History of Diversity in SLA

DICE is the most recent outcome of members seeing value in identifying issues of diversity and inclusion that will realize the goals of an association that sees it as a welcoming and inclusive organization. This is a brief outline of an association that had its start at an ALA meeting in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in July 1909, and how that association and its members continued to evolve, grow and keep the issues of diversity present for the membership.
Let's move forward and make more history!

Much of this information comes from the Special Libraries collection of the association’s Journal maintained at http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/sla/ . Some additional information is from: St. Clair, Guy. 2009. SLA at 100: from putting knowledge to work to building the knowledge culture : a centennial history of SLA (Special Libraries Association) 1909-2009. Alexandria, VA: Special Libraries Association. 

1909 – Special Libraries Association is formed.

1919 – SLA elects its first female president, Maude A. Carabin Mann

1920 – “Colored Branches of the Louisville Free Public Library.” By Thomas F. Blue, Special Libraries Association, “Special Libraries, June 1920” (1920). Special Libraries, 1920. 6. (Thomas F. Blue, the nation’s first African-American to head a public library. On September 23, 1905, Blue when was chosen to head the Louisville Western Branch Library, the first public library in the nation to serve African-American patrons with an exclusively African-American staff.)

1932Montreal Chapter is added to SLA. The first chapter of SLA formed outside of the United States.

1940 – SLA's Committee on Cooperation with Special Libraries in Latin America formed, becoming the International Relations Committee in 1943.

1947 – SLA joins International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)


  • the Positive Action Program for Minority Groups is established following discussion at the 1972 annual meeting and approved by the board after a report delivered at the 1973 SLA Midwinter Meeting in Tulsa. Committee definition approved Jan 30, 1973.
  • “Consider the Handicapped!” by Larry K. Volin. Special Libraries Association, “Special Libraries, September 1972” (1972). Special Libraries, 1972. 7.
  • Social Responsibility Committee, of the Minnesota Chapter, expresses their commitment to concentrate on Prison Reform. Special Libraries Association, “Special Libraries, September 1972” (1972). Special Libraries, 1972. 7.
  • European Chapter formed, moving SLA beyond a North American association.  This is noted in a brief historical review: Special Libraries Association, “Special Libraries, Winter 1990” (1990). Special Libraries, 1990. 1.

1973 – SLA suspends membership in the International Federation for Documentation (FID) until the South African National Representative to FID either "withdraws or no longer represents a government with a policy of apartheid."


  • Vivian Davidson Hewitt begins her term as SLA's first African American President.
  • SLA publishes The Development of Special Libraries as an International Phenomenon (State-of-the-Art Review no. 4; by Johan van Halm). This 625 page book describes the state of special libraries in each of about 100 countries, including a description of whether and how "social responsibilities" (broadly defined) are significant in each country's special libraries.
  • Membership approves a resolution not to select conferences and meeting sites in states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment


  • SLA membership approved by mail ballot the motion that the Association will hold no meetings or conferences in states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, or in states that have not passed their own statewide equal rights legislation.
  • SLA's 70th Annual Conference was designated the "First Worldwide Conference on Special Libraries," with IFLA's Special Libraries Division and the Special Libraries Association of Japan signing on as "co-participating organizations."

1989 – the board changes the name of the Positive Action Program for Minority Groups to the Affirmative Action Committee.

1990 – The Women's Issues Caucus is formed, to provide a forum to "discuss women's issues, especially as they affect professional women." (Special Libraries, Fall 1989).

1991 – The Diverse Issues Caucus is formed, to "address the issues and concerns affecting the diverse populations involved in the information profession, regardless of sex, race, religious, or other orientations." (from Who's Who in Special Libraries, 1996/97)


  • The SLA Affirmative Action Committee developed the Diversity Leadership Development Program.
  • The Gay and Lesbian Issues Caucus is formed; David Jank and Richard Hulser are the Caucus' first co-conveners.

2005 – Inclusion Caucus, formed during the 2005 SLA Annual Conference in Toronto, is a new partner collaborating with SLA units to provide a clearinghouse for the activities and practices that best promote inclusion.

2006 – At the August SLA Board meeting, the Board of Directors approved the name change from the Gay and Lesbian Issues Caucus to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Issues Caucus (GLBTIC).

2016Diversity Leadership Development Program Committee dissolved effective January 1, 2016.

2017 – the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is created to explore the role of diversity and inclusion within SLA and the services and needs of our members.

2018 – Diversity, Inclusion, Community, and Equity (DICE) Caucus formed, as a result of a recommendation made by the association’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. Open to all SLA members at no cost, DICE creates a way for SLA members to get involved in issues related to diversity and inclusion within SLA’s offerings.