Celebrating 50 Years as An Organization
Established in 1970, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), was formed to serve as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community; and to provide leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians.
As far back as the 1930s, a small number of Black librarians would gather in hotel rooms at ALA Conferences about the injustice they experienced at work and the lack of leadership opportunities for them. Under the suggestion of Effie Lee Morris, Black librarians met at the 1968 Annual conference to discuss their concerns about not having a voice in the ALA. At a meeting in 1969, it was decided by several Black librarians that ALA was not serving the needs of Black Library professionals, and the Black Caucus was formed to address concerns. The following year, E.J. Josey – a member of the ALA Nominating Committee wanted to find qualified Black candidates and socially responsible white candidates to run for Council in the 1971 election. Josey sent out letters inviting all African American librarians to attend the 1970 Mid-Winter meeting to discuss a candidate they would support. In 1970 BCALA was founded at ALA Mid-Winter by Effie Lee Morris, Dr. E.J. Josey, Thomas E. Alford Sr. and a few others. Dr. Josey was elected the first chairperson of BCALA.
The first two goals of the organization were to present a formal Statement of Concern to the ALA and to submit a resolution to the ALA Council that would ensure libraries and librarians providing materials and services to private segregated schools that were formed in order to avoid integration.
The goals of BCALA include:
To call to the attention of the ALA the need to respond positively on behalf of Black members of the Association.
To review the records and evaluate the positions of candidates for the various offices within the ALA.
To monitor the activities of the Divisions, Round Tables and Committees of the ALA, to make sure they are meeting the needs of the black librarian.
To serve as a clearinghouse for black librarians in promoting wider participation by black librarians at all levels of the profession and Association.
To support and promote efforts to achieve meaningful communication and equitable representation in state associations and on the governing and advisory boards of libraries at the state and local levels.
To facilitate library service which will meet the information needs of black people.
To encourage the development of authoritative information resources about black people and the dissemination of this information to the larger community.
In 1992, BCALA became formally affiliated with ALA. One of the organization’s most significant endeavors is the annual scholarship named after E.J. Josey. The scholarship offers African Americans with financial assistance to pursue a graduate-level library and information science degree. That same year also marked the first National Conference of African American Librarians (NCAAL). The conference is held every 5 years and brings together librarians from all over the country. In 2020, BCALA celebrates 50 years of service to librarians and the black diaspora.
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association serves as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community; and provides leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians.