The ’50s Draw To A Close
During the 1957 - 58 business year, the Minnesota chapter ranked second in the percentage increase of members and had finally reached 100. Miss Alberta Brown, SLA President and the librarian of the UpJohn Company, visited the chapter to speak on “SLA - Its Heritage and Professional Future.” The menu at the Regatta Room of the Calhoun Beach Hotel included a fruit cup, relishes, one-half of a country fried chicken, creamed whipped potatoes, a vegetable, salad, dessert and a beverage for $3.
The Christmas party was held at the Historical Society and it coincided with the state’s 100th birthday. Festivities included eggnog, door prizes, Christmas carols and harp solos by Mrs. Grieg Aspnes.
The business meeting was held at Honeywell where guests played croquet and volleyball and then received demonstrations of Honeywell’s “gee whizz” products. After a talk from Lawrence J. O’Mara, Assistant Director of Research for Honeywell, a Thermofax representative demonstrated the new microfilm reader-printer. Later Grieg Aspnes gave rides in his new Volkswagen.
In a letter of reminisces dated February 28, 1973, that Harold Hugheson, 1958-59 President, sent to Carolyn V. Kelleher at her request to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of SLA MN, Harold remembered his “unsuccessful attempt to try to get the Vice President to assume the job of Program Chairman as part of the duties of that office. My recollection is that my enthusiasm in 1958 far outran any political savoir-faire which I may have possessed for I have the clear recollection of being somewhat bewildered when what I had proposed as a perfectly logical step to take was voted down by the membership. I have ever since learned to distrust logic in political operations.”
Changes were made at Headquarters for membership requirements. No longer could the chapter admit members on its own - instead, applications for membership had to be sent to Headquarters where a decision on eligibility was made.
The 50s ended with a plan for the preparation of a union list of serials of the holdings of the special libraries in the Twin Cities. Once the information was gathered it would be sent to a tabulating office and put on punched cards. A ditto master of the union list would then be prepared by running the punched cards through an IBM machine. This Union List of Serials became a hot topic for the next several decades with Audrey Grosch, 1961-62 President, eventually winning the SLA Professional Award for her work on the project.
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The 1960s - Nixon and Kennedy At A Meeting
The decade opened with an announcement that the SLA annual convention would be held in Minneapolis in 1966 and that the Radisson Hotel had been chosen as convention headquarters.
Dr. I.A. (Al) Warheit spoke at the April 1960 meeting on the applications of machines to library techniques. An accompanying article in the bulletin by Grieg Aspnes implored the chapter to become familiar with the new machines and methods that will be found to translate, to abstract, to store (“millions of words in inches of space”), to index and to retrieve information.
During a meeting held on October 13th, 1960, a TV was rented and placed in the dining room so attendees could watch the debate between Nixon and Kennedy. In April the chapter toured the new downtown Minneapolis Public Library.
Program suggestions during the ‘60s included a documentation program, a visit to the Green Giant library and programs built around “our local situation” such as a discussion of the local stock market and/or marketing situation, the St. Anthony Hydraulic lab, the Metropolitan planning commission and Civil defense.
Peggy Wolfe, 1974-75 President, remembered the 1966 convention in an email of reminisces in preparation for the 70th anniversary event. “What really stands out is the year that our chapter hosted the national conference...We had a great deal of autonomy, and put on a grand convention...I was on the printing committee along with Fred Battell who had an old-fashioned printing press in his basement. I worked at Pillsbury and we were members of the Insiders linked by skyways.”
The SLA Public Relations Committee asked for chapter reactions and opinion on the degree and manner by which SLA should be participating in efforts to improve the librarians’ image. At the executive board meeting on February 28, 1968, it was noted in the minutes that a change of the name “Special Libraries Association” was discussed. The majority wanted to keep the name, but Zoe Cosgrove, 1968-69 President, wanted to change it.
