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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rainbow Round Table Oral History Project: Ann Symmons

A portal for the Rainbow Round Table Oral History Project, hosted by the American Library Association Archives.

Interview Video

Interview Details

Ann K. Symons began her ALA leadership by serving on the Alaska ALA Council seat from 1985-1994. During that time, she championed visibility and action for her state and other small states whose issues weren't generally recognized or being heard at large. Symmons went on to serve as Chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee, ALA treasurer from 1992-1996 and ALA President from 1997-2000. 

As ALA president, one of Symons’ enduring contributions was her innovative work to address the needs of the LGBTQ community. She developed a pre-conference program entitled “Gay Teens in the 21st Century” which was supported by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust. The success of this program led her to develop similar programs such as the 2015 pre-conference program “Rolling out the Rainbow Carpet: Serving LGBTQ Communities.” For over a decade she has been a sought-out speaker both nationally and internationally.

Upon completing her term as ALA president, she dedicated her career to international library consulting in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Latvia, Germany, Brazil and Peru. In 2012 she returned to ALA and later became the Rainbow Round Table’s (formerly the GLBTRT) chair from 2014-2015. Symons spent three years on the GLBT board as chair-elect, chair and past chair and then three more years on the board as councilor. Symons is credited for her LGBTQ+ advocacy and allyship and is the first ally Chair to serve as chair of the RRT (GLBTRT).

Her career is marked by tireless service and lasting contributions to advocacy, access, intellectual freedom and services to the LGBTQ community, Symmons is one of the most prominent school librarians nationally and internationally and was among the first advocates for library service.

Symons is recognized with a range of awards, including the ALA Equality Award, the Joseph Lippincott Award, the Elizabeth Futas Catalyst for Change Award, and the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. In 2017 she received an ALA Honorary Membership for her lifetime of service to the profession and the American people. 

Pronouns: She, her, hers

Source: ALA Names Honorary Member

Source: Rainbow Round Table News: Ann K Symons Elected Honorary Member

Source: The American Library Association Honors Ann K. Symons with 2014 Equality Award

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Unless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.