History of the Chapter

History of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Special Libraries Association

The Philadelphia Chapter of the Special Libraries Association began as a local library organization, the Special Libraries Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity, which was founded in 1919.  It promoted the collection, organization, and dissemination of information to executives, research directors, and employees of industrial firms.  It also developed the use of pertinent facts and technical materials in the operation of all types of business.

In 1933 the Council affiliated with the Special Libraries Association and became the Philadelphia Chapter.  At that time the Special Libraries Association was an international organization of 5,000 special librarians.  Its membership was composed of librarians and research workers who were actively engaged in the administration and interpretation of technical information in advertising and financial companies; in industrial firms manufacturing diverse products such as chemicals, electrical machinery, food, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, radios, steel, and textiles; and in governmental, educational, and social welfare institutions.

The Council had special interest groups within its membership such as the Science-Technology Group and the Social Science Group.  These groups developed specific projects for the improvement of libraries and research organizations.

In 2009, the Philadelphia Chapter and the Central Pennsylvania Chapter merged but retained the name Philadelphia Chapter.  The Central Pennsylvania Chapter was formed in 1979 by SLA members who lived and/or worked in Central Pennsylvania.  Most of their membership and events were located in State College or Harrisburg/Hershey area.

The chapter has operated an Employment service since 1930 and currently posts job advertisements for special librarians in all regions of the Chapter’s geographic scope: eastern Pennsylvania as far west as State College, the state of Delaware and western New Jersey near Philadelphia.

The Bulletin, the Philadelphia chapter newsletter, was published from vol. 1, 1934 – vol. 70, 2005.  It contained news of interest to special librarians.  The Central PA Chapter published a newsletter, called Key Notes from Central Pennsylvania, from June 1979 until 2008.

The chapter published the Directory of Libraries and Information Sources/Centers in Philadelphia and Vicinity from 1920-1999 in paper format.  From 2004-2007 the Directory was produced online.  It was discontinued in 2007 when the Chapter determined that information about local libraries could be found easily through other Internet resources.

Electronic links to the chapter include the chapter’s SLA Connect Community (which replaced the listserv in 2016), the chapter website, established in the late 1990s, and the chapter blog, established in 2007.

Regular chapter meetings are held from March through December in member library facilities, restaurants or meeting rooms.  The programs consist of panel discussions, featured speakers, practical demonstrations of technology, and social occasions. Regional dine-arounds or happy hours are also held in various locations through the Chapter’s geographic scope.

The archives of the Philadelphia Chapter have been housed at Friends Hospital, QVC (1994-2004), and Drexel University (2005-present).  Archives of the Central PA Chapter have been housed at Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus, Paterno Library, Special Collections Library since 1988.

Visit our Chapter’s Milestones in History to learn more about our history.

Compiled by:
Marjorie Smink
February 28, 2009

Updated by:
Valerie Ryder
November 1, 2017
with information about the Central Pennsylvania Chapter provided by
Amy L. Paster, Archivist for Central PA Chapter