ACRL History

CHOICE History

Portions of this history are reprinted with permission from the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, 3rd edition, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 2010, volume 1, pp. 358-373 .


As of July 2009, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the largest division of the American Library Association (ALA), is a national organization of academic and research libraries and librarians. ACRL represents librarians working with all types of academic libraries—community and junior college, college, and university —as well as comprehensive and specialized research libraries and their professional staffs. In July 2009, ACRL had a total of 12,830 members (accounting for 19% of ALA’s membership): 11,956 personal members, 835 organizational members, and 39 corporate members.  Approximately 40% of the personal members work in research/doctoral granting institutions, 23% in comprehensive institutions, 15% in 4-year colleges, 11% in 2-year/technical institutions, 2% in independent research libraries, 2% in graduate schools of library and information science, and 7% in other types of organizations. ACRL activities are guided by the core values, vision, and goals in the Strategic Plan. The core purpose of ACRL is to lead academic and research librarians and libraries in advancing learning and scholarship.  ACRL advances its work by serving as a channel of communication among academic librarians, faculty, students, administrators, other information professionals, higher education organizations, federal, state, and local governments, and the larger society. It is the leading professional organization of choice for promoting, supporting, and advancing the values of academic libraries to the higher education community. ACRL and, indeed, the American Library Association itself, were founded to establish regular channels for communication among librarians. Today ACRL is a dynamic, inclusive organization that has grown from its early origins of college and reference librarians to a large association encompassing all types of positions in all types of academic and research libraries. ACRL members hold a variety of positions and responsibilities in the areas of management, public and information services, technical services, online services, library automation and networks, information literacy, collection development, rare books and special collections, non-print media, and distributed education.


Since the late nineteenth century, conferences and meetings of professional groups have been an American institution. They reflect our penchant for association and our passion for professional self-improvement. In 1853 American librarians held their first convention in New York City. About one-fifth of the 81 librarians who attended the meeting were college librarians.(1)  Not until a generation had passed, however, and the crisis surrounding the Civil War was over, did American librarians hold a second national meeting. In the spring of 1876, Melvil Dewey and Frederick Leypoldt sent out their famous call for a conference of librarians to promote "efficiency and economy in library work."(2) Of the 103 librarians present when the conference convened in Philadelphia in September, 10 were college librarians.(3) The focal point of the 1876 meeting was the reading of papers on practical library subjects such as cooperative cataloging, indexing, and public relations. The response to the program was apparently positive because the conference participants voted on the final day of the meeting to establish the American Library Association and to hold Annual Conferences.(4)

From the beginning the American Library Association was a predominantly public library organization. But, the areas of common interest between public and academic libraries are extensive, and for the first dozen years of the association's existence the college librarians attending ALA conferences did not hold separate meetings. Finally, in 1889, a group of 13 college librarians caucused at the Annual Conference in St. Louis and recommended that a college library section be formed. The following year at the 1890 Annual Conference in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 15 librarians representing most of the major colleges of the Eastern seaboard, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brown, held the first meeting of the College Library Section.(5)  The new section was a small, relatively informal discussion group attended for the most part by administrators who could afford long-distance travel. The annual meetings of the section provided a forum for the presentation and discussion of papers on such topics as reference work, cataloging, departmental collections, union lists, and the like.(6)

In 1897 the section acquired a new name, the College and Reference Library Section (to recognize the participation of reference librarians) and, after the turn of the century, began to select officers to plan annual meetings. Not until 1923, however, did the section adopt its own bylaws and thereby cross the line that separates a discussion group from a section within ACRL today. The 1923 bylaws regularized the existence of the section by establishing a Board of Management with three officers to conduct the business of the section between conferences and provided for the levying of annual membership dues of 50 cents.(7) In the course of the 1920s attendance at section meetings grew from 90 in 1923 to 240 in 1926 and peaked at 800 in 1928 before dropping off to 600 in 1929. The meeting program of the section during the twenties and thirties included general sessions for the whole section as well as separate roundtables for college and reference librarians. The topics discussed at the early section meetings are issues that still confront academic librarians today: faculty status and personnel classification, teaching students, interlibrary loan, library standards, etc.(8)

