Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) started in 1973 as Mid-West Chinese American Librarians Association, a regional organization in Illinois. A year later, Chinese Librarians Association was formed in California in 1974. In 1976, Mid-West Chinese American Librarians Association was expanded to a national organization as Chinese American Librarians Association. By 1979, CALA had five chapters in Northeast, Mid-West, Atlantic, Southwest and California respectively. Chinese American Librarians Association and Chinese Librarians Association were merged in 1983. The merged organization retains CALA's English name and Chinese Librarians Association's Chinese name 華人圖書館員協會.
CALA now has seven chapters and members throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and other countries and regions.
CALA is an active affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA) since 1976 and a member of the Council of National Library and Information Associations (CNLIA).
In 1988, CALA established sister relations with the Library Association of Central Governments Units and Scientific Research Networks of Beijing, and with the Library Association of China in Taipei. CALA also exchanges publications with the East Asian Library Resources Group of Australia and many others.