Chapter History 1943-1957

In 1943 when the Minnesota Chapter of Special Libraries Association was founded, there were few special libraries in existence, and few special librarians located in this area. It was therefore a group comprising a few special librarians and a number of librarians representing public, reference and university libraries, about twenty in all, who met in St. Paul on March 30, 1943 for the purpose of discussing the possibilities of forming a local SLA chapter. As the discussion progressed, it was soon evident that it was not a question of whether there should be a local chapter, but rather how it could be realized.

The reason for this prompt and wholly favorable response was that some good preliminary groundwork had been done before the time this meeting was held.

The person to whom this Chapter owes its inception and who guided it in its formative period was Melvin Voigt, at that time Head of the Library Service Section of General Mills, Inc., of Minneapolis. He had been in Minneapolis only about four months, but during that time he had had a number of occasions to realize that there were possible projects which could best be handled by a local group of special librarians, and that the work and effectiveness of all librarians in the area could be improved by greater contacts with one another. Early in February 1943, he wrote to Mrs. Kathleen B. Stebbins, then Executive Secretary of SLA and presented the matter to her. Her prompt reply was so encouraging and enthusiastic that he broached the subject to librarians here. So it was that, when the first preliminary meeting was held, the way had been prepared and time was ripe for action. The group voted unanimously to petition the SLA Executive Board for authorization to form a chapter and the petition was promptly signed by the necessary number of eligible members. Eleanor S. Cavanaugh, SLA President was so pleased that there was to be a Minnesota Chapter that she did not wait for the next Board meeting, but took a letter vote, and on April 21, the group reported that the Executive Board had given its approval for the formation of the Minnesota Chapter. At a second meeting held in Minneapolis on April 29, nominating and constitutional committees were appointed; and at its third meeting, on June 3, 1943, held on the campus of the University of Minnesota, a constitution was adopted, officers were elected, and the Minnesota Chapter was officially established. Mr. Voigt had acted as chairman of the proposed group, and it was fitting that he should be its first president. Other officers included Elaine M. La Pointe, Librarian, Research Department, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company, St. Paul, Vice President, and Roy W. Swanson, Librarian, Editorial Department, St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press and Dorothy F. Ware, Librarian, Business and Municipal Branch, Minneapolis Public Library, Directors. The first list of members issued in October 1943 included twenty-five members of which five were Institutional, nineteen Active and one Associate member.

The year 1943-1944 was a busy and profitable one. A membership drive was inaugurated and was so successful that in its first year the number of members more than doubled, so that at the Annual Convention in June 1944, the Minnesota Chapter was awarded the Membership Gavel, given in recognition of the chapter of SLA which had the largest percentage increase in membership for the year. In fact, the impetus had been so great that by 1945 the membership again had doubled, and the Chapter was awarded the Gavel a second time.

The objective, as stated in the Constitution of the Minnesota Chapter, is "to promote the collection, organization, and dissemination of information; to develop the usefulness, efficiency and co-ordination of special libraries and other reference and research agencies in the State of Minnesota…." In pursuance of it, the Chapter in its first year planned several of its meetings as visits to special libraries in the Twin Cities, for the purpose of acquainting its members with some of the special collections and services available. Included were the libraries of the Hennepin County Medical Society, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press.

The high point of the year came at the spring meeting when Eleanor S. Cavanaugh, the SLA President, visited the Chapter and spoke to its members on the activities of the Association. While she was in Minnesota, Miss Cavanaugh also addressed the library school classes at the University of Minnesota and the College of St. Catherine.

The Minnesota Chapter was a "war baby" and certain war conditions prompted it to its first cooperative project, the preparation of a Selected List of European Periodicals received after 1940 by libraries in the area. It was ready for distribution in March 1944 and copies were available to any library that was interested. It served a very useful purpose by pooling periodical resources at a time when many shipments from abroad failed to reach their destination. A much larger project, also begun in this first year, was the Union List of Current Periodical Accessions in Minnesota Libraries. This was not completed until May 1946. Then, instead of being published, the file, on 3 x 5 cards, was housed in the Brown & Bigelow Library and information from it made available at all times by telephone.

