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. Founded in 1876 in Philadelphia and chartered in 1879 in Massachusetts, its head office is now in Chicago. Since 2002, Keith Michael Fiels has been the ALA executive director (CEO).
The stated mission of the ALA is "to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all." ALA membership is open to any person or organization, though most of its members are libraries or librarians. As well, most members live and work in the United States, with international members comprising 3.5% of total membership.
The ALA is governed by an elected council and an executive board. Policies and programs are administered by various committees and round tables. One of the organization's most visible tasks is overseen by the Office for Accreditation, which formally reviews and authorizes American and Canadian academic institutions that offer degree programs in library and information science.
Members may join one or more of eleven membership divisions that deal with specialized topics such as academic, school, or public libraries, technical or reference services, and library administration. Members may also join any of seventeen round tables that are grouped around more specific interests and issues than the broader set of ALA divisions.
The ALA is affiliated with regional, state, and student chapters across the country. It also organizes conferences, participates in library standards development, and publishes a number of books and periodicals. The ALA annually confers numerous notable book and media awards, including the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, the Michael L. Printz Award and the Stonewall Book Award.
The ALA publishes the magazines American Libraries and Booklist.
The ALA advocates positions on United States political issues that it believes are related to libraries and librarianship. For court cases that touch on issues about which the organization holds positions, the ALA often files amici curiae briefs. The ALA has an office in Washington, D.C., that lobbies Congress on issues relating to libraries, information and communication. It also provides materials to libraries that may include information on how to apply for grants, how to comply with the law, and how to oppose a law.
Civil liberties, intellectual freedom, and privacy
The ALA maintains an Office for Intellectual Freedom, under the guidance of director Judith Krug. The Office promotes intellectual freedom, which the ALA defines as "the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored." The primary documented expressions of the ALA's intellectual freedom principles are the Freedom to Read Statement and the Library Bill of Rights.
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."
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."
In upholding its commitment to intellectual freedom, 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.
The ALA says it "supports efforts to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and to urge the courts to restore the balance in copyright law, ensure fair use and protect and extend the public domain". It supports changing copyright law to release orphan works into the public domain; is wary of digital rights management; and, in ALA v. FCC, successfully sued the Federal Communications Commission to prevent regulation that would enforce next-generation digital televisions to contain rights-management hardware. It has joined the Information Access Alliance to promote open access to research.
The ALA and its divisions hold numerous conferences throughout the year, of which the two ALA-wide ones are the ALA Annual Conference and the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Midwinter is typically more focused on internal organization business, while ALA Annual is focused around exhibits and presentations. The Annual conference is generally held in June, and Midwinter is typically held in January. ALA Annual is notable for being one of the largest professional conferences in existence, typically drawing over 25,000 attendees. The 2006 Annual Conference was held in New Orleans; the association considered moving the conference to a new location after Hurricane Katrina struck, but conference organizers chose to continue plans for holding the conference in New Orleans to show support for the city.
- American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
- Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS)
- Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) 
- Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA)
- Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
- Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA)
- Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA)
- Library and Information Technology Association (LITA)
- Public Library Association (PLA)
- Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)
- Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)
- Round Tables generally
- Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange (EMIERT)
- Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange (CLENERT)
- Federal and Armed Forces Libraries (FAFLRT)
- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered (GLBTRT)
- Government Documents (GODORT)
- Intellectual Freedom (IFRT)
- International Relations (IRRT)
- Library History (LHRT)
- Library Instruction (LIRT)
- Library Research (LRRT)
- Library Support Staff Interests (LSSIRT)
- Map and Geography (MAGERT)
- New Members (NMRT)
- Social Responsibilities (SRRT)
- Staff Organizations (SORT)
- Video (VRT)
- Book Links
- International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)
- Library Bill of Rights
- American Library Association
- ALA Washington Office
- ALA Office for Accreditation
- Upcoming ALA conference schedule.
- ALA Freedom to Read Statement
- ALA Intellectual Freedom Q&A
- ALA's "Resolution on the USA Patriot (sic) Act and Related Measures that Infringe on the Rights of Library Users"