ALA Inaugurates its First American Indian President

For the first time in its 131-year history, the American Library Association has tapped an American Indian to lead the world’s oldest and largest library organization. Dr. Loriene Roy, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information, was installed as president at the 2007 ALA national conference in late June.

“I am greatly honored to be elected to serve as your ALA president. Chi megwitch, thank you very much,” said Roy at the conference. “I look forward to working with ALA members on my platform issues … and including all the people in the circle of literacy.”

During her one-year term, Roy, who is Ojibwe, enrolled on the White Earth Reservation and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, says she will be working with tribal students and their families to make reading a “leisure and a life time activity.” 

She says that with the help of members of ALA and academia, she hopes to combat the challenges that tribal youths face, including a lack of access to resources. Roy says she intends to help tribal students become more computer literate by and helping schools hire librarians that will make the library system the “heart of the whole school.”

Before  being appointed president, Roy twice worked as counselor-at-large for the ALA, first from 1996 to 2000 and later between 2003 and 2006. She was also chair of the Committee on Education and Education Assembly.

Roy is also the former president of the American Indian Library Association, a former member of the 2006 Joint Conference of Librarians of Color and founder of the “If I can read, I can Do Anything,” a national reading club for Native children.

She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois and her master’s from the University of Arizona.

Roy says that though her appointment makes her the first American Indian and woman president, it is only the first step in encouraging more minorities to step up and take on the position.

“There is still room for firsts but you don’t want to be the only or last.” 

– Margaret Kamara

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