From 1890 to 1938 the College and Reference Library Section served primarily as a forum for discussion. But, beginning in the 1920s, pressure began to build in the academic library profession for the creation of a stronger professional organization capable of undertaking a broad range of activities, programs, research, and publications. The occasion for a radical restructuring of the section came in the mid-1930s when ALA roundtables representing teachers, college librarians, and junior college librarians expressed the desire to affiliate with the College and Reference Library Section. In 1936 the chair of the section appointed a Committee on Reorganization to develop plans for restructuring the section. The final report of the committee in 1938 recommended the adoption of new bylaws that would transform the section into an Association of College and Reference Libraries with full autonomy over its own affairs. The new bylaws provided for the creation of subsections within the association for college libraries, junior college libraries, teachers college libraries, university libraries, and other groups that might wish to affiliate.


The section approved the proposed bylaws in June 1938 and officially became the Association of College and Reference Libraries (ACRL) by the end of the year. The ALA Council responded by ratifying a new ALA constitution that made provision for the creation of self-governing divisions within ALA, entitled to receive a share of ALA dues. ACRL swiftly prepared a new constitution to meet the conditions for division status, and the ALA Council recognized ACRL as ALA's first division on May 31, 1940.(9)  The Association of College and Reference Libraries started its new life with six nearly formed subsections of its own: a University Libraries Section, College Libraries Section, Junior College Libraries Section, Agricultural Libraries Section, Librarians of Teacher Training Institutions Section, and Reference Libraries Section. When the Reference Libraries Section departed to join the newly formed Library Reference Services Division in 1956, ACRL substituted "Research" for "Reference" in its name and became the Association of College and Research Libraries.(10) With its sections, chapters and discussion groups, ACRL grew rapidly after its beginnings in 1938: membership jumped from 737 in 1939 to 2,215 in 1941, rose to 4,623 in 1950,(11) and stood at 12,830 in July 2009.

Communities of Practice

One of ACRL’s primary strengths lies in the effectiveness of its communities of practice, including committees, discussion groups, editorial boards, interest groups, sections, and chapter affiliates in meeting the interests of ACRL’s diverse membership.  Membership in ACRL provides opportunities to become involved with communities of practice (including sections and interest groups) that focus on specializations within the profession.  The 42 chapter affiliates provide members with networking opportunities at the local level throughout the North America.


By 1979 the association had 13 sections: the three "types-of-libraries" sections (College, Community College, and University) plus the Arts Section, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Section, Anthropology Section, Instruction Section (name changed from the Bibliographic Instruction Section in 1995), Education and Behavioral Sciences Section (into which the old Teachers Training Section was incorporated), Law and Political Science Section, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Science and Technology Section (with which the Agricultural Section was merged), Slavic and East European Section, and the Western European Studies Section (name changed from Western European Specialists Section in 2000). Between 1987 and 1990 three more sections were formed: Women's Studies Section in 1987; African-American Studies Librarians Section in 1989 (name changed from Afro-American in 1997); and the Distance Learning Section in 1990 (name changed from Extended Campus Libraries Services Section in 1998). In 1994 the Literatures in English Section (name changed from English and American Literature Section in 2000) was formed. By 1997 ACRL had 17 sections.

Interest Groups

In 2008, ACRL members approved a bylaws change allowing for the creation of Interest Groups. Members can choose to affiliate with three communities of practice including three interest groups, two interest groups and one section, or one interest group and two sections. By July 2009, six new interest groups were established including Academic Library Services to International Students, Health Sciences, Image Resources, Residency Programs, Universal Accessibility, and Virtual Worlds.


In 1952 ACRL took the first step toward encouraging participation at the local level by recognizing its first local chapter—the Philadelphia Area Chapter. ACRL currently has 42 chapters, two of which include Canadian provinces. The purpose of the chapters is to bring the national organization closer to individual members and to provide programs beneficial to members at the local level.

Discussion Groups

In the 1970s ACRL added a new community of practice to its national organization—the discussion group. By 2008, ACRL had 24 discussion groups. In a sense, the discussion groups are a reincarnation of the original College Library Section. They provide a relatively informal framework for librarians with similar interests to gather to exchange ideas and information.


