Frequently Asked Questions
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What is AILA?
What are some of the specific goals and activities of AILA?
When did AILA get started?
How can I get involved with AILA?
What is in the AILA newsletter?
What documents govern AILA?
Does the federal government support better library services for Native Americans?
Is there an official list of Indian groups?
Is there a list of all tribal libraries?
What are good sources for books by or about Native Americans?
Can AILA help with Native American research?
What can I do to help support tribal libraries?
The American Indian Library Association is a membership action group that addresses the library-related needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. We are an affiliate of the American Library Association. Our members are individuals and institutions interested in working to improve library services to American Indians and Alaska Natives in every type of library. AILA is committed to disseminating information about Native Americans and addressing issues affecting Native people to the broader profession. AILA holds business meetings twice a year in conjunction with the American Library Association. It publishes the American Indian Libraries Newsletter.
There are two sets of goals provided here, as reported in the booklet Equal Voices Many Choices: Ethnic Library Organizations Respond to ALA’s Goal 2000. The first is a listing of AILA’s ongoing goals and activities. The second is AILA’s response to ALA Goal 2000, a document defining ways in which the American Library Association will support the public’s right to a free and open information society.
AILA was founded in 1979 in conjunction with the White House Pre-Conference on Indian Library and Information Services on or near Reservations as an affiliate of the American Library Association. At the time, there was increasing awareness that library services for Native Americans were inadequate. Individuals as well as the government began to organize to remedy the situation.
AILA has a constitution and bylaws, which set its structure, membership categories and policies. They are available on our About page.
See our membership page for information about joining the Association.
Once you’ve joined, consider becoming involved in one or more of AILA’s Committees. Contact the committee chair to express your interest and to learn more about the committee’s work.
The American Indian Libraries Newsletter is an official publication of the American Indian Library Association. It includes information about decisions, goals, activities, and business meetings of AILA, as well as articles on programs, projects, grants, and resources relating to American Indian culture and library and information services. A column by the current president is a regular feature. In addition, you will find books reviews, interviews, and other information that furthers the goals of the association. The first issue of the Newsletter was published in Fall 1976. The logo that has been used for the newsletter since the first issue was designed by Mr. Ron Hernandez (Sioux) in 1974. For more information about submitting articles, or placing ads, see AILA’s Publications page.
The U. S. government supports improved library services to Native Americans. Goals relating to libraries serving Native American communities include improving funding, providing training and technical assistance, increasing library holdings in all formats, supporting better technology, and developing cooperative arrangements and partnerships at the state and local level. These goals and implementation strategies are described in the 1992 report, Pathways to Excellence: A Report on Improving Library and Information Services for Native American Peoples, written by the U. S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. A summary of the report is available at http://www.nclis.gov/libraries/nata.htm.
The Museum and Library Act of 1996 created the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and consolidated federal programs supporting museums and libraries under this agency. IMLS provides Basic Grants for which all federally recognized tribes are eligible and competitive Enhancement Grants of up to $150,000. See their website www.imls.gov for more information.
The U. S. Department of Interior maintains a list of “Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.” The list is generally known as the List of Federally Recognized Tribes.
There are many difficulties in compiling such a directory. Contact information is difficult to track, funding issues can result in closings and reopenings, and definitions of a tribal library vary. We encourage state libraries to work closely with the tribes in their areas, and in the future this may lead to more reliable tracking of tribal libraries’ contact information.
Several published directories do exist, but not all are recent or reliable for the reasons outlined above. Contact with associated organizations, like the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, may produce possible leads. If you are interested in contacting a tribal library near you, consider joining AILA and finding connections through our members.
In 2018, an ALA Emerging Leader team created an online educational resource map of tribal community libraries, archives, and cultural centers/ museums for AILA. This digital platform will highlight Native American tribes and nations within the US and serve as a resource for educators and librarians. https://triballibraries.wordpress.com/
Selected sources can be found on our Resources page. The AILA Newsletter often includes book reviews.
At present, AILA does not have the resources to offer reference service. We encourage you to visit your local library with any questions about Native Americans.
Join, volunteer, or donate to AILA. Link to Membership page.
Write to your Congressional representatives and senators asking them to support IMLS and LSTA grants and funding. Link to ALA Washington Office http://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/wo.
Learn more about communities and tribes in your local area. Link to NCAI Tribal Nations and the United States http://www.ncai.org/about-tribes.