Pharmaceutical & Health Technology

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  • 1.  PHT's First Seven Years

    Posted 01-18-2023 11:51
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    Now entering its 76th year, the Pharmaceutical & Health Technology Community was founded in 1947 as a Section under SLA's Sci-Tech Division. It officially became its own SLA Division in 1965. But how did this new, distinct professional group start?

    While looking at an early slice of the PHT archives (see related story about that, below) I came across an engaging account of the first seven years of the Pharmaceutical Section. "Now I am Seven" was written and presented by librarian Lorena E. Keigl (the spelling is difficult to discern) at the Pharmaceutical Section Dinner at the SLA Meeting in Cincinnati in 1954.

    The story, told from the perspective of a 7-year-old, starts on p. 7 of the attached PDF. It is an entertaining read that outlines the challenges of establishing a professional association in a short time with a few driven librarians leading the way.

    There are also descriptions of the efforts behind different published reference works undertaken by the group, as well as travel stories from the 1940s and 1950s in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlantic City, St. Paul, New York, and Toronto.

    Two and a half months before the annual 1947 SLA meeting, SLA Vice President Alberta L. Brown, of the Upjohn Company, came up with the idea to create a section within in the Scientific-Technology Division to "provide for the numerous pharmaceutical librarians a means of discussing mutual problems." Sci-Tech Division Chair Irene M. Strieby, of Eli Lilly Labs, agreed, and they quickly worked together, with a goal of launching it at the fast-approaching SLA annual meeting.

    On June 12, 1947, nineteen pharma librarians gathered for the first time at "a luncheon in Parlor H of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago."  (That hotel still exists as the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago, pictured above.) They chose the name "Pharmaceutical Section in the Science-Technology Division."

    Initiating a new professional group is not without its challenges, but the founders persevered. The "7-year-old" recounts the effort:

                  "The fact that I [the Pharmaceutical Section] was wanted and needed so badly contributed to the smoothness of an otherwise 'strenuous period.'"

     And was proud of the outcome:

                    "Pardon my expression, borrowed from the sales division of a pharmaceutical company, but I [the Pharmaceutical Section] was a bell-ringer right from the start."

    The author also tells of three librarians from New York who arrived in Chicago for the 1947 SLA annual meeting to find their hotel reservations lost. Initially, the trio was provided a business luncheon room, but later was rewarded with a "luxurious hotel suite," complete with radio. "This was the beginning of convention suites for pharmaceutical librarians."

    At the conclusion of its initial year, the Annual Report of the Pharmaceutical Section stated,

                   "During the first year we accomplished little beyond becoming a cohesive group. Our main objective was to make the profession aware of our existence and to produce                  a good meeting."

    Sounds like a great goal then -- and now.

    Bonus: Continue to p.17, the last page of the PDF, to see that Irene Streiby, of the Eli Lilly Company, was awarded the 1956 SLA Professional Award, along with a silver coffee service.


    To research the history of the Pharmaceutical & Health Technology Community for a session at the PHT Meeting in Philadelphia in October 2022, I reached out to the most recent PHT archivist I was aware of, John Carey. He replied, "FINALLY I know why I hung onto the PHT archives for this long!  When I retired in 2014, I turned the archives over, but I don't recall to whom. However, I have them all digitized on my computer. It amounts to 700 mb +.  I will put them on a thumb drive and mail them to you. I hope you hear from someone who can help with records after 2014." 

    Thank goodness John always was a diligent archivist.

    Susan Gleckner
    (908) 672-1535


    PHT Archive 1948-1956.pdf   448 KB 1 version