Evidence B___________________________________

Organizational Report on the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA)

 By Susan M. Lee


CALA stands for Chinese American Librarians Association. The organization’s mission is to promote diversity and excellence in the field of librarianship in both the U.S. and Asia through professional conferences, member outreach, seminars and peer-reviewed publications. Its distinguished members have a range of experience and knowledge that they freely offer to younger and/or less experienced members, as evidenced by their mentorship program. CALA has chapters throughout North America and Asia. People can join the organization by going to their website, filling out an online form and paying a small membership fee. This article is an overview of the organization, its history, and accomplishments.

Keywords: library, librarian, librarianship, ethnic, minority, Chinese, Chinese American, Asia, CALA, organization

Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) Organization

This paper concerns the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), an affiliate of the ALA and a member of the Council of National Library and Information Associations. This paper will go over the organization, its mission and membership requirements, its professional committees, organization-association publications, and how they contribute to the LIS profession in general.

Basically, I will review what CALA is, what the organization stands for, and outline some of the organization’s many accomplishments in the field of librarianship.

According to the CALA website, the organization was founded in 1973 as an ethnic affiliate of the American Library Association, otherwise known as the ALA. It originated as the Mid-West Chinese-American Librarians Association of Illinois (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2007a). The California chapter was founded a year later to help bring together members of the Chinese community working in libraries or those interested in working in libraries within the state (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2008).

Following June of 2006, the California chapter broke into the two, forming a Northern California Chapter and a Southern California Chapter (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2007b). According to the Chinese American Librarians Association – North California Chapter, it became the sister organization of the Library Association of Central Governments Units, the Scientific Research Networks of Beijing, and with the Library Association of China in Taipei (Chinese American Librarians Association North California Chapter, 2009). Both Chinese American Librarian Association chapters exchange their organization’s publications with groups across the world such as the East Asian Library Resources Group in Australia (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2008d).

Chinese American Librarian Association became a national organization in 1978; with seven chapters eventually being formed in total, plus international chapters in areas like Canada and China. In 1983, they merged with Chinese Librarians Association, keeping the Chinese American Librarians Association as its English name, and the latter’s Chinese name 華人圖書館員協會 (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2007a). Throughout its organizational changes, they have kept its mission of excellence in the area of library work primarily in both the U.S. and China, and the promotion of diversity (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2007b).

One can join the organization simply by filling out their online membership application. A student membership is $15 and a regular membership is $40; both are year-long though you can become a lifetime member for $300. Members have the right to vote on organization issues at board meetings and are granted full access to all the CALA publications online. Members can also sign up to volunteer for a CALA committee; current CALA committees in existence are in support of Librarians of Color, Diversity in LIS Education, and Library Society in China. There are also committees to help manage CALA in the areas of financing, grant development, mentorship program, public relations and conference planning. To be considered, members need to fill out an application and send letters of recommendation. Committee service is intended to foster professional development, create networking opportunities, leadership skills, and make CALA a stronger organization (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2008b).

There are at least two annual CALA meetings each year for members and the occasional special meeting for CALA officers. They usually have several interesting programs going on, including a mentorship program, conferences, and seminars in both the U.S. and China, as well as donation drives for selected charities. They also give out awards for excellence in librarianship like the President Recognition Award and Distinguished Service Award, scholarships and professional grants to highly deserving individuals (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2008f).

Chinese American Librarian Association publications of note are the “CALA Occasional Paper Series” aka “CALA OPS.” It is an open access publication that allows its members to publish peer-reviewed articles, 50 pages or less in length, on various aspects of library work and librarianship. There are published studies, bibliographies, research manuals and indexes. All manuscripts must follow APA format. Once a paper is submitted to the organization, it is reviewed by two of the author’s peers; if recommended, the paper is published (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2011).

One can become a peer reviewer in the areas of collection development, public and reference services, bibliographic control, instructional services and informational technology by submitting your resume and qualifications. CALA OPS editors and editorial staff must be organization members in good standing and have editorial or other relevant experience. All staff is approved by the organization’s editorial committee and the board (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2008d). You can locate the CALA OPS in the EBSCO database indexes or in digital format on their website (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2011). It contains well-written and peer-reviewed articles on emerging trends in library and informational science as well as issues facing the field today and more.

One recent notable and timely article is “Using Internal Grant to Foster Faculty-Librarian Collaboration” by Rubina Vohra and Min Chou (2011). The article encourages school faculty (e.g. professors and librarians) to work together by offering funds for special projects and research (Vohra & Chou, 2011). In “A Primer on Building the Library Mobile Web,” Yongming Wang offers practical advice on why a library should have a mobile web and how to build a library mobile web from scratch. In “Making Our Communities Greener: A Case Study of Promoting Biogas Energy by Tongwei Evergreen Libraries in China,” Wenjie Zhou, Tim J. Zou and Elaine X. Dong promote environmental conservation in libraries and initial steps to turn their buildings green. In keeping with organization’s mission of diversity and bringing Chinese librarians together, an article entitled “Celebrating Diversity, Welcoming the World: Developing a Chinese Webpage at Rutgers University Libraries,” written by Mei Jing Lo, Ryan Womack, Connie Wu, and Tao Yang in CALA OPS.