Interest in SLA and its work was extended by the Minnesota Chapter to the Minnesota Hospital Librarians who, at a meeting in May 1944, voted to petition the Executive Board for the establishment of a Hospital and Nursing Librarians Group within SLA. This petition was a direct result of Miss Cavanaugh's visit, and was due chiefly to the efforts of Perrie Jones, Librarian of the St. Paul Public Library, who earlier in her career had been a hospital librarian. Hospital librarians from Chicago and New York presented similar petitions. As a result of these efforts the new group was organized at the Annual Conference in Philadelphia in June 1944, and Ruth M. Tews, Head of the Hospital Library Service of the St. Paul Public Library, was appointed its first chairman.

Precedents established in the Chapter's formative period have been followed, and activities broadened and extended. The Constitution prescribes that at least four meetings be held each year. Generally five have been held, and in some years six or seven. Meeting places are divided between Minneapolis and St. Paul. A few meetings have been in the nature of an excursion to some point outside of the immediate area of the Twin Cities, such as the trip in May 1949 to Rochester to visit the famed Mayo Clinic and its library; in the following year to Austin to the George A. Hormel Company which had established its library a few years earlier; and in May 1953 to Collegeville, to visit St. John's Abbey and University, one of the oldest institutions in the state.

The policy of holding meetings in special libraries was continued and was advantageous inasmuch as the special library movement was growing and each year saw the formation of new company libraries in the area.

Librarians in the Twin Cities and members of various groups and associations always had joined in meetings and activities; so it was logical that the special librarians likewise would cooperate with them. There have been numerous joint meetings with the Twin City Library Club and the Minnesota Library Association. At one meeting, in conjunction with the 1948 Convention of the latter association, its president, Dr. E. W. Mc Diarmid, University of Minnesota Librarian, and Rose Vormelker, President of Special Libraries Association, were the speakers. In 1947, the Minnesota Chapter held a meeting concurrent with the Upper Midwest Regional Library Conference. In January 1957, the several local library groups as well as the library schools of the University of Minnesota and the College of St. Catherine joined with the Minnesota Chapter to bring to the Twin Cities Edward Waters of the Library of Congress, and Chairman of the Joint Committee for Library Education. His subject, of vital importance to all librarians, was "Education for Librarianship." Meetings such as these have been invaluable in extending the outlook of librarians and furthering their common goals.

A proposal made by Melvin Voigt to publicize special libraries to different kinds of business resulted in some unusual projects. At the Exposition of the Minnesota Federation of Engineering Societies held in Minneapolis February 27 to March 1, 1947, the Minnesota Chapter sponsored a booth. Exhibits and pictorial displays presented publications of Special Libraries Association, its function in helping to set up new libraries, company libraries in the Twin Cities, and tools and services of the special library. Two librarians were in attendance at all times to answer questions. The winter of 1949-1950 featured a series of discussions on the subject of business and libraries. To each of these meetings individuals representing business and industry were invited to participate in a discussion of the relation of the library to business, and what business expects from the library. Represented were the legal counsel of a large insurance company, the director of the Department of Business Research and Development of the State of Minnesota, an engineering laboratory and directors of research of large industrial companies. A similar project was tried in the spring of 1952 when guests of the Chapter were officials of organizations and companies who had indicated an interest in organizing special libraries or in affiliating their staffs with SLA. A joint meeting was held with the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association in December 1956 to bring it into closer cooperation with special librarians.

The work of recruitment until 1954 was largely left to individual members who from time to time addressed library school students or appeared on vocational guidance programs of local colleges to present the special libraries field. However in 1954-1955, in line with SLA's recommendation, the Chapter appointed a Recruitment Committee and initiated an intensive program. In the spring two events were scheduled: The Chapter sponsored a library booth at the three-day Career Festival which was held in March at St. Thomas College in St. Paul. High school students from all over the State visited the Festival and about 2,000 visited the library booth. In April, a library convocation for high school seniors was held at the Minneapolis Star & Tribune. This was accomplished with the cooperation of the Minneapolis Public Schools. The Career Festival was repeated in 1956 and 1957.

