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Key Lock, Vogo Stave Church, Vagamo, Norway Photographic Print

Key Lock, Vogo Stave Church, Norway by Russell Young

In 1876, “Melvil Dewey (of the famed Dewey Decimal System which many patrons still hate), Justin Winsor, C.A. Cutter, Samuel S. Green, James L. Whitney, Fred B. Perkins, and Thomas W. Bicknell issued a call to librarians to form a professional organization. During the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, 103 librarians responded to a call for a “Convention of Librarians” to be held October 4-6 at the Historical Society.”

Three years later, the American Library Association (ALA) is incorporated. It hoped to promote global library interest by sharing perspectives, concluding relevant decisions, cooperating with all aspects of biblio-science and economy, by making the public aware of libraries and improving upon them, and by cultivating good will among its own members.

In 1882, a Ms. Caroline Hewins cultivates the first children’s collection and holds the first children’s story time in Hartford, Connecticut. Prior to then, a “Children’s section” of the library did not exist, nor did other “services” save for the offering of titles to read. All books were “inter-shelved” in the stacks. They were not grouped by topic or genre, but by the Dewey Decimal System, which made allowances for inclusions of new categories. It took another eight years before room was allotted just for the benefit of small children and their reading material.

The profession continued to make major strides during the 20th and 21st centuries, reinventing itself to serve the times, and the fluctuating demographic of their constituency. The current headquarters of the American Library Association is in Chicago, Illinois. The ALA is now celebrating 137 years come this October!

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