Literacy as a social justice issue means that all people have equitable access to the skills and resources they need to fully participate as literate individuals in society—to communicate, analyze, criticize, synthesize, and create information. It takes into account structural barriers to that access, such as the inequitable distribution of resources, and the impact those barriers can have across lifetimes, generations, and outcomes. The correlation between literacy and income inequality, health outcomes, and rates of incarceration, among other issues of social and economic justice, underscores how literacy intersects with equity, access, and inclusion.
ALA and our members and affiliates work to promote equity of access to literacy through advocacy, outreach initiatives, resource guides, and funding opportunities.
- The American Indian Library Association works to improve library and information services for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- The Asian Pacific American Librarians Association aims to “address the needs of Asian Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian Pacific American communities.”
- The Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services has a mission “to support and encourage government officials, library administrators, trustees, and staff in the provision of quality bookmobile and outreach services to meet diverse community information and programming needs.”
- The Association for Rural & Small Libraries “provides resources and support that empower those in small and rural libraries to deliver excellent service for their communities.”
- 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.”
- The Chinese American Librarians Association “is the only professional organization in North America that 1) promotes better communication among Chinese American librarians; 2) serves as a forum for the discussion of mutual problems and professional concerns among Chinese American librarians; and 3) promotes the development of Chinese and American librarianship with scholarships and grants.”
- The Joint Council of Librarians of Color (JCLC, Inc.) is a “nonprofit organization that advocates for and addresses the common needs of the American Library Association ethnic affiliates.”
- ProLiteracy promotes adult literacy through continuing education and other resources, programs, and advocacy, with a goal to change lives and communities through the power of literacy.
- REFORMA, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, has the goals of “development of Spanish-language and Latino-oriented library collections; recruitment of bilingual, multicultural library personnel; promotion of public awareness of libraries and librarianship among Latinos; advocacy on behalf of the information needs of the Latino community; liaison to other professional organizations.”
- Extending Our Reach: Reducing Homelessness Through Library Engagement is designed to help librarians and library staff create meaningful library services for people who are experiencing homelessness.
- The Guide to Building Support for Your Tribal Library outlines key messaging, ideal supports, and sample dialogue for conversations regarding tribal libraries.
- The Handbook for Mobile Services Staff provides resources for bookmobile services and outreach.
- How to Serve the World @ your library details use and effectiveness of services and barriers to library use among non-English speakers.
- Keys to Engaging Older Adults provides resources for serving older adults, including engagement, programming, accessibility, funding, and model programs.
- Literacy for All: Adult Literacy through Libraries helps libraries add, expand, and advocate for adult literacy services.
- The Small but Powerful Guide to Winning Big Support for Your Rural Library is a collection of tips and tools from the ALA Committee on Rural, Native and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds, the American Indian Library Association, the Association for Rural & Small Libraries, and the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services.
- TRAILS, the Tribal Library Procedures Manual, provides resources for tribal library collections development, user services, management, advocacy, and funding.
Administered by ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services and funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the American Dream Literacy Initiative is an adult literacy program based in public libraries throughout the U.S. To date, more than 185 libraries in Dollar General communities have initiated or expanded literacy services for adult English language learners. The grants allow libraries to augment their print and digital ESL collections; increase computer access and training; provide job training; hold ELL, GED, and citizenship classes; and raise the visibility of services for immigrant populations. From its inception in 2007, the program has had a goal of developing tools and resources for libraries and library staff to provide effective literacy services to adult English language learners in their communities and across the country.
Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture is a literacy program that reaches out to Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) children and their families. The program celebrates and explores Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) stories through books, oral traditions, and art to provide an interactive, enriching experience. Children and their families can connect to rich cultural activities through Talk Story in their homes, libraries, and communities. This grant is aimed to give financial support to libraries and community organizations who want to introduce a Talk Story program into their library, focusing on APA or AIAN cultures.