Friday, March 19, 2010

The Western Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) was founded in 1876. In its early years it was primarily oriented to the Northeastern states with its greater concentration of population and libraries. It was not until 1881that ALA ventured out of the East, holding its annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Only forty six people attended that conference. The difficulty of travel was a major reason for the low attendance. A growing interest in library meetings at the local and state levels where travel was less of a factor led F. J. Soldan, librarian of the Peoria (Illinois) Public Library, to issue a call for a convention of librarians in the Western states. That convention took place in Springfield, Illinois on November, 22-23, 1881. It was presided over by William F. Poole, librarian of the Chicago Public Library and President of ALA in 1885-1886. As a result the interest expressed at that convention, the Western Library Association was formed "supplementary to the American Library Association". Arrangements were made to meet again in Indianapolis in October, 1882, but a second meeting was not held until December 3, 1884 in Rock Island, Illinois. Arrangements were again made to meet in Indianapolis, this time in October 1885, but there is no record that another meeting was ever held. In the 1890s state library associations were created at a rapid pace across the nation starting with the New York Library Association in 1890. The Illinois Library Association was founded in 1896. Information about the Western Library Association was found in Katharine L. Sharp's Illinois Libraries first published in 1906. The unused pre-stamped envelope above is for the Co-operative Committee of the Western Library Association with a Peoria, Illinois return address. It is a small reminder of this short-lived association which was evidently the first association of librarians created after the American Library Association.

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