Magazine article American Libraries

A Tribute to Al Trezza

Magazine article American Libraries

A Tribute to Al Trezza

Article excerpt

Alphonse "Al" Trezza was a visionary librarian who made unique contributions to librarianship as an individual, although he often worked with groups or teams in accomplishing his goals. With his death on July 15 at age 88, libraries lost a leader who had singular and significant ability to inspire and energize others to improve library service, to become leaders in the profession, and to engage in innovative librarianship.

One assignment that Trezza took on would in itself merit the honorary membership in ALA he received in 2007: From 1975 to 1980, he served as executive director of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS).

In 1975, the commission was foundering, often dismissed by librarians and others as being of negligible importance, perhaps not even worth saving. Several people who were approached to take the position declined. Trezza saw the need for the commission to fulfill its potential and he became its director and led it through the years of numerous state conferences that led to the first White House Conference on Libraries and Information Science in 1979.

Impact in Illinois

Trezza's achievements, as well as his reputation, as director of the Illinois State Library gave him the status and the rapport with a wide network of librarians and library advocates that made the White House Conference not only a possibility but a success.

His service in Illinois as director of the State Library (1969-75) is still remembered as benchmark years. Trezza's generous spirit and leadership while serving as an ALA senior staff manager had been exercised when he agreed to take leadership of an Illinois Library Association committee attempting to effect change in the state library. When that committee made its report to the Illinois secretary of state and state librarian (then, as now, an elected position), several members also recommended that Trezza should be the person to direct the state library in the years when its plans would be implemented. In taking this position, as at several other points in his career, he was giving up considerable status and security to work at an institution that was not well regarded even by librarians within the state. Trezza brought to Illinois a dynamism and imagination that led to the firm establishment of multitype library systems and made the state a model for others.


When Trezza came to work at ALA as an associate executive director and as executive secretary of the Library Administration Division (now called the Library Leadership and Management Association) in 1960, he had come to the attention of ALA leaders because of his savvy direction of the Catholic Library Association (CLA), where he had served for four years. To CLA, he brought a sense of professionalism and a commitment to growth and development that were new and appreciated. His responsibilities at ALA grew as he saw new opportunities and seized them. Notable among these were ALA's participation in the World's Fairs in New York and Seattle.

Naive as they might appear today, even librarians were amazed in the early 1960s to discover that they could go to "a machine," note a few of their individual preferences, and get a reading list designed for them. The boost that the World's Fair gave to the young librarian volunteers who worked during them changed the attitudes, vision, and expertise of a generation. …

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