Qualification for membership in SLA became a heated topic. It appeared there were educational and experience qualifications that members wanted to retain. Headquarters wanted to lower membership requirements because it needed more funding. (A motion to provide headquarters with a gift of money had not been approved at a previous meeting.) The group’s consensus was to not lower membership standards (Grieg Aspnes said, “Let’s not lose the distinction of SLA!”) and to find out what expenses could be cut. Dues were increased from $20 to $30 in 1968.
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When the 70s began changing the name of the association was discussed again. It was felt that a name which described the membership of the association in its broader scope was needed. SLA headquarters wanted to retain the word “library” in the title.
Although the chapter had been publishing a bulletin since its inception which took a good deal of time, effort and funding, SLA MN and ASIS (American Society for Information Science) agreed to publish a joint bulletin titled “Minnesota Memo-Transfer.” More joint meetings between the two organizations were scheduled. In 1972 the board decided to continue these joint responsibilities. This seemed to reflect the efforts of headquarters which was considering merging with ASIS. However, the merger never happened due to a lack of support. Eventually SLA members began to grow dissatisfied with the shared meetings because of content that was considered irrelevant. The board voted to reduce shared meetings to four a year. ASIS members felt that not enough of the bulletin was written for them. The bulletin was reduced from ten to eight issues a year due to lack of submissions from members but the joint publishing effort continued.
In 1972 the chapter enjoyed 138 members, an all time high. To increase membership, Barbara Anderson of the Union Catalog Staff at the JJ Hill Reference Library created a promotional poster. The board liked it but felt that $215 to print 25 posters was too expensive and there might be copyright problems with Parker Brothers as the poster was a mock up of a corner of the Monopoly game board (no example of this poster is in the archives so which controversial corner it was has been lost to history). The poster idea was dropped except for the possibility of it being a traveling poster and bringing it to certain choice events. Barbara also created a brochure which was met with much more favor. It was voted to be printed and ready for distribution by April for use at Symposium and SLA/ASIS Special Program.
The Social Responsibilities Committee created a bibliography titled “Information for Inmates” as well as a position paper for some desired changes in the library setups at the penal institutions in Minnesota. Guest Dr. David Fogel presented the history of criminal reform and stressed the difficult situation that develops when a group is without representation. SLA voted to contribute the books listed in the bibliography to Stillwater State Prison. In the following year the board noted a remarkable response to this effort and entertained ways of receiving national publicity for it. Dan Lester suggested a notice should be sent to Playboy because of Hugh Hefner’s interest in prisoner rehabilitation. Joel Beale, the head of the committee, received 400 requests for the bibliography, many from government agencies and some from foreign embassies. Some of the books SLA purchased went missing at Stillwater Prison. Funds in the Education Office were made available to hire a librarian for the prison and two guards volunteered their own time to keep the library open from 5 - 7 pm. When the committee chair resigned in 1975, the board decided to redirect the work of the Social Responsibilities committee. President Zella Shannon felt there was a need for a consulting service in the library field for the “small guy” who doesn’t know where to turn for information needs. Questions could be handled by both SLA members and library students from the U of M.
Program ideas during the early ‘70s included a talk on Plasmascope, a demonstration on the use of memory, a discussion on the evaluation of commercial database services and a speaker on microfilms.
Annual Symposiums had begun which were the precursor to multi-day continuing education events. The topic for 1974 was the difference between data and information and was presented by Doctors Anthony Debons and Allan Kent of the University of Pittsburgh. Martha Jane Zachert of the College of Librarianship at the University of South Carolina spoke on interpersonal communication.
After removing social entertainment from the Christmas party in an effort to save money, an “Un-Christmas Party” was held in January 1974. It was during 1974 that a malaise seemed to set in with the chapter. Low interest in continuing education created a debate on whether the programs should be discontinued. Members did not return their cards for inclusion in the membership directory. Coincidentally, the U of M had not offered a course in Special Libraries for the previous two years.