ACRL is ALA’s key link to the higher education community and one of ACRL’s strategic directions is to ensure that the contributions of academic and research libraries and librarians to higher education, scholarly communication, and civic development are recognized by society. To this end ACRL has undertaken several initiatives.

Council of Liaisons

In 1995 ACRL identified a number of higher education organizations with which to share ideas and implement programs in areas of mutual interest. ACRL assigned member liaisons to these organizations and these individuals comprise the ACRL Council of Liaisons. These organizations currently include: the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Council of Learned Societies, American Educational Research Association, the American Political Science Association,  the American Sociological Association, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Council of Independent Colleges, the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education One of ACRL’s most successful liaisons was with the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), which unfortunately ceased operations in mid-2005.  Sample collaborative activities included joint sponsorship of a provosts’ luncheon at the AAHE annual conference and AAHE participation in developing the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.  ACRL has also developed subject-specific information literacy standards in collaboration with subject  discipline organizations.

Standards and Guidelines

Developing standards is an area where ACRL committees have made some of their most important contributions to academic librarianship. In 1957 the ACRL Committee on Standards, after two years of work, produced the "first real set of ‘Standards for College Libraries' to enjoy the consensual support of the profession."(12) Since then, ACRL committees have developed standards for university libraries and two-year learning resources programs.  In 2004 the ACRL Board approved the outcomes-based “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education,” inclusive of all academic libraries.  Guidelines have also been developed in many specific areas including personnel, instruction, branch libraries, library services for distance education, rare books and special collections, and undergraduate libraries. In January 2000, the ACRL Board approved the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” The American Association of Higher Education and the Council of Independent Colleges have endorsed these standards and they are widely used on campuses across the country.  There is global interest in the information literacy competency standards and they have been translated into 7 languages, including Spanish, Greek, French, Chinese, Japanese, Farsi, and Italian. Discipline-based information literacy guidelines have been developed for anthropology and sociology, literatures in English, political science as well as science and technology.

Among its guidelines in the personnel arena, the ACRL Committee on Academic Status in 1971 drew up "Standards for Faculty Status for College and University Libraries." The ACRL Board approved the Standards in June 1971, and as a corollary ACRL drafted a "Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians" with the American Association of Colleges (AAC) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). ACRL, AAC, AAUP, and a host of other associations endorsed the statement, which laid down a clear definition of the obligations and benefits of academic status.  This Joint Statement was reaffirmed by the ACRL Board of Directors at the 2007 Annual Conference.  In 1992 "Standards for Faculty Status for College and University Librarians" was revised—"the first revision of this seminal document in the twenty-one years that had elapsed since its approval by a voice vote of the membership at Dallas in 1971."(13) At the 1993 Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Council, by consent, approved the incorporation of the revised Standards into the ALA Handbook of Organization. Council's exceptional action reaffirms faculty status as the desired and appropriate condition of academic librarians nationally and lends the document the support of the prestigious parent body."  A new revision of the Standards was approved the ACRL Board of Directors at the 2007 Annual Conference.

In 1997 the Board approved changing the name of the Academic Status Committee to the Academic Librarians Status Committee.  At the 2005 Annual Conference, the ACRL Board of Directors approved an updated version of the “Guidelines for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians.” At the 2006 Midwinter Meeting, the ACRL Board of Directors approved the “Guidelines for Media Resources in Academic Libraries” and a revision of the “Guidelines for Academic Status for College and University Librarians.”  The 2007 Annual Conference saw the ACRL Board of Directors reaffirm the 1989 “Statement on the Certification & Licensing of Academic Librarians” and the “Statement on the Terminal Professional Degree for Academic Librarians,” and approve the “Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators.”  2009 saw a number of standards reversed and developed including:

  • “ALA-SAA Joint Statement on Access to Research Materials in Archives and Special Collections Libraries”
  • "Guidelines for Curriculum Materials Centers”
  • “A Guideline for the Screening and Appointment of Academic Librarians”
  • “Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators: A Practical Guide”         


The ACRL awards program honors the best and brightest stars of academic librarianship. Twenty awards recognize and honor the professional contributions and achievements of ACRL members. This special recognition by ACRL enhances the sense of personal growth and accomplishment of its members, provides its membership with role models, and strengthens the image of its membership in the eyes of employers, leadership, and the academic community as a whole. Among its most prestigious achievement awards are the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award sponsored by YBP Library Services and the Excellence in Academic Libraries Awards sponsored by Blackwell’s Book Services.