Another publication from the organization is the Chinese American Librarian Association E-Journal which publishes peer-reviewed articles written by organization members on noteworthy changes or developments in the librarianship field, particularly for librarians in Asia. Their publications raise awareness on important issues in librarianship and assist library professionals in lifelong learning. Earlier issues included topics like technology in Chinese librarians, transitions in Chinese and Hong Kong libraries including automation, their own OCLC and BIP, and courier services for document delivery among academic libraries, how to access and catalog electronic journals, Federal Depository libraries in Asian libraries, and CALA’s role in Chinese and American libraries. The editorial board consists of extinguished and working Chinese librarians in the United States. The Journal of Library and Information Science is published twice a year, in conjunction with of Adult & Continuing Education, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan. It can be found online in Index to Chinese Periodicals, Library Literature, PAIS, Information Science Abstracts, and Library & Information Science Abstracts (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2011).

You can find articles on such topics of original research in the field of librarianship, in both English and Chinese. The editorial board generally consists of notable librarians in the U.S. and Asia. Past articles covered material such as the use of technology in emerging iSchools, the implication of Google books and other digitization initiatives on libraries, using online instruction to teach students, and how to recruit diverse candidates to librarianship. There is also an organization listserv for discussion and communication among members although anyone can subscribe (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2008h). You can also access the E-Journal through the listserv. There is also a Chinese American Librarian Association Newsletter, which covers the organization’s activities (Chinese Americans Librarians Association, 2008g).

Notable member Dr. Sha Li Zhang, Assistant Dean for Collections and Technical Services of University of North Carolina, former Chinese American Librarian Association President and current Chair on ALA’s International Relations Committee, joined the organization after meeting the then- President at a conference. She worked hard to reach out to younger members of the librarian community, especially minorities, and help them along in their professional careers. She counts her increased membership recruitment of 20% and high retention numbers as well as several articles that she had written and seen published in respected journals among her accomplishments (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2008i). In keeping with its mission of excellence in librarianship, they conducted a year-long study to find reasons for lack of member participation and lack of member experience in the library field, and to help improve the organization in general (American Librarian Association, 2008).

Some Chinese American Librarian Association publications require membership or purchase fees but the CALA OPS and press releases I found through the King Library databases revealed some amazing accomplishments about the organization. Under Zhang’s leadership, they received a $500,000 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant for the two-year program “Think Globally, Act Globally” project in conjunction with University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign Libraries. The project was to create a web portal of resources online to promote Asian Studies in the U.S. The project included the creation of training institutes for leading librarians from China to assist building up the web portal and the continued promotion of collaborations between U.S. and China libraries. Zhang spoke of the organization as being the clear choice for the project due to their members’ collective professional experience and expertise in the library field, as well as their shared culture with mainland China (American Librarian Association, 2009).

The organization regularly conducts seminars in collaboration with librarians and libraries in China each year, often featuring visiting international librarians (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2008j). In 2006, they held two very successful seminars with positive feedback from over 100 attendees; the “Twenty-first Century Librarian Seminar Series” featured such topics in librarianship as library management, library consortium and outsourcing, and other challenges in the United States library field from the viewpoint of librarians in China. Many well-known libraries in China send their staff to its conferences every year. The ever popular “Library Society of China Annual Conference” covered timely topics like digital library services, literacy and creating a legal environment for libraries in 2007. Many well-known libraries regularly send their staff to the organization’s seminars. Several organization members present their published articles and made presentations on specific issues in librarianship (American Librarian Association, 2006).

In 2011, the Chinese American Librarian Association presented their program “Embracing the Changes: Diversity and Global Vision in a Digital Age” at the 2011 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. Their presentation was attracted over 150 library professional attendees. In furtherance of its mission and stated goal of “diversity and global vision,” President Min Chou stated their program demonstrated “CALA’s renewed vision and re-energized commitment in promoting cultural diversity and international collaboration in the library profession” (American Library Association, 2011b). Another organization-led innovative and successful program targeting family literacy among ethnic groups is Dai Dai Xiang Chuan: Bridging Generations, a Bag at a Time (American Library Association, 2010). The program was applauded by 2009-2010 ALA President Camila Alire as “bringing [sic] generations together through literacy and cultural activities that emphasize verbal and written language skills and cultural and digital literacy” (Brehm-Heeger, 2010). She commended the Chinese American Librarian Association for stepping up in having public libraries in Asian community areas help battle the growing illiteracy rates [14% below BSL] and promote life skills (Brehm-Heeger, 2010). The bags included both Chinese and English language materials as well as instructions for family activities (American Library Association, 2010) on subjects like Chinese holidays and festivals, the arts, and cooking (Chinese American Librarians Association, 2009).

All in all, the Chinese American Librarian Association is a great professional; organization that helps promote librarianship in both the U.S. and China, diversity in the library workplace through outreach and mentorships, lifelong learning and education for librarians via their publications, and helps foster a sense of community for librarians in both the U.S. and China through membership in the organization as well as seminars and conferences every year.


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