Perhaps in an effort to combat the lack of interest in the chapter, Marilyn Mauritz proposed a gala Christmas party on December 12, 1974 with dinner and a band at the University Club. The motion carried.
By 1975 the chapter had 168 members and as a group they seemed to be holding a collective eye toward the future. Program ideas included talks from an individual in management on the value of information and the new director of the Minneapolis Public Library presented on the preservation of paper versus microfilm. The Symposium VII theme was “Planning for the Future” and included sessions on setting objectives, appraising strengths and weaknesses, financial planning, in-house versus purchased services, seeing beyond traditional library roles and how to sell plans to management. The fee to attend was $15.
Toward the end of the 70s an effort was stepped up for recruitment, with chapter members contacting library schools and offering complimentary student memberships. The treasury began to get complicated and headquarters requested budgets from chapters. Yearly audits were discussed. The main topic at the Midwinter conference in Seattle was finances.
Audrey Grosch made the unfortunate discovery that the literary and proprietary rights of the Minnesota Chapter archives had been signed over to the Minnesota Historical Society without Board approval when the archives had been placed with the Society for safekeeping. A letter requesting that the society give up the rights and return the archives was drafted and the transfer took place.
The topic of Symposium VIII in 1977 was “Changing Aspects of the Information Industry.” The theme “Infoconomy” reflected the idea that 50% of the GNP during that time was attributable to some aspect of the information industry. An ad hoc committee formed as an “on-line data base” users group.
The word “Christmas” was removed from the annual December social event in 1977. The first annual Winterfest was planned with a wine social hour, sit down buffet, harp music, German carolers and games.
Some challenges with collaborating with ASIS continued including the shared responsibility of producing the bulletin and obtaining funds ahead of time from ASIS to pay for programming. However, the two groups continued to work together.
Jim Tchobanoff, 1979-80 President, remembered “The MN Pre-White House Conference on Library and Information Services happened during my three years in office. Most of the thinking at that time was about libraries in the public sector and private sector libraries, especially corporate libraries were excluded from participating in national or local library networks. I think one of the things that the MN Chapter did – along with other SLA Chapters – was to increase the awareness of private sector libraries and to obtain the ability for private sector libraries to participate in these networks.”
In 1979 Rick Reynen, 1982-83 President, wrote to the SLA Coordinator for Student Chapters for ideas on drawing more students to meetings and perhaps starting a chapter or at least letting them know more about SLA. He received no response.
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The spring 1980 symposium theme was “The Electronic Library/Information Center: A Look At Things to Come” and included sessions on micropublishing, networking, computer conferencing, microforms, and small in-house computers. It also dealt with questions such as “How are we going to learn to deal with new technology?” “How will old librarians bring themselves up to date?” “How are librarians educating the public?” The two-day symposium cost $60 per attendee.
The DC conference that year cost $75, an increase from the $50 in Hawaii the previous year. Dues increased to $55 a year from $40 and the Minnesota board wanted more detailed information from Headquarters including why the increase was necessary and what they were getting for their money.
Job postings continued to be sent out to interested members. Julia Peterson, 1998-99 President and the ’80 Employment Chair, suggested the need for a minimum salary of $12,000 for professional job postings. The board amended her resolution so that any job with a salary of less than $12,000 came with a disclaimer from the chapter: “SLA MN does not recognize this salary as meeting minimum professional standards and prospective employers will be notified as such.”
By 1980 the online users group had 175 members which was well over half of the 243 chapter members. Meetings for the group included: how to get a system started, a review of log-on procedures, promoting online services in your organization and a review of online continuing education options.
Efforts to increase student participation began to pay off. Twelve students attended the October meeting of 1980. However, St. Catherine’s was considering discontinuing its Library Science Department and the board sent a letter to the administration in support of the department. At the close of the business meeting the following year, an update was given about the University of Minnesota’s library school also closing.