Annual visits from SLA headquarters of either the president or the Executive Secretary have kept the local Chapter informed of the functions and activities of SLA on an association basis and served to make the local librarians feel that they are active members of it. Several members of the Minnesota Chapter have held positions of responsibility in the Association. Melvin Voigt, first Chapter President, was an SLA Director from 1945-1946. Ruth Tews was the first Chairman of the newly formed Hospital and Nursing Librarians Group, which now is a Division. Margaret P. Hilligan of General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, was Chapter Liaison Officer 1949-1951 and Chairman of the Science-Technology Division 1954-1955. Other Division Chairmen were Grieg Aspnes, Brown & Bigelow, St. Paul, of the Advertising Division, 1950-1951; Dan King, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, of the Museum Division, 1953-1954; and Charles A. Brown, III, Minneapolis Star & Tribune, of the Newspaper Division, 1955-1956.

The most important participation of the Minnesota Chapter in the affairs of SLA was in the year 1950-1951 which culminated in the annual convention that was held in St. Paul June 18 to 21. Already in 1948 Grieg Aspnes, as Chairman of the Chapter's Public Relations Committee, was urging its members to have the Annual Conference in Minnesota and at a meeting in Rochester May 7, 1949, the Chapter voted to invite SLA to meet in St. Paul in the near future. In 1949, Mr. Aspnes was nominated to the office of First Vice-President and President-Elect of SLA for 1950-1951. In spite of strong arguments in favor of eastern conventions, he continued to urge St. Paul as a convention city and succeeded in having the Forty-Second Annual Convention scheduled for St. Paul.

Under the leadership of Grieg Aspnes and of Frederic C. Battell, librarian of the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company, Minneapolis, as Chapter President, activities for the year 1950-1951 were concerned with plans and preparations for the Convention. These two officers and Margaret P Hilligan, in her capacity as Chapter Liaison Officer, attended the meeting of the SLA Executive Board and Advisory Council in St. Louis in October for the purpose of outlining plans and programs. In November, Mrs. Elizabeth Owens, the SLA President, spent two days in the Twin Cities on Convention business. Each and every member of the Minnesota Chapter was drafted into service in order to assure a well-planned Convention. Registration figures disclosed a total of 579 delegates from thirty-six states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Finland. The convention featured a full program of general and business meetings, division meetings, group luncheons, exhibits, trips to local institutions and to companies representing Minnesota business and industries, as well as excursions featuring Minnesota as an ideal vacation land.

The following year, 1951-1952, Grieg Aspnes was elected SLA President and Frederic C. Battell to Secretary of SLA. During his year as president, Mr. Aspnes visited the chapters of Montreal, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisiana and Texas.

In the new SLA Consultation Service, organized in 1957 to assist firms that may need help in establishing a new library or in expanding existing facilities, Minnesota is represented by its Chapter Consultation Services Officer. Appointed to fill this position was Harold Hughesdon, who is Superintendent of Technical Information for the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company in St. Paul.

The Minnesota Chapter issued its first Bulletin in May 1943, a month before its official establishment, in order to announce the organizational meeting and to publish the proposed Chapter Constitution and the report of the Nominating Committee. Since then, the Bulletin has been issued four or five times each year, except in 1955-1957 when there were seven numbers. The editor from May 1943 to June 1945 was Elaine M. La Pointe. Thereafter the editor changed each year. From September 1946 to May 1955 the title was Minnesota Chapter News-Notes; with the October 1955 issue the titled reverted to Bulletin.

Such is the history of the Minnesota Chapter. What is its outlook for the future? Its membership as of April 3, 1957 is 95. There have been years in the past when the number was larger, but at the business meeting on May 11 the Membership Committee reported that of prospective new members contacted all who are actually special librarians have joined, and the membership now includes those persons in the Twin Cities and surrounding area whose interests and work lie in the special libraries field. It is the only group of librarians in the area which meets regularly, holding from four to seven meetings a year with a usual attendance of 45 to 50 persons, occasionally as many as 95. Its programs and activities emphasize professional matters and problems. While stressing special librarianship, by its cooperation with other groups it extends its influence and effectiveness to all librarians for the good of the entire profession and community.

(The chapter's early history is attributed to Mel Voigt, one of the chapter's founding members)