There are three basic types of ACRL awards: achievement and distinguished service, research/travel grants and publications. Achievement and distinguished service awards are intended to honor academic and research librarians for significant past achievements, such as publications, program development, or general leadership in the profession. Such awards include a plaque, and may also involve a cash award. Research and travel awards, normally in the form of grants, can also recognize past achievements, but their main purpose is to assist academic and research librarians in completing a research project, usually relating to some aspect of academic or research librarianship. Publication awards are given for outstanding articles, bibliographies, catalogs, etc. ACRL awards are made to either individuals or groups. Depending upon the terms of the award, recipients don’t necessarily need to be members of ACRL. All ACRL awards conform to the guidelines contained in the Awards Manual of the American Library Association.  (Go to and click on “Awards & Scholarships.”)

Scholarly Communication

In 2002 ACRL embarked on a three-year scholarly communications initiative as one of its highest strategic priorities. Addressing issues critical to the future of all academic libraries, the association will work to reshape the current system of scholarly communications, focusing on education, advocacy, coalition building and research. Broad goals of the initiative include creating increased access to scholarly information; fostering cost-effective alternative means of publishing, especially those that take advantage of electronic information technologies; and encouraging scholars to assert greater control over scholarly communications. ACRL has partnered with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) signing on to letters in support of a number of calls for broader access to scholarly works, including several regarding the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) policies on open access for federally funded research. ACRL and SPARC partnered to offer an invitational only webcast to prepare committed grassroots advocates to take action in 2007. ACRL has participated in the Information Access Alliance (IAA) and the Open Access Working Group (OAWG), cosponsoring a symposium on anti-trust issues.  ACRL also created a standing committee on Scholarly Communication to coordinate the association's scholarly communications activities and to host a discussion group for further exploration of these issues beyond the initial three-year launch of the program. ACRL partnered with ARL to offer an Institute on Scholarly Communication in July 06, December 06, and July 07. This immersive learning experience prepares participants as local experts within their libraries and equips them with tools for developing campus outreach strategies. ACRL and ARL formalized their agreement and planned the first licensed regional institute for December 07 and a second in December 08. A regional event allows the ACRL to support institutions that would not, for whatever reason, attend a national event.  This move to a regional event as a natural evolution in the life of the institute will enable the ACRL to refocus its national efforts to meet the changing needs of the library community. ACRL and ARL partnered with SPARC to offer 4 webcasts on Author Rights during fall 06 – Spring 07. ACRL convened an invitational meeting in July 07 to collectively brainstorm the evidence needed to inform strategic planning for scholarly communication programs. In November 07, ACRL issued a resulting white paper, “Establishing a Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication: A Call for Community Engagement.” In 2009 ACRL joined the Library Copyright Alliance and submitted briefs and comments for the courts and the Department of Justice about regarding the proposed Google Book Settlement.

Information Literacy

ACRL has undertaken a number of initiatives related to information literacy--the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. Developing information literacy skills gives individuals the tools they need to become independent lifelong learners. For those working in information literacy, ACRL supports programs in the areas of professional development, assessment, and instructional development. Spearheading many of these programs is the Institute for Information Literacy (IIL).  IIL is charged with preparing librarians to become effective teachers in information literacy programs; supporting librarians, other educators and administrators in taking leadership roles in the development of information literacy programs; and forging new partnerships within the educational community to work towards information literacy curriculum development.

Conceptualized by Cerise Oberman, dean of libraries at SUNY Plattsburgh, the Institute for Information Literacy (IIL), was established by the ACRL Board at the 1997 ALA Annual Conference under the name National Information Literacy Institute. A major activity of the IIL is the immersion program (see page 22 for details).

The IIL also developed “Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline,” announced in June 2003.

