Academic & Special Libraries Section | Our History

The NYLA files begin with the minutes of a meeting of the College and University Libraries Committee held on February 27, 1954, at Syracuse University. Charles Penrose (Clarkson) was Chair of the Committee. The major topic of discussion concerned the advisability of applying for NYLA Section status. It was decided to run a notice of application in the April NYLA Bulletin.

A committee was appointed to draw up a Constitution and to act as a Nominating Committee. This committee consisted of Rev. Andrew L. Bouwhius (Canisius College), Miss Marion Allen (Women's College, University of Rochester), and Mr. Bernard H. Dollen (Niagara University). A slate of officers was prepared on October 8, 1954. A draft Constitution was presented to the CUL Committee on October 19, 1954, at which time it was called the College and University Section of NYLA. The Executive Board would contain a President, Vice-President, Secretary/Treasurer, two elected Directors, and the retiring President. The term of office would be two years, and could not be served consecutively in the same position.

The Section held annual meetings and programs at the NYLA Conference. It also conducted a Spring program. Early topics included interlibrary loans, personnel problems, lectures on libraries overseas, the non-passage of the 3R's legislation and what could be done to ensure future passage of this legislation, the role of librarians as faculty, and faculty perception of librarians and library building projects. Many topics were chosen to complement the meeting location. For example, in October 1964, a program was held at the Dag Hammerskold Library at the United Nations on university libraries in developing countries. Joint programs were held with the Resources and Technical Services Section, Children and Young Adults Services Section, and the School Libraries Section. 

At the 1973 Board meeting held during the Annual Conference (a joint conference with M.A.R.L.F. held in Atlantic City), topics included exploring the possibility of holding regional meetings, investigating awarding grants for continuing education for academic librarians (CULS currently offered three (3) $200 grants), exploring the possibility of ACRL Chapter status and endorsed the concepts presented in the publication Faculty Status for Librarians.

In 1976, CULS provided a grant to the New York Library Instructional Clearinghouse at the F. Franklin Moon Library, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse to publish New York Library Instruction Programs-A Directory.

To reach a broader base of librarians and thereby increasing Section membership, 1978/79 saw efforts to establish information exchange contacts with SUNYLA, LACUNY, and ENY/ACRL. At this time CULS also recommended to NYLA Council that the Council should make special provisions for recruiting members from special libraries. In October 1979, the NYLA Council voted that "special and other subject-oriented librarians be invited to join NYLA, and that provision for their active affiliation be provided within an expanded and renamed CULS."

On May 10, 1980, Section Members voted to accept the proposed name change to the Academic and Special Libraries Section.

In 1981/82, the Constitution and By-Laws were revised, the first revision since they were originally adopted in 1955. At a Board meeting in 1985, it was recommended and passed that archives for incoming officers should be organized. From this recommendation came the ASLS Leadership Manual.

In 1986/87, President Janet Steiner outlined her goals for the section, including a membership survey, membership promotion, a need for frequent communication with membership, active participation in legislative activities, publication possibilities and monetary grants. Janet was also responsible for reactivating the ASLS booth at NYLA Conference in 1987 and provided a new banner and a new brochure.

A Long Range Planning Task Force was formed and its recommendations, submitted to the ASLS Board in the summer of 1988, included: increase visibility for the section; increase membership of the section (by 10%); continue strong programs; improve publications; bylaws should be revised and the ASLS manual strengthened; legislative activities should be continued and strengthened; money should be targeted each year for awards/recognition activities; and strengthen liaison with NYLA. In keeping with the recommendation to continue and strengthen legislative activities, in 1988, the expansion of the Confidentiality of Library Records Law and passage of the Documentary Heritage Bill were major components of our legislative activity. This year also saw the publication of The Role of the Librarian on a Research Team, spearheaded by long-time ASLS member Jim Webster. Another publication, Resources for Cooperation: An ASLS Directory, a list of ASLS people and libraries and their projects to help identify sources of experience and information, was conceived of by the Long Range Planning Committee. A survey was sent to members in February of 1989 with publication planned for that summer.

The ASLS "Spirit of Librarianship" award was first presented in 1991, made possible through the generosity of the Franklin Book Company, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. This award honors an ASLS member who best exemplifies the spirit of librarianship in terms of supporting the work of the section and advancing the goals of the library profession. It was at this time that the Board began investigating the possibility of an ASLS-sponsored internship program to help attract library school students to the academic and special library sectors of librarianship. Recipients would be selected from the geographic area of the annual NYLA conference. The internship program was instituted in 1992. ASLS would provide $1000 to fund a project for a library school student working under the direction of a mentor at an institution selected by the ASLS nominating committee. ASLS also began sponsorship of the Dewey Conference Fellow, a grant from the Lake Placid Foundation awarded to each section of NYLA in 1992.

In 1994, the Section, along with PLS, RASS, SLIMS, and YASS, established a Task Force on Consumer Health Information to address the need for access to current, authoritative information for healthcare consumers. The Task Force prepared a survey sent to New York libraries regarding consumer health information resources.