By Zora Sampson
In order to honor the 35th anniversary of the American Indian Library Association, our AILA, it was my privilege to interview one of the founders, Dr. Lotsee Patterson, Professor Emeritus of the School of Library and Information Science, University of Oklahoma. My remarks are based on an interview with her and her own writings.
AILA’s roots reach back much further in time than thirty five years ago. It began with dedicated educators trying to serve native students who had limited access to libraries, bookstores, and books; some schools were built without any library at all. When Native Americans attended college to get teaching degrees and more, those who turned back to serve their communities found needed resources lacking.
While the passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act in the mid-1970s helped, enabling tribes to contract for services with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), libraries were still staffed by non-professionals as tribes could not afford professional salaries. The Native American professionals who did attain their Masters in Library Science and PhDs were sought after by universities to increase diversity. These scholars were torn between serving their communities or earning a better wage where they lived in cultural vacuums.