through an equity lens, and a streamlined and more nimble governance structure. The project was entrusted to the Steering Committee for Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE), which issued their recommendations under the moniker “Forward Together.”

ALA is a large association with numerous divisions, roundtables, and affiliates, as well as state and regional associations that function as “chapters” of the larger association. The association is governed by a 189-member Council, and all councilors are elected directly by the membership of ALA. 

Prior to 2023, ALA Council consisted of the following representatives:

  • 53 State Chapter Councilors (includes District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands)

  • 8 Division Councilors

  • 16 Round Table Councilors

  • 12 Executive Board members, including the Executive Director

  • 100 At-Large Councilors

The Executive Board is responsible for the oversight, management, and direction of ALA. The Executive Board consists of four officers elected directly by the membership, plus eight members elected by Council; the Executive Director oversees the administration and management of the Association. The Executive Board members also serve as Council members, and part of their role is to operationalize decisions made by Council.

As a part of the restructuring process, ALA hired a consultant group to study other large associations and make recommendations for a more streamlined governance structure to the Steering Committee for Organizational Effectiveness. Those recommendations included expanding the Executive Board and designating it as the governing body of the association; and establishing four “assemblies,” one each for chapters, divisions, roundtables, and affiliates, for the purpose of making recommendations to the Executive Board. Further changes included having these assemblies meet more often than Council does, which meets only twice a year, including a recommendation to meet virtually, which was uncommon in those pre-COVID years. For the full set of “Forward Together” recommendations, see the Forward Together website

In 2023, after years of consultant reports, committee and workgroup meetings and presentations, ALA staff engagement, and numerous votes by the ALA Council, a final agreement was adopted by Council at the January LibLearnX conference. The final governing structure retained ALA Council as the governing body, but reduced its size significantly, to 133 councilors, with representation as follows:

  • 53 State Chapter Councilors (includes District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands)

  • 8 Division Councilors

  • 16 Round Table Councilors

  • 15 Executive Board members, including the Executive Director

  • 5 Councilors from the National Associations of Librarians of Color (NALCo), one from each association (Includes American Indian Library Association, Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Chinese American Library Association, and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking)

  • 36 At-Large Councilors

In addition, the Executive Board was expanded from 12 to 15 members, with representation as follows:

  • 4 officers of the Association -- President, President-Elect, Treasurer, and Executive Director (ex-officio)

  • 1 immediate Past President

  • 3 At-Large Councilors

  • 2 Division Councilors

  • 1 Round Table Councilor

  • 1 Rainbow Round Table Councilor

  • 1 Chapter Councilor

  • 1 American Association of School Librarians Councilor

  • 1 Councilor from one (1) of the National Associations of Librarians of Color (NALCo)

These changes were reflected in a new set of bylaws for the Association. Council voted to adopt the new bylaws in January 2023, and the entire ALA membership was asked to vote on the new bylaws in February/March of 2023; 93.8% of voting members approved the changes, and the new bylaws went into effect immediately. 

ALA Council, the Executive Board, and Association staff will now focus on the important work of implementing these changes. As councilors generally serve three-year terms, all current councilors will be allowed to serve out their terms, and the final Council size will be reached through attrition by 2026.

ALA Annual Conference Highlights 

The 2023 ALA Annual Conference was held in Chicago June 22-28. Highlights from the conference included:

Renowned children’s author Judy Blume charmed the audience with reflections on her long writing career, her newfound passion as a bookstore owner in Key West, and the ongoing censorship challenges of the past several years, which remind Ms. Blume of challenges her own books faced in the 1970s and 1980s. When asked what she would say to those who would try to ban her books, she replied, “What is it about this book that scares you?”

Author Matthew Desmond, author of the award-winning Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, shared data and insights from his latest work, the just-published Poverty, by America, a bracing account of inequities in this country, and how the affluent benefit from the poverty of their neighbors. Desmond was joined in conversation by Deborah Kennedy (National Coalition for Literacy), Federico Salas-Isnardi (Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy in Houston), Ken Bigger (ALA Center for the Future of Libraries), and ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall. The panel discussed the relationship between poverty and literacy, and ways to address the structural issues that underlie both issues. For more information about Desmond’s work, see his website at

ALA Council met for three sessions over the course of the Annual Conference. During those sessions, Council accomplished the following:

  • Reviewed and approved an updated version of the ALA Standards for Library Services for the Incarcerated or Detained. The ALA Committee on Diversity updated the standards, the first major update since 1992, and in their work, they held up library services for the incarcerated in Washington State as a positive example and a model for similar services nationwide; the Washington State Library and the Washington Department of Corrections were specifically mentioned as key partners in this work. 

  • Passed a Resolution to Reaffirm ALA’s Position on the Freedom to Read, which resolved that the American Library Association, on behalf of its members:

    1. Endorses the statement that individuals should be trusted to make their own decisions about what they read and believe.

    1. Asserts parents or other individuals should not be making decisions for other parents’ or guardians’ children about what they read.

    2. Reaffirms that it stands united against book bans.

    1. Continues to act to protect the rights of all to access a variety of books in schools, in libraries, in bookstores, online, and elsewhere

  • Passed a Resolution Condemning Discrimination Against Library Workers and Supporting the LGBTQIA+ Community, which specified that a public statement shall be released by ALA, and a taskforce created to determine strategies and communications plans for countering such discrimination.

  • Passed a Resolution objecting to the selection of Dubai as the location for the 2024 World Library and Information Congress, the annual meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), of which ALA is a member. The objection centered on Dubai’s criminalization of homosexual behavior, and ALA reiterated the importance of providing a safe and inclusive conference space for all members of the international library community. 

  • Passed a Resolution directing the ALA Conference Committee to investigate future ALA Annual Conference dates that would not conflict with Pride festivals across the United States in late June. 

Executive Director Tracie D. Hall reported that the 2023 ALA Annual Conference had a total of 15,842 registrants. ALA has scheduled the 2024 LibLearnX conference for January 19-22 in Baltimore, MD, and the 2024 Annual Conference for June 27-July 2 in San Diego, CA.

Headshot of Steven Bailey, a person wearing a suit and tie with short, brown hair and a greying beard.
Steven Bailey is a Librarian & Information Services Manager for the King County Library System, overseeing programs, services, outreach, and collections for three libraries. Steven earned his Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree in 2005 from the University of Washington. He is a graduate of the ALA Leadership Institute and has been a member of the ALA Chapter Relations Committee and the ALA Business Reference Committee (BRASS). He has served on ALA Council since 2019.
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