Monday, January 9, 2012

ALA's Montreal Conference of 1900

Librarians in Canada were welcome as members of the American Library Association (ALA) from its inception, and in June, 1900 ALA met for the first of six times in Canada (the last in Toronto in 2003). I have a couple of artifacts in my collection from the Montreal conference - the program and a pamphlet from the Local Committee. Most of the 452 attendees were housed at the Windsor Hotel which billed itself as "the best in all the Dominion". Room and board at the hotel cost only $3-$3.50 per day. The general sessions of the conference were held at the convocation hall of Presbyterian College "amid the pleasant surroundings of the College campus with its freedom from dust and noise". Many of the stars of our early profession were there - Melvil Dewey, Herbert Putnam, Katharine Sharp, Mary Plummer, R. R. Bowker, C. A. Cutter, John Billings, and Electra Doren to name a few. At the turn of the century it was appropriate for ALA President Reuben G. Thwaites of Wisconsin to review "Ten Years of American Library Progress". The conference proceedings can be found HERE. A highlight of all early ALA conferences was the post conference excursion. For the Montreal Conference the Local Committee had arranged a trip by special steamer to the river Saguenay. For the trip "the largest and best boat on the Saguenay route has been secured". The cost of the entire trip was under $20. A quote from Goethe on the cover of the Local Committee pamphlet seems to convey the spirit of the conference: "One should not neglect from time to time to renew friendly relations by personal intercourse." A sentiment to be followed at all ALA conferences including the upcoming one in Dallas.

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