Laura Dirks, 1980-81 President, summed up her year as one of cooperation: participating in the All-Association Conference, White House Conference follow-up, joint meetings and a shared membership directory with ASIS, the On-Line users group, new student members, contributing to the SLA scholarship fund, planning for a joint equipment show in the fall of 82 with MECIM, networking in SMILE and METRONET and the union list which was to be published as her term ended.
Jerry Baldwin, 1987-88 President, while sharing reminisces for inclusion in the 70th anniversary history update, wrote “one of my favorite memories (is) from my early days in SLA. James Dodd, President of SLA, 1980-1981, during his campaign for the office, had, as one of his goals, believe it or not, to change the name of the organization. His choice was "Information Management Society." When I ran into him at some event, I told him I was onto his scheme, since, if he got his way, the name of the association's magazine could no longer be "Special Libraries." And, just as the magazines of the American Society for Information Science and the American Medical Association had come to be known as JASIS and JAMA, ours would be JIMS.”
In 1982, a survey was conducted to assess member interest for further continuing education activities. The three most frequently cited topics were the use of microcomputers, charge back systems and word processing systems. Around this time the staff and board of the Association began using an “electronic mail system.” Metronet offered local library organizations the opportunity to use CLASS, an electronic message system for an annual fee of $100 plus monthly charges. The fee included six passwords. Online connect time was 90 cents a message. A motion was approved by the chapter to join for one year. CLASS was later called Ontyme-II.
The year was profitable due to the Focus 82 equipment show on microcomputers which allowed the chapter to donate $1200 to SLA’s special project fund and $500 to the building fund.
When contacted during the preparation of this history, Rick Reynen said that he remembered making a good team with Vice President Margaret Drews. They enjoyed finding venues for the monthly meetings that would fit the budgets of the variety of special librarians and tried to find locations in various parts of town to accommodate members in those areas. He said the highlight of his term was having the SLA President, Vivian Arterbery from the Rand Corp., come to visit the chapter during the 40th anniversary party at the JJ Hill Reference Library.
Linda Sellers, 1984-85 President, recalled the hard work of putting together the membership directory. “It was before computers and emails were common to everyone so everything was done hard copy and was a much more involved task than it would be today.”
Producing the newsletter began to seriously endanger the chapter’s funds in 1984. During one board meeting a motion was made to withdraw its production, but then another motion was made to cease it in its current format and create a limited, interim newsletter that would be distributed only to chapter members. A finance committee was formed to establish a budget for the chapter as a whole and to seek alternative sources of financing. At the fall meeting the chapter was $316 in the red.
Just two years later, in 1986, the chapter was again in the black. The newsletter was produced nine times a year and was still shared with ASIS and MHSLA (Minnesota Health Sciences Library Association). Major factors for improvement in the finances included the share of profits from “Forum: All Association Conference” and an increase in the national allotment. Reduced costs of producing the bulletin and a discontinuation of Metronet services were also a factor. The membership directory was voted on to be sold to interested parties for $50 without phone numbers provided.
In 1986 a White House Conference on Library and Information Services was planned. Jerry Baldwin, wrote of this time: “In the seventies and early eighties there were two White House Conferences on Library and Information Services preceded by governors' conferences in each of the states. SLA MN officers played significant roles in planning the MN governor's conferences along with officers of other Minnesota library associations. And, based on the spirit of collaboration created by these events SLA MN partnered with the other Minnesota library associations in '81 and '85 to hold two statewide library conferences labeled "Forum - All-Association Conference" and "Forum 2." We also worked with other more business-oriented, information related associations to form the Minnesota Executive Council on Information Management and plan a conference named "Focus 82."”
One of the biggest issues facing the chapter was an annual loss of 15 - 20% of members which was offset by 16-21% of new members. Jim Tchobanoff stated that the two major tasks of recruiting and retaining members was excellent programming and warm hospitality. Kathy Kohli, 1990-91 President, suggested a new membership fee category for unemployed members. She also wanted to continue liaisons with College of St. Catherine information management students. Ideas for increasing membership involvement continued for a number of years with ideas like free meeting coupons, a buddy system, different colored meeting name tags and welcoming phone calls.
