Jo Pearson, 2002 Chair of the Iowa Library Association (ILA) Special Libraries Round Table, took the initiative in starting the process that would lead to the formation of an Iowa Chapter of the Special Libraries Association (SLA). A group of other interested special librarians (some holding membership in both ILA and SLA and some members only of SLA) helped in various ways to establish the Chapter.

Before the establishment of the Iowa Chapter, SLA members in Iowa chose from membership in the Minnesota, Illinois, or Omaha Area Chapters, depending on their geographic location. The majority of Iowa’s SLA members belonged to either the Illinois or Omaha Area Chapters. 

The Iowa special librarians were convinced that we had enough SLA members in Iowa to form our own chapter. We felt it would be much more beneficial for the special librarians in Iowa to meet and work together within our own state. Chapters receive an allotment based on membership from SLA. We wanted our dues to go to our own chapter rather than to another one that wasn’t meeting our needs.


As we began the process, the first thing SLA wanted us to do was to notify the other chapters to which Iowa members belonged that we intended to petition for an Iowa Chapter. Illinois was very supportive (and has subsequently donated $1000 to our chapter). Omaha was not as supportive. This is easy to understand because it would mean that they would probably lose more than half their members. However, we began to collect signatures for our petition (we needed 25 Iowa SLA members to sign our petition in order to become a regular chapter – there were 26 Iowa SLA members at that time). In the summer of 2002, Kay Kelly, Ron Davenport, Martha Wilding, and Jacqueline Snider met with SLA officials at the SLA annual meeting in Los Angeles. They encouraged us to continue with our efforts.


Eventually, we succeeded in securing 25 member signatures for our petition for chapter status. We also had to submit proposed bylaws and a slate of officers. The first slate of officers included:


President: Susan Lerdal, Drake University Law Library, Des Moines

President-Elect: Ron Davenport, Rockwell Collins Regional Information Center, Cedar Rapids

Treasurer: Kay Kelly, Principal Financial Group Corporate Library, Des Moines

Secretary: Shari Stelling, State Historical Society of Iowa Library


At the Special Libraries Association Board meeting in October 2002, our petition for chapter status was approved. We currently have about 45 members (as of September 23, 2003).


On February 7, 2003, the Iowa Chapter hosted a gala luncheon to celebrate the establishment of the Chapter. The luncheon was held at Trostel’s Greenbriar restaurant in Johnston, Iowa. Twenty-six members and well wishers attended. A particular highlight of the luncheon was that Stephanie Tolson, SLA Chapter Cabinet Chair (Dean of Learning Resources, St. Charles Community College, St. Peters, Missouri) was able to join us. Other special guests included Betty Rogers, President of the Iowa Library Association (Head of Reference, Coe College, Cedar Rapids) and Mary Wegner, State Librarian of Iowa. Luncheon sponsors Thomson-West and Factiva helped underwrite a champagne toast to the new chapter, dessert, and an educational and entertaining program by Gavin Jerome. Jerome’s presentation Speak Softly and Carry a Big Schtick focused on humor as a way of dealing with stress in the workplace.


The Iowa Chapter held its first annual meeting on Friday, May 9, 2003, at The History Center in Cedar Rapids. The meeting included a business meeting and a program featuring the following speakers:


Update on the University of Iowa Library School: Focus on Special Libraries -- David Eichmann, Director and Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, University of Iowa

 Information Extraction on the Web -- David Eichmann, Director and Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, University of Iowa

 Branding and Service Marketing: Implications for Special Libraries -- Sharon Pilmer, Director of Marketing and Communications, Drake University

 Get Organized – Dreama K. Deskins, Library Consultant