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National Book Foundation Honors ALA Executive Director with Literarian Award

ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall

Librarians across the country will be tuning in tonight as one of their own is honored at the 73rd National Book Awards in New York City.

The National Book Foundation, which presents the annual awards, will honor Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA), with its 2022 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. The award is given each year to an individual for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading. Author and professor Ibram X. Kendi will present the award.

Hall said her first thoughts on receiving the award were of her family.

"My first thought upon being notified about this honor was wishing my grandparents could share this moment,” she said. “They were the ones who, because of their own interrupted schooling, introduced me to libraries as places for self-education. Because they—especially my grandmother—saw libraries and librarians as advocates for the community, they fostered in me the belief that libraries can and should play a role in bolstering equity and access. It is that foundation that has informed my work in libraries and at ALA, and that provides daily a sense of urgency."

Prior to joining ALA as the first Black woman to lead the Association since its founding, Hall served in a wide array of academic and public service roles, including at the Joyce Foundation, Dominican University’s Master of Library and Information Science program, and public libraries across the country.

“Libraries are essential for all readers—they are spaces of learning and community whose importance has only been amplified by the pandemic and the ever-increasing tensions of resource equity,” said David Steinberger, chair of the National Book Foundation’s board of directors. “The Foundation is honored to recognize Hall’s extensive contributions to the diversification of the library and information science fields and her commitment to digital literacy in an age of misinformation, which will have a lasting impact of readers and communities everywhere.”

Hall joins a glowing roster of Literarian Award honorees, including legendary poet Maya Angelou, author and founder of McSweeney’s Dave Eggers, and National Public Radio’s Terry Gross. This will also be the second consecutive year the Literarian Award has been given to a librarian, after author and librarian Nancy Pearl received the 2021 award.

The National Book Awards will be broadcast live on November 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Book lovers can stream the ceremony live here.

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