In 1988 the bulletin was renamed from MEMO/TRANSFER to SLA/ASIS bulletin. MHSLA (Minnesota Health Services Library Association) had pulled out of its connection with the bulletin when their name had been removed from the masthead two years earlier since their not being part of a national association did not allow the bulletin to be part of a bulk mailing permit.
The 80s drew to a close with generating goals for a long range planning process. Programming ideas included 3M representatives discussing technology behind compact discs, a spotlight on new technologies and a tour of the Cargill building and the library which had won the John Cotton Dana award. Preparations for the Pre-White House Conference continued.
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The 90s opened with ominous news on the employment front. The average number of librarians seeking positions in 1990 was 39 for the year and only 13 full time and 3 part time positions were offered, which had been a 21-position decrease from the previous year.
Mariann Cyr, President 89-90, recalled from her term: “The one thing I remember...was inviting SLA to Minneapolis for the 90th Annual SLA Conference to be held in 1999. (We) provided lots of background information on the area to the association, hosted the association scouting folks, and issued an ‘official’ invitation.” Headquarters would later announce that the conference was coming to Minneapolis in 1999.
The biggest expense continued to be the printing and mailing of the bulletin. The following year it was discovered that too much space was being taken up by ads and the editor wanted to look into desktop software to make the layout an easier task. In fact, by 1992 the chapter found itself with such a budget surplus that the president asked for suggestions on how to spend it. Ideas included subsidizing students, paying for the annual business meeting and scholarships to the SLA conference or other conferences.
In July of 1991 the White House Conference on Library and Information Services brought together 700 delegates who passed 97 resolutions. Most relevant for special libraries included a call to enhance public/private partnerships, the need to develop a model for marketing library services and a recommendation to establish a clearinghouse for scientific research projects. In related government news, the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 guaranteed support for the National Research and Education Network which was to “expand Internet and provide links between computers in research facilities, educational and government institutions and industry.”
Also in 1991 Chicago’s Rosary College announced that it was considering offering ALA accredited courses for those pursuing a Master’s Degree at the College of St. Catherine. CSC began its Master’s program in Library Science in 1992.
The first mention of the word “internet” (in all caps) as something specifically related to the chapter was made in the February 4, 1992 board meeting minutes: “You will be able to connect to SLA Headquarters in Washington DC through INTERNET by January 1993.” At a January 1994 board meeting a discussion arose “regarding the usefulness of the Internet and how we should be leaders in developing access and services.” A discussion earlier in the day at a CE event was about “developing a gopher that would help information professionals identify the subset of the Internet that is relevant to our profession.”
The Quality in Action award was created on November 18, 1992, to award an information professional or team of professionals utilizing quality improvement techniques to enhance their own info organization or the profession through chapter activities. The first winner in 1994 was Doris Dingley, 1985-86 President, for transforming a 50% loss of her physical space into a virtual library.
By the mid -90s a new logo for the chapter in the shape of a cube was created and a new brochure for recruitment was drafted and designed. The average attendance at meetings was 107. Through an astute fundraising program vendor participation increased. 23 new students joined the chapter and Minnesota became one of the fastest growing chapters in SLA. Programming around this time included hints of super searchers, charting the future of an organization’s library, merging onto the information superhighway, trends in document delivery, telecommuting, mining the internet and how to dress business casual. A new list-serv was set to be complete by May 1996. The International Committee began a relationship with the Ukraine to send discarded magazines to the country for use in their libraries.
In 1997 the chapter’s web page was up and running and the board removed the following statement from the chapter’s strategic plan: “Identify and appoint resource persons to provide members with training and informal consultation on connecting to and using the INTERNET.” Programming included information technology in the next millennium, understanding and using Java, marketing your services with presentation software and information professionals on corporate project teams. The chapter roster was up to 280 members.