ACRL approved the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education at Midwinter 2000.  In response to inquiries from members about their use on campuses, a training program was developed and was made available to members during Annual Conferences and Midwinter Meetings.  Both the American Association of Higher Education and the Council of Independent Colleges have endorsed the standards.  Many of ACRL’s sections are working on developing discipline–specific standards for information literacy.  The first of these discipline-specific standards to be completed, “Information Literacy Standards for Science and Technology,” was approved in 2006, “Research Competency Guidelines for Literatures in English” was approved in 2007, “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Anthropology and Sociology” and “Political Science Research Competency Guidelines” were approved in 2008. ACRL has also reviewed information literacy standards for music developed by the Music Library Association.

IMLS Grant

In 2000 ACRL received a $150,000 National Leadership grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop tools and training to help librarians better assess student learning outcomes in information literacy courses. The work of thirty librarians and their campus teams in implementing and assessing information literacy courses was widely disseminated through presentations and publications.

Public Policy Advocate

In September 1997, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in concert with the ALA Washington Office embarked upon its public policy initiative. The goal was to educate academic librarians about legislative/public policy issues pertinent to academic libraries and higher education. ACRL staff, the ACRL Government Relations Committee, the ACRL Copyright Committee, the ACRL Legislative Network, the ACRL Board, the ALA Washington Office and other appropriate ACRL entities carry out the advocacy work. These groups work together to develop a legislative agenda that identifies ACRL policy priorities.

ACRL communicates information on its policy priorities via many means. A Legislative Network consisting of a representative from each of the 42 ACRL chapters and an electronic distribution list (LEGNET) was established to share the legislative agenda with other ACRL members, their institution’s administration and their congressional representative. Information on issues is also disseminated using the ACRLeads electronic distribution list, C&RL News, flyers, letters, the ACRL Legislative website, and ACRL Legislative Update, an electronic newsletter. When the ALA conference takes place in Washington, DC, ACRL has offered advocacy preconferences designed to acquaint academic librarians with federal legislative issues and to equip them with the skills needed to deliver effective messages to congressional representatives. ACRL also encourages participation in ALA Legislative Day and hosts a special luncheon to highlight issues of importance to academic librarians.

The Board approved the recommendations of ACRL’s Task Force on National Advocacy at the 2005 Midwinter Meeting. To supplement the existing ACRL Legislative Network, ACRL has created the new position of Legislative Advocate. Recognizing that not all ACRL members are active in their local chapters, we are directly recruiting legislative advocates, in an effort to complement the good work the chapter networks and the Chapter Legislative Coordinators are doing. Legislative Advocates work as possible with other library legislative efforts in the state or region. 38 Legislative Advocates serve in the inaugural group, appointed in Spring 2007. ACRL hired Visiting Program Officer Michael McLane in late 2007 to expand the program, organize training opportunities and  undertake assessment.

@ Your Library Campaign and Grassroots Advocacy

Although generally viewed positively, libraries are often taken for granted. Recognizing this challenge, in 2001 the American Library Association launched The Campaign for America's Libraries, a five-year commitment, to speak loudly and clearly about the value of libraries and librarians to our communities, schools, academic institutions, and businesses, as well as to our society, democracy, and the new digital age.  Based on research and crafted to target key audiences, The Campaign worked to raise public understanding that libraries are dynamic, modern community centers for learning, information and entertainment. The campaign is designed to heighten awareness regarding the vibrancy, vitality and real value of today's libraries, to galvanize public support, and influence public policy. Working under the umbrella of the American Library Association @ your library campaign, ACRL led the effort to develop a public relations campaign for academic libraries. Consumer research was undertaken in order to develop promotional materials.  A toolkit was developed, mailed to all ACRL members, distributed at the 2003 National Conference, and is now available on the ACRL website.  The toolkit is kept up-to-date by ACRL; Marketing Academic and Research Libraries Committee.

ACRL has also launched a multi-year effort to emphasize the importance of academic libraries and librarians to the higher education community. A series of ads, focusing on the exciting things happening @ your library, was placed in The Chronicle of Higher Education beginning in 2001. Testimonials from faculty, students, and administrators were an important component of this campaign.  ACRL’s Excellence in Academic Libraries award winners have also been recognized in the ads.  In 2003 the Board established the Marketing Academic and Research Libraries (MARL) Committee to continue developing @ your library campaign tools for academic and research libraries and to eventually update the toolkit.  In 2005 and 2007, MARL presented a Best Practices in Marketing @ your library Award.

