Our Library Associations

a bunch of women in victorian era dresses standing around some travelling libraries

I’ve been spending some of the wintertime outlasting the blues and making sure that Wikipedia’s got entries for every state library association. It mostly didn’t, now it mostly does. I really should have been writing this post as I went, but blogging is different from making little stubs from templates. My process was straightforward:

  • Start with a bare-bones template
  • Check library association website for an “Our History” section
  • Check old Library Journals on the Internet Archive (keyword searchable)
  • Check Hathi Trust for publications BY the association
  • Check Guidestar for incorporation information
  • Read a few newsletters
  • Upload a small version of the logo
  • Add some fun details if there are any

I am lucky that at some point I got “auto-patrolled” status, so my Wikipedia articles don’t have to get cleared by someone before they go live. If I can use this to help you, do let me know. A few things I’ve learned along the way…Many library associations were started from Federation of Women’s Clubs who were trying to get any library services at all in their locations. Many library associations started in the late 1800s or early 1900s and often grew out of traveling library associations (see above for one from Idaho) and in many cases there was no state library or just a small one. The New Hampshire Library Association was the first one formed, Nevada Library Association was the last. Some associations became an amalgam of other associations which merged (Colorado Association of Libraries or Ohio Library Council or Indiana Library Federation) and some states have multiple library associations (Vermont, which is so small, has VSLA and VCAL and VLA). And there are a bunch of regional associations which I am still parsing out.

Many of the Southern states had segregated library associations, reflecting the blatant racism of the time. Some states had separate black and white associations–my favorite article to write was the short history of the North Carolina Negro Library Association which had a mostly-amicable merging with the NCLA. Some states dropped out of ALA rather than integrate their library associations (and then were forced to after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for shame). I look at our organizations now, with ALA having both a Black president and executive director, and my colleague Jason Broughton the first Black state librarian in Vermont’s history and I feel… ready for a change.

One thing I notice about these associations’ websites is that if they are using membership software, it shows. There are only a few membership software tools that library associations tend to use, and their imprints are obvious. Not a huge deal, since you can have a good website even wedged into a membership software format. However, many associations seemed to start up with their content when they switched to software. No newsletters older than a few years. No archival information. Sometimes you can’t even figure out when the association started. Some associations even have old ghost websites out there, at old URLs. As a sociological phenomenon it’s fascinating. Seen through the eyes of someone who runs her state association website (and wants it to be better, and has limited time) I’ve learned some things.

2 thoughts on “Our Library Associations

  1. Wow! Thank you for doing that and for having the idea in the first place. You are a treasure!

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