As the 90s drew to a close the meeting notices were sent to members electronically. The web site was moved to headquarters and the final paper copy of the bulletin was distributed. The conference in Minneapolis was a success due to the hard work of the committee and they noted in their annual report that they had performed the following tasks: created and staffed a hospitality booth at the convention center, created a website for the conference, hosted a chapter reception, included student volunteers and provided scholarships, handled the promotion and public relations, secured funding from vendors and at chapter fundraising events and arranged local library tours. Virginia Ferestad, 1988-89 President, and Janet Fabio, 1992-93 President, received the Quality in Action award for their work on local arrangements.
Two students in the MLIS program at the College of St. Catherine, Kristine Spanier, 2009 President (and the author of this history), and Mike Beaverson organized the first Minnesota student chapter of SLA and the chapter welcomed them to attend board meetings. Julia Peterson was the first faculty advisor of the chapter.
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The early ‘00s
As the new millennium began membership was up to 290. The chapter instituted its first mentoring program which paired students with working professionals. Programs during this time included: packaging your product to create value, the benefits of portals in the corporate and financial services markets and ROI and the Information Professional.
Donna Koenig, 2000-01 President, remembered “We expanded the board to include President Elect Elect because of the timing of the Leadership Conference. Generally all programs for the year had already been planned or set up by the Program Chair or President Elect by the time the conference was held in January. We added this positions so that the person who would plan the meetings would be in place and could benefit from the conference.” Randi Madisen, 2002-03 President, remembered the succession planning also as a benefit in case a president had to leave during their term as had just happened in 1999 when Arlene Mathison, 1999-2000 President, had to move temporarily to Singapore. With the “elect elect” position there would always still be two people to work together. The board also added Hospitality Chairs to help with registration of the meetings and greeting people at the time of the event.
As the dot-com bubble burst in 00-01, Lisa Olson, 2001-02 President, organized a group of librarians who were seeking new career opportunities. A video teleconference on Libraries and Anti-Terrorism measures was sponsored by SLA, AALL, MLA and AARL after the 9/11 terror attack.
In 2003, the year of the chapter’s 60th anniversary, two options for changing the name of the association were presented at the annual conference: Information Professionals International and SLA with no meaning behind the acronym. Coincidentally, an infamous Minnesotan, Sara Jane Olson, who had once belonged to the radical - and violent - Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was arrested for her past crimes during the time of our name debate which only added to the distress over “SLA.” This confusion over the two similarly named groups had been simmering for years. In fact, when Virginia Ferestad was serving as Treasurer in the 70s during the time of the Patty Hearst kidnapping which had been committed by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, Virginia had carried onto a bus a fat brown envelope marked “SLA Treasurer.” A young man looked at her for quite a while before finally asking, “Are you really an SLA member?” Even so, SLA, with its meaning remaining behind the acronym, continued to be the name of our association after a contentious debate and vote at the conference.
Kaia Densch, 2003-04 President, remembered a sad moment during this time: “I remember when Grieg Aspnes, one of our early members and the fourth president of our chapter died. His family called me and asked to list our chapter as a place to donate money in his name. This was the beginning of the Grieg Aspnes memorial award...I had many conversations with his family and I was so honored that they thought of our chapter and how important SLA was to their father.” The award was given annually until 2013.
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This particular version of our chapter’s history, drafted in the summer of 2013, ends in 2003, 66 years after our inception. It is this author’s opinion that perspective is needed to fully appreciate the events and actions that occur during a period of time before they are analyzed and documented for the ages. Thus, the ten years that passed between 2003 and 2013 should be written about for our next major anniversary celebration in 2018, when we are 75 years old. Lastly, this history should not be considered fully definitive. Any interested chapter member is invited to visit the Special Collections at St. Catherine University, dive into archives held in the multiple cream colored boxes, and expand or add to any area of this document.
Prepared by Kristine Spanier, 2009 President
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