Magazine article American Libraries

They Won! and Did It ALA's Way

Magazine article American Libraries

They Won! and Did It ALA's Way

Article excerpt


"I did it ALA's way," crooned Mary Somerville, summarizing her year as ALA president to the tune of "My Way." Appropriately, she sang her parody and relinquished her seat to incoming President Barbara Ford at an awards reception July 2 during the 1997 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, where top award winners were honored for doing what they do in a way that made ALA award committees jump for their citation forms.

The formal seals of approval given by the Association, however, are rooted in the service rendered by the people behind the plaques. Here are some of their stories, followed by a complete list of this year's winners.

Oprah and the Mother of MARC

Honorary Membership in the American Library Association: Oprah Winfrey and Henriette Avram

"I am delighted that the American Library Association wishes to bestow an Honorary Membership upon me," said Oprah Winfrey in a statement of gratitude to ALA after the award was presented at the conference opening. Although in production on her new film, Beloved, and unable to accept the award personally, Winfrey expressed her appreciation and best wishes for "continued success" in a note read to conference attendees during the Opening General Session.

The award citation reads: "Oprah Winfrey, through her Book Club, has done more to revitalize and promote the importance of reading among American citizens than any other public figure in recent times. Through libraries, she has helped make books available free of charge to many who might not have been able to purchase their own copies. She has refocused attention on the important role of the library in the community."

Launched in September 1996, Oprah's Book Club has spawned new interest in reading discussion groups and rocketed every selection to the top of the bestseller list. With 15-20 million viewers daily, The Oprah Winfrey Show has prompted sales of over a million for each title.

Beginning in January, the publisher of each month's Book Club selection has donated 10,000 copies, which have been distributed to high school and public libraries across the country that are institutional members of ALA. The practice will continue with each month's selection as long as publishers continue to participate. Ingram Library Services established a special standing-order program just for the Book Club in March.

Henriette Avram, librarian by achievement

Although not a librarian by degree, Henriette Avram perhaps more than any other living person has earned the right to wear the title. A respected and effective leader in the library community for more than three decades, she was instrumental in the development of a standard vehicle for the communication of bibliographic data, the structure now known as the Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) format.

During her distinguished career at the Library of Congress, which began in 1965 and ended with her retirement in 1991, she worked with ALA, the American National Standards Institute, the International Standards Organization, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and others to help make the MARC format a national and international standard.

In 1980 Avram became LC's first director for processing systems, networks, and automation planning. She established and expanded automation and cataloging to the library's overseas offices, established a technical processing training office, and prepared for several major reorganizations to be implemented, including cataloging and acquisitions directorates.

"I was very pleased," Avram told American Libraries. "It's an honor. ALA has been one of the closest organizations I've been involved with; I've worked with people at ALA since day one. ALA has been a great supporter and a big help to me."

"People were the most rewarding part, all the people I got to know," said Avram, "the support from people around the world. …

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