After a lengthy national search, the American Library Association today announced the appointment of Tracie D. Hall as its executive director, effective February 24, 2020. Hall will take over for Mary Ghikas, who is retiring. Hall is the first female African-American executive director in ALA history.
Hall is a veteran of the library world, having held positions at the Seattle Public Library, the New Haven Free Library, Queens Public Library and Hartford Free Public Library. In 1998, she was among the first cohort of ALA’s Spectrum Scholars, a grant program to diversify librarianship, and she served as the director of ALA’s Office of Diversity in the early 2000s. A civic leader in Chicago, Hall most recently directed the culture portfolio at the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation.
Hall's appointment comes after a lengthy and at one time contentious national search following the retirement in 2017 of then executive director Keith Michael Fiels.
Following Fiels's retirement, Ghikas stepped as executive director in on an interim basis. But after an an initial effort, a national search committee was unable to find a suitable candidate to permanently succeed Fiels. Ghikas then agreed to delay her own retirement, which gave the organization time to try again, and to expand the candidate pool by removing the requirement that the ALA executive director hold a library degree. The change sparked a fractious debate within the association's membership.
In the end, however, ALA found a librarian to take its top post. Hall holds an MLIS from the Information School at the University of Washington (as well as an MA 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). She has also served as assistant dean of Dominican’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming Tracie back to the ALA family,” said ALA president Wanda K. Brown. “Her unique combination of philanthropy and library know-how position her to be the leader ALA needs today. She is optimistic, energizing, and innovative, qualities that will serve the association well as it continues its investments in advocacy, development, and information technology.”