ACRL President Camila Alire continued efforts to emphasize the value of academic and research libraries and librarians during her presidential year in 2006.  A grassroots advocacy toolkit, focusing on “The Power of Personal Persuasion” was developed and mailed to every ACRL member.  ACRL President Pamela Snelson continued the advocacy role by commissioning research on what senior academic administrators expect from librarians.

Recruitment to the Profession

Professional associations such as the American Library Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and state-based associations are key stakeholders in recruitment and retention efforts. Librarianship is experiencing a labor gap between increasing demand for library and information science professionals and a declining supply of qualified individuals – resulting in an increasing number of unsuccessful recruitment efforts. In response to these developments, the Personnel Administrators & Staff Development Officers Discussion Group of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) established the Ad Hoc Task Force on Recruitment & Retention Issues in early 2001 to examine how academic libraries can successfully recruit and retain professionals in an increasingly competitive environment. In 2002 ACRL and ARL formed a joint task to work on recruitment issues.  A short video, “Faces of a Profession @ Your Library” highlighting the benefits of careers in academic and research libraries, was developed under the Task Force’s leadership.  This video is freely available for downloading from the Web or DVD and VHS formats are available for purchase.

In 2007, ACRL released “Achieving Racial and Ethnic Diversity among Academic and Research Librarians: The Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Librarians of Color,” a white paper commissioned by the ACRL Board of Directors working group on diversity.  Building on the 2002 ACRL white paper, “Recruitment, Retention & Restructuring: Human Resource in Academic Libraries,” the authors discuss efforts to promote, develop and foster workplaces that are representative of a diverse population, along with addressing the development of a workplace climate that supports and encourages the advancement of librarians from underrepresented groups.


Summit on Technology and Change in Academic Libraries - In November 2006, ACRL convened a roundtable of librarians, higher education administrators, publishing and information industry leaders to address how technologies, on the one hand, and the changing climate for teaching, learning, and scholarship, on the other, will likely recast the roles, responsibilities, and resources of academic libraries over the next decade. One of the outcomes of the roundtable was a roadmap for ACRL to help its members deal with the ongoing changes in the profession and the academy. A white paper entitled “Changing Roles of Academic and Research Libraries,” was posted to the ACRLog. Then Vice-President Julie Todaro provided a detailed response to the essay and invited others to comment.

Stepping Through the Open Door:  A Forum on New Modes of Information Delivery in Higher Education – In March 2007, ACRL joined EDUCAUSE and the National Association of College Stores to jointly sponsor an invitation-only forum focused on changing roles within higher education. An article from a participant appeared in C&RL News and the report was issued by the conveners in September 2007.


ACRL supports and enhances the professional development and growth of academic and research librarians through its numerous professional development activities.

ACRL Conferences

On its 40th birthday in 1978 ACRL took a giant step forward by convening its first National Conference, distinct from ALA, in Boston. The conference featured a three-day program of major addresses and research papers that attracted 2,625 participants. Participants praised the conference for focusing on academic librarianship, for stimulating research on the issues facing academic librarianship, and for bringing together librarians with a common professional interest in academic libraries.

The conference now held every odd year, begun primarily as an outlet for presenting formal research papers, has responded to member interests and changes in the profession by diversifying its content over the years and attracting a more global audience. ACRL dropped the “National” from the Conference name in 2011, as the conference now welcomes attendees from over 26 countries. New programming has been developed by adding panel sessions, by inviting noted leaders to write papers on current topics, by adding more opportunities for networking and informal dialogue (e.g., roundtable discussions, dinner with colleagues), and by engaging attendees more actively in the learning process with a wider range of session formats. The 1999 National Conference offered first ever “conference-within-a-conference” on the topic of student learning and the first live Web broadcast. The 2005 conference saw the first full- fledged Virtual Conference offered in conjunction with a National Conference.  The 2007 conference held the first Cyber Zed Shed, now known as TechConnect Presentations that demonstrate technology-related innovations. IdeaPower and THATCamp formats were added to the 2011 and 2013 conferences respectively to allow for more late-breaking and spontaneous generation of content.

