Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Library Conference Call 135 Years Ago
On this date (or around this date) 135 years ago, the first call for the conference of librarians that resulted in the creation of the American Library Association went out to librarians across the nation. This occasion is documented in Edward G. Holley's Raking The Historic Coals: The A.L.A. Scrapbook of 1876 (BETA PHI MU, 1967). The circular containing the call included the names of 28 prominent librarians including the young upstart Melvil Dewey. The call read in part: "The undersigned, connected with the library interest of this country, believing that efficiency and economy in library work would be promoted by a conference of librarians, which should afford opportunity for mutual consultation and practical co-operation, issue this preliminary call, inviting librarians and all interested in library and bibliographical work, to meet at Philadelphia, on the 15th of August next, or otherwise as may be found more generally acceptable." The second call to conference went out on July 28 in which the dates for the conference were changed to October 4-6, 1876, also in Philadelphia. A copy of the first conference call was contained in the A.L.A. scrapbook of 1876 which is now missing. There was an earlier conference of librarians in 1853 which did not lead to any formal organization. The men (no women were listed in the call to conference) who made the first call to conference would have undoubtedly been amazed at the ALA conference taking place in New Orleans later this month.