The American Library Association (ALA) is a group based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 64,600 members.
The ALA publishes the magazines American Libraries and Booklist. Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) also sponsors Teen Read Week, the third week of each October, and Teen Tech Week, the second week of each March.
YALSA administers the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, the Margaret Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature and the Alex Awards for the ten best adult books with teen appeal. Two newer awards administered by YALSA are the Odyssey Award, for Excellence in audiobook production, and the brand new William C. Morris YA Award, which will be awarded for the first time in 2009 honoring first-time authors of young adult literature.
As a result of its stance on intellectual freedom, the ALA is generally opposed to any censorship of the material in libraries. Interviewed about an attempt to remove a book from a suburban Boston middle school, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said, "Our hope is that books are retained rather than removed. Ultimately, every challenge is an attempt to remove ideas from the discourse. About another matter involving child pornography, she said, "One person's 'pornography' is another person's 'Venus de Milo' or Michelangelo's 'David.' ... Another person's 'pornography' might be the Sports Illustrated (magazine) swimsuit issue.
In 1999, radio personality Laura Schlessinger campaigned publicly against the ALA's intellectual freedom policy, specifically in regard to the ALA's refusal to remove a link on its web site to an explicit sex-education site for teens. Critics said, however, that Schlessinger "distorted and misrepresented the ALA stand to make it sound like the ALA was saying porno for 'children' is O.K.
The ALA filed suit with library users and the ACLU against the United States Children's Internet Protection Act, which required libraries receiving federal E-rate discounts for Internet access to install a "technology protection measure" to prevent children from accessing "visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors." At trial, the federal district court struck down the law as unconstitutional. The government appealed this decision, and on June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the law as constitutional as a condition imposed on institutions in exchange for government funding. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court, adopting the interpretation urged by the U.S. Solicitor General at oral argument, made it clear that the constitutionality of CIPA would be upheld only "if, as the Government represents, a librarian will unblock filtered material or disable the Internet software filter without significant delay on an adult user's request.
In 2003, the ALA passed a resolution opposing the USA PATRIOT Act, which called sections of the law "a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users". Since then, the ALA and its members have sought to change the law by working with members of Congress and educating their communities and the press about the law's potential to violate the privacy rights of library users. ALA has also participated as an amicus curiae in lawsuits filed by individuals challenging the constitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act, including a lawsuit filed by four Connecticut librarians after the library consortium they managed was served with a National Security Letter seeking information about library users. After several months of litigation, the lawsuit was dismissed when the FBI decided to withdraw the National Security Letter.
The ALA sells humorous "radical militant librarian" buttons for librarians to wear in support of the ALA's stances on intellectual freedom, privacy, and civil liberties. Inspiration for the button’s design came from documents obtained from the FBI by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request revealed a series of e-mails in which FBI agents complained about the "radical, militant librarians" while criticizing the reluctance of FBI management to use the secret warrants authorized under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Profile: American Library Association announces the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery medals for children's literature
Jan 27, 2003; 00-00-0000 Profile: American Library Association announces the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery medals for children's...