About the Project
Breaking Barriers: The Future of Black librarianship

The “BREAKING BARRIERS: THE FUTURE OF BLACK LIBRARIANSHIP” National Forum is an event dedicated to strengthening support for Black/African American MLIS students. Funding from IMLS in the amount of $100,000 under the LB21 National Forum category will allow up to 50 LIS students, professionals, and educators to convene in order to distill approaches for increasing BCALA’s outreach to 1.) the design of resources to recruit Black/African American librarians and 2.) the launch of an online, LIS program-independent student group called iBlackCaucus.

Advisory Board List
Shaundra Walker, Ph.D.
Breaking Barriers Grant
Ana Ndumu, Ph.D.
Breaking Barriers Grant
Shauntee Burns-Simpson
Black Caucus of the American Library Association
Nichelle M. Hayes
Vice President
Black Caucus of the American Library Association


Aisha Johnson, Assistant Professor and Chair
North Carolina Central University SLIS

Alonzo, MLIS Student
North Carolina Central University SLIS

Andrew Sekou Jackson, Past President

Em Claire Knowles, Emeritus Professor
Simmons University

James Allen Davis, Jr., Senior Librarian
Denver Public Library System

Jina Duvernay, Coordinator for African American Studies and Primary Source Literacy, Atlanta University Center Robert Woodruff Library

Renate Chancellor, Associate Professor and Chair
Catholic University SLIS

Shannon Bland, Founder
Black Librarians Network

Tina Rollins, Director
Hampton University Harvey Library

Twanna Hodge, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Librarian
University of Florida Smathers Libraries

Black Library Excellence

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association is an independent organization that was established in 1970 at the urging of E.J. Josey, an activist librarian who addressed the concerns of Black librarians. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, BCALA became affiliated with ALA in 1992. BCALA serves as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community. It also provides leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American or Black librarians. BCALA is the oldest of the national ethnic groups affiliated with the American Library Association. Throughout its 50-year history, the caucus has served as a conscience for the library profession, speaking out on issues that affect librarians and communities of color. For example, BCALA recently spearheaded a joint-statement among peer affiliates that decried racial violence and hatred toward communities of color. The organization also stood in solidarity with APALA in denouncing racial discrimination toward Asian Americans in the wake of COVID-19.

BCALA continues to be a thriving organization of more than 800 members across all 50 states. The organization provides support for Black MLIS students through the E.J. Josey Scholarship, the Smiley Student Travel Fund and scholarships to attend the NCAAL. Moveover, BCALA recognizes the importance of support staff and provides an Outstanding African American Paraprofessional Award as well. It also recognizes outstanding African American Librarians – for example, through the Trailblazer’s Award, the highest award granted by BCALA in recognition of a library pioneer whose efforts have blazed a trail in the profession. BCALA has demonstrated the capacity to groom national leaders. Examples include Wanda Brown, 2019-2020 ALA President, and Julius Jefferson, Jr., 2020-2021, ALA President.

Since 1992, BCALA has hosted the National Conference of African American Librarians (NCAAL), the largest professional gathering of African Americans working in library and information science, individuals working in libraries serving predominantly African American communities, and those with an interest in African American librarianship. The conference provides attendees with an array of professional development and networking opportunities. At NCAAL, nationally recognized speakers, authors and leaders present on issues, opportunities, and best practices. BCALA’s 50th anniversary represents a time for both reflection and reawakening, as captured in the NCAAL XI conference theme of “Culture Keepers & the Sankofa Experience: Inspired by our Past, Igniting our Future.” Although the conference was postponed to 2021 as a result of COVID-19, the spirit and energy remains intact.

To learn more about BCALA, visit bcala.org

Contact bcala
P.O. Box 174, New York, NY 10159-0174
Phone: 917-856-8923