Interest in presenting at the conference has steadily increased since 1978. Typically the conference will feature  about 84 contributed papers, 63 panel sessions, 7 preconferences, 16 workshops, 30 TechConnect presentations, 200 poster sessions, and 100 roundtable discussions. Acceptance rate, on average, has been around 20-30%, depending on the proposal type.  Attendance at the conference has climbed over the past few years with about 3,000 attendees, 1,000 exhibitors and 500 virtual participants for each biennial conference.  Web broadcasts of sessions have been available on demand to broaden the reach of sessions to those unable to attend.  ACRL also launched its first Virtual Conference online community in 2005 and has continued the practice since to allow attendees the opportunity connect and access the conference content for up to one year after the event.

Since its first National Conference in 1978, ACRL has gone on to hold successful conferences in; Minneapolis (1981, 1,881 participants), Seattle (1984, 1,754 participants), Baltimore (1986, 2,309 participants), Cincinnati (1989, 2,735 participants), Salt Lake City (1992, 2,241 participants), Pittsburgh (1995, 2,721 participants), Nashville (1997, 2,973 participants), Detroit (1999, 3080 participants), Denver (2001, 3,388 participants), Charlotte (2003, 3,427 participants), Minneapolis (2005, 3,946 participants), Baltimore (2007, 4,784 participants), Seattle (2009, 4,321 participants), Philadelphia (2011, 5,312 participants) and Indianapolis (4,824 participants).

ACRL 2015, “Creating Sustainable Community” will be held in Portland, Oregon, March 25 – 28, 2015. ACRL 2017 will be held in Baltimore, Maryland, March 22 – 25, 2017 and ACRL 2019 will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, April 10 – 13, 2019.


ACRL offers online seminars that provide low-cost continuing education opportunities for librarians in a format that allows them to work around their busy schedules. Seminars are typically three weeks long and include real-time and asynchronous activities. Current offerings include, "Assessing Student Learning Outcomes," "Electronic Collection Development for the Academic e-Library," "Creating a Comprehensive Plan for Information Literacy," and “Designing Web Sites for Academic Libraries” and “Virtual Reference Competencies: Acquire and Improve Technical Skills and Knowledge.” In 2004-05, ACRL also began offering live Webcasts, providing participants with interactive learning experiences on special topics, such as developing a library blog, podcasting, and designing library Web sites. Webcasts last from one to two hours and feature a live audio presentation accompanied by lecture slides, Web sites, and other resources. Participants can interact with instructors through text chat, asking questions using a microphone, and responding to polls. Additional online seminars and Webcasts are being developed for 2007-2008.  ACRL established a group registration rate for Webcasts in April 2006.  The group rate allows an institution to register multiple people and project the session to participants in the same location.  In partnership with TLT Group, ACRL has been offering a three-part online information literacy seminar series, featuring Webcasts on assessment, collaboration, best practices, and information literacy resources.  For the second time, ACRL offered a multi-day online-only professional development institute in the spring of a non-national conference year.  The 2008 Spring Virtual Institute focused on issues and challenges facing middle managers and leaders.

In spring 2008, ACRL offered its first Springboard Event.  The 90-minute Springboard webcast was available for free to the full ACRL membership, with the archived content available afterwards to the world via the web.  529 individuals pre-registered for the free event, and ACRL plans to offer the Springboard Event on an annual basis.


With the quantity of information growing exponentially and the expansion of technology into all aspects of the educational process, higher education is looking for those who can lead the way in utilizing these new tools wisely and navigate the numerous challenges facing us all.  It is more important than ever for academic librarians to step up and guide administrators, faculty and students through the minefields of this new information environment.

ACRL takes its responsibilities for developing leaders seriously.  Since 1999, it has partnered with the Harvard University Graduate School of Education to offer a 5-day institute designed to increase the ability of library directors to lead and manage.  The Institute helps participants to assess their own leadership capabilities and to analyze how well their own organizations are positioned to meet current and future challenges.  Sessions focus on such topics as managing change, human resources, applying technology, team building and staff motivation.  Learning is through the case study method.  Typically, ACRL has held reunions for the alumni of this program at the Midwinter Meeting.  In addition, ACRL partnered with Harvard to offer the Advanced Leadership Institute for Senior Academic Liaisons.  This new institute was designed exclusively for senior library leaders and alumni of the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians and addressed critical leadership issues including collaboration and alliances, influence and leadership, managing expectations of presidents and provosts, and the future role of the academic library. The program was offered in March 2008.

