ALA Unit/Subunit: ALA
Meeting Type: Program
Cost: Included with full conference registration.
During the one-hour presentation the audience will learn about the achievements and contributions of several African American pioneers in librarianship, who succeeded and excelled in their careers despite the many obstacles that littered their path.
The presentation is designed to be a conversation starter to further advance the scholarly record of African American librarians’ impact and influence as information professionals. This is an area of scholarship whereby the history of librarians of color remains to be studied. Adopting empirical methods to develop robust recruitment and mentoring programs that values diversity and inclusion in its membership. Attendees will learn about trailblazing men and women who affirmed their legitimacy as librarians during a time in American history that was governed under ‘separate but equal’ legislation. Two remarkable women, despite being born Black and female, leveraged their achievements to enact an institutional cultural of change in librarianship. Virginia Proctor Powell Florence, became the first African American woman in the United States to receive a formal degree in library science after graduating in 1923, from the Carnegie Library School. Dr. Eliza Atkins Gleason, was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in library science after graduating from the University of Chicago in 1940. Her dissertation The Southern Negro and the Public Library, published in 1941, was the first comprehensive study of access to libraries in the U.S. South.
Dr. E. J. Josey and Dr. Joseph Harry Reason, fighting the good fight, advocated for authentic leadership and organization integrity. Dr. Josey, the founder of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, authored a resolution forbidding ALA officers and staff from participating in state associations that denied membership to black librarians. Dr. Reason, the first African American to serve as president of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), contributed to the scholarly record of library education through his published articles in The Negro College Quarterly. Both men, tirelessly campaigning to recruit African American students into the library and information science profession.
The session, chronicles African American librarians’ achievements in librarianship from 1905 through to the appointment of the 14th Librarian of Congress. These pioneers’ bequest to the next generation of librarians an inheritance that bridge the past to the present. Librarianship is the witness and messenger of their legacies, and that is cause for celebration.