The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, announced Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA), as the recipient of its 2022 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Over the past two decades, Hall has held positions at the Seattle Public Library, the New Haven Free Public Library, Queens Public Library, and Hartford Public Library. Hall was appointed to her current role as the Executive Director of the American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world, in 2020. She is a librarian, curator, arts and culture administrator, and an advocate for digital literacy skills and ensuring equitable access to information for all.
“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 Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “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 on readers and communities everywhere.”
Prior to joining ALA, Hall served as the Culture Program Director at the Joyce Foundation. She has held multiple roles in academia, including serving as Assistant Dean of Dominican University’s Master of Library and Information Science from 2006-2008, and as visiting professor at Catholic University of America, Southern Connecticut State University, and Wesleyan University. Hall’s contributions to ALA began in 1998 when she was an ALA Spectrum Scholar—an educational program that supports new generations of racially and ethnically diverse librarians—and continued during her tenure as Director of ALA’s Office for Diversity from 2003-2006. A community leader, she was appointed to serve on the City of Chicago’s Cultural Advisory Council in 2020. Hall holds a Master of Library and Information Science from the Information School at the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in International and Area Studies with an emphasis on Sub-Saharan Africa from Yale University, and dual bachelor’s degrees in Law and Society and Black Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Hall is the first Black woman to lead ALA since its founding in 1876.
“Tracie D. Hall is a courageous champion for readers and libraries,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “Her accessibility and resource-driven advocacy is especially important at this moment when books are increasingly under attack nationwide. We are so proud to recognize Hall’s tremendous work supporting the individuals and communities who depend on libraries’ services—in other words, everyone.”
Hall is also a poet, fiction writer, playwright, and the recipient of Cave Canem and Jack Straw Fellowships, as well as various awards for her writing and creative work. She is the founding curator of Rootwork Gallery, an experimental arts space that showcases creators working in folk, vernacular, Indigenous, and street art traditions. Deeply committed to social justice, equitable library access, and diversity in the library profession, she has written about eradicating information poverty, protecting the right to read for incarcerated individuals, and ending information redlining.
Hall will be honored with the Literarian Award at the 73rd National Book Awards Ceremony on November 16, 2022. This is the eighteenth year that the Foundation has presented the Literarian Award, which is given to an individual or organization for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading. Past recipients include Dr. Maya Angelou, Terry Gross, Kyle Zimmer, the literary organization Cave Canem, Doron Weber, Oren J. Teicher, Carolyn Reidy, and most recently, Nancy Pearl. Nominations for the Literarian Award are made by former National Book Award Winners, Finalists, and judges, and other writers and literary professionals from around the country. Final selections are made by the National Book Foundation’s Board of Directors. Recipients of the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal.
In February 2020, Tracie D. Hall became the tenth Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world with over 50,000 members serving library and educational institutions throughout and beyond the US. The first Black woman to helm ALA, Hall has served in numerous library and arts leadership positions nationwide.
Prior to joining ALA, Hall served as the Culture Program Director at the Joyce Foundation where she was recognized for creating numerous programs to advance racial inclusion in arts administration and equitable funding for arts institutions founded by and for Black, Latino, Asian, Arab, Indigenous, and other people of color. As Deputy Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events she oversaw the visual and performing arts, film, and community market programs for the city of Chicago and received citations for her work to expand arts access and neighborhood outreach. Hall was the Vice President of Strategy and Organizational Development at Queens Public Library where during her tenure she founded the NYC Early Learning Network.
Hall’s former roles also include Community Investment Strategist and Chicago Community Investor for the Boeing Company’s Global Corporate Citizenship division and Assistant Dean of Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. As the Community Librarian at Hartford Public Library, Hall conceived and curated the NEH-funded Festival of Caribbean Literature with the Connecticut Center for the Book. Then-mayor, Eddie Perez, designated February 13 as “Tracie Hall Day” to acknowledge her service to the city of Hartford. Hall also served as the Youth Services Coordinator at Seattle Public Library where she developed the long-running SCRIBES youth creative writing program for Hugo House. Holding dual bachelor’s degrees from University of California, Santa Barbara, and master’s degrees from the Yale University School of International and Area Studies and the University of Washington School of Information, Hall’s work in library and arts administration has focused on advancing early and adult reading literacy, expanding digital access and literacy, protecting the right to information access for people who are incarcerated, eliminating barriers to arts production and participation, and increasing socio-economic mobility for those who have had limited educational or employment opportunities.
Apart from her administrative assignments, Hall is a noted artist and curator and a recipient of numerous awards and residencies including an Artist Trust award, Cave Canem Fellowship, and Jack Straw Fellowship. In 2016, she founded the small but influential Rootwork Gallery in Chicago to raise the visibility of artists working in folk, vernacular, traditional, and street art traditions. Hall is a native of South Central Los Angeles and has lived in and between New Haven, New York City, Montgomery, and Chicago for the past two decades.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor.
Dr. Kendi is the author of many highly acclaimed books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest author to win that award. He had also produced five #1 New York Times bestsellers, including How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. In 2020, TIME Magazine named Dr. Kendi one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world. He was awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the Genius Grant. His latest two books were the instant New York Times bestsellers, How to Raise an Antiracist and the picture book, Goodnight Racism.
Image of Tracie Hall, Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA). (Photo credit: American Library Association)