In addition, ACRL collaborated with six other higher education associations to offer the 2008 Women’s Leadership Institute in December 2008.  This unique program brought together mid-level administrators from across campus functions to share experiences, develop a better understanding of the campus as a workplace and culture, and create new networks and networking skills. 

Mentoring and Training Programs

Recognizing the importance of training and mentoring, ACRL developed the Academic Library Internship for Administrators of Black College Libraries, an internship program for librarians of predominantly black institutions. In December 1973, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation agreed to underwrite the program with grants totaling $350,000. During the four-year period of the program (1974-1978), 25 librarians from predominantly black institutions of higher education served as management interns for periods of three to nine months at nationally known academic libraries. The evaluation conducted at the end of the program suggests that the interns carried back to their home institutions a broad understanding of the management techniques and styles employed in large academic libraries. In 1987, ACRL received another grant from the Mellon Foundation to conduct a planning project to assist staff in libraries of historically black colleges and universities. 

Under the leadership of Larry Hardesty, the College Libraries Section developed a mentoring program for new college library directors that is now in its fifteenth year. It had received funding from the Council on Library Resource, is now primarily self-supporting with participants bearing the costs, and is now managed by Hardesty as a separate 501(c)3 program and is not an official ACRL project. Since its inception, over 224 first-year college library directors and over 100 experienced library directors have participated in the program.

The ACRL Board established the (ACRL Dr. E.J.) Josey Spectrum Scholar Mentor Committee in 2003 to provide conference programs on mentoring, recruit and maintain a pool of academic and research librarians to serve as mentors to the 50 spectrum scholars annually), and to seek grant funding to underwrite future aspects of the program. Currently, 42 mentees have been assigned mentors.  72 individuals have received mentor training and 52 individuals have applied to be mentees.

“Your Research Coach” was established in 2004-05 by the CLS Research for College Librarianship Committee to help academic librarians with research and scholarly projects. The program provides mentoring to librarians whose institutions cannot offer such support, and who need to publish or present to attain tenure. Seventeen partners have been working with ten coaches on a variety of projects.

Information Literacy Immersion Programs

The ACRL Institute for Information Literacy provides information literacy training and education for librarians in the areas of pedagogy and leadership. The 4.5 day Immersion program provides two tracks for intensive training and education of librarians: 1) the teacher track, focusing on individual development for those who are interested in enhancing, refreshing, or extending their individual instruction skills; and 2) the program track, focusing on developing, integrating, and managing institutional and programmatic information literacy programs. A national faculty of 12 outstanding instruction librarians has been assembled to design, write, and teach the immersion program. The first immersion program was held in July 1999, at Plattsburgh State University of New York and was geared toward academic librarians. Since then a total of 19 immersion programs training more than 1,300 people have been held or licensed in Ohio, Iowa, Washington, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Colorado, California, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Winnipeg, Canada.  While most immersion programs have been held for librarians only, some have been developed to include both librarians and teaching faculty. 

In fall 2006, the Immersion faculty offered the latest addition to the Immersion program - "The Intentional Teacher: Renewal through Informed Reflection."  The Intentional Teacher program provides 3.5 days of learning and reflection for academic librarians and will offer a mixture of structured and co-constructed learning segments such as peer discussions, individual reading and reflection times, and participant-led communities of practice.  The Intentional Teacher track has been integrated into the existing Immersion tracks and all three were offered at Immersion ’08.

The ACRL Institute for Information Literacy announced a new addition to the Immersion program in 2008.  The Assessment Immersion Track: Assessment in Practice is intended for librarians active in teaching and learning and those with leadership roles for information literacy program development who want to improve their knowledge and practice of both classroom and program assessment. The inaugural Assessment Immersion Track was offered in December 2008.

Workshops and Preconferences

ACRL regularly sponsors workshops, seminars, and preconferences at ALA conferences. Most notable in this area are the preconferences developed by the ACRL Rare Books & Manuscripts (RