Encyclopedia of Big Data

Living Edition
| Editors: Laurie A. Schintler, Connie L. McNeely

American Library Association

  • David BrownEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32001-4_6-1

The American Library Association (ALA) is a voluntary organization that represents libraries and librarians around the world. Worldwide, the ALA is the largest and oldest professional organization for libraries, librarians, information science centers, and information scientists. The association was founded in 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since its inception, the ALA has provided leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of libraries, information access, and information science. The ALA is primarily concerned with learning enhancement and information access for all people. The organization strives to advance the profession through its initiatives and divisions within the organization. The primary action areas for the ALA are advocacy, education, lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, organizational excellence, diversity, equitable access to information and services, expansion of all forms of literacy, and library transformation to maintain relevance in a dynamic and increasing global digitalized environment. While ALA is composed of several different divisions, there is no single division devoted exclusively to big data. Rather, a number of different divisions are working to develop and implement policies and procedures that will enhance the quality of, the security of, the access to, and the utility of big data.

ALA Divisions Working with Big Data

At this time, the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is a primary division of the ALA that is concerned with big data issues. The ACRL has published a number of papers, guides, and articles related to the use of, promise of, and the risks associated with big data. Several other ALA divisions are also involved with big data. The Association for Library Collections & Technical Service (ALCTS) division discusses issues related to the management, organization, and cataloging of big data and its sources. The Library Information Technology Association (LITA) is an ALA division that is involved with the technological and user services activities that advance the collection, access, and use of big data and big data sources.

Big Data Activities of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is actively involved with the opportunities and challenges presented by big data. As science and technology advance, our world becomes more and more connected and linked. These links in and of themselves may be considered big data, and much of the information that they transmit is big data. Within the ACRL, big data is conceptualized in terms of the three Vs: its volume, its velocity, and its variety. Volume refers to the tremendously large size of the big data. However, ACRL stresses that the size of the data set is a function of the particular problem one is investigating and size is only one attribute of big data. Velocity refers to the speed at which data is generated, needed, and used. As new information is generated exponentially, the need to catalogue, organize, and develop user-friendly means of accessing these big data increases multiple exponentially. The utility of big data is a function of the speed at which it can be accessed and used. For maximum utility, big data needs to be accurately catalogued, interrelated, and integrated with other big data sets. Variety refers to the many different types of data that are typically components of and are integrated into big data. Traditionally, data sets consist of a relatively small number of different types of data, like word-processed documents, graphs, and pictures. Big data on the other hand is typically concerned with many additional types of information such as emails, audio and videotapes, sketches, artifacts, data sets, and many other kinds of quantitative and qualitative data. In addition, big data information is usually presented in many different languages, dialects, and tones. A key point that ACRL stresses is that as disciplines advance, the need for and the value of big data will increase. However, this advancement can be facilitated or inhibited by the degree to which the big data can be accessed and used. Within this context, librarians who are also information scientists are and will continue to be invaluable resources that can assist with the collection, storage, retrieval, and utilization of big data. Specifically, ACRL anticipates needs for specialists in the areas of big data management, big data security, big data cataloguing, big data storage, big data updating, and big data accessing.


The American Library Association and its member libraries, librarians, and information scientists are involved in shaping the future of big data. As disciplines and professions continue to advance with big data, librarians and information scientists’ skills need to advance to enable them to provide valuable resources for strategists, decision-makers, policy-makers, researchers, marketers, and many other big data users. The ability to effectively use big data will be a key to success as the world economy and its data sources expand. In this rapidly evolving environment, the work of the ALA will be highly valuable and an important human resource for business, industry, government, academic and research planners, decision-makers, and program evaluators who want and need to use big data.


Further Readings

  1. American Library Association. About ALA. http://www.ala.org/aboutala/. Accessed 10 Aug 2014.
  2. American Library Association. Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. http://www.ala.org/alcts/. Accessed 10 Aug 2014.
  3. American Library Association. Library Information Technology Association (LITA). http://www.ala.org/lita/. Accessed 10 Aug 2014.
  4. Bieraugel, Mark. Keeping up with... big data. American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/keeping_up_with/big_data. Accessed 10 Aug 2014.
  5. Carr, P. L. (2014). Reimagining the library as a technology: An analysis of Ranganathan’s five laws of library science within the social construction of technology framework. The Library Quarterly, 84(2), 152–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Federer, L. (2013). The librarian as research informationist: A case study. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 101(4), 298–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Finnemann, N. O. (2014). Research libraries and the Internet: On the transformative dynamic between institutions and digital media. Journal of Documentation, 70(2), 202–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gordon-Murnane, L. (2012). Big data: A big opportunity for Librarians. Online, 36(5), 30–34.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern New Hampsire UniversityUniversity of Central Florida College of Medicine, Independent ConsultantHuntington BeachUSA