By Spaulding, Frank H.
Special Libraries , Vol. 81, No. 1
Internationalism of SLA and IFLA 1989
* SLA is an International Association of Information professionals and special librarians who work for the benefit of the general public and decision makers in industry, government, and the professions, and is helping shape the destiny of the information society. This paper identifies various international roles SLA has been engaged in recently and new opportunities for the internationalism of SLA.
SLA formed in 1909 because of the need for mutual cooperation by librarians providing service in specialized situations. In those early days, SLA was definitely a national library organization with a membership of 56 librarians primarily from the eastern part of the United States. Groundwork for SLA's present structure of divisions, representing different subject fields or special types of organizations, was laid at the Association's first New York meeting. The idea of local meetings was popular and spread rapidly. By 1913, districts (now called chapters) were identified in the United States and Canada.
Nearly 20 years later the first non-U.S. chapter, Montreal (now called Eastern Canada), was established. SLA continued as a North American association for the next 40 years until the European Chapter was formed in 1972. Although SLA had viewed itself as international in character and mission for many years, establishement of the European Chapter marked the organization as an international library association.
In past years, SLA has had many involvements with other international bodies. These activities definitely attest to SLA as an international organization: * became a member of the International
Federation of Library Associations and
Institutions (IFLA) in 1947; * hosted a post-convention
Documentation Institute for leaders in the field of
documentation in the United States and
Europe in 1955; * hosted its first worldwide conference,
cosponsored by the Japan Special
Libraries Association and IFLA Special
Libraries Division, in 1979; * established representation with FID in
1979; * conducted an exchange visit between
the United States and United Soviet
Socialist Republic librarians on
museum work and its research literature in
1988; and * published numerous articles in Special
Libraries on foreign special libraries,
transborder data flow, and SLA
divisions' international net-working and
The topic of the 1988 SLA State-of-the-Art Institute was on "Global Ties Through Information" and brought together 16 internationally-known speakers to address various aspects of global information flow. It was co-sponsored by ASLIB, CLA, IFLA, LA (UK), and LA (Australia).
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
In 1988, the SLA Board of Directors charged its IFLA delegate to "look at SLA's role and participation in IFLA, including a review of committees to which we may belong, and those to which we do belong, with a plan of implementation if we are to remain active participants." At the 1989 SLA Winter Meeting the Board of Directors accepted the following report and recommendations concerning SLA's role in IFLA and a new direction of internationalism for SLA.
"IFLA is the global voice of librarianship. Of all the international organizations concerned with library and information services, IFLA stands out as the organization best suited for this all encompassing role. It is an international forum for the participation of library organizations and institutions with some 1,200 members located in 123 countries.
SLA is an international organization of special librarians and information managers. As an international information organization, SLA is committed to expanding its presence and value worldwide, and therefore, it should remain as a viable and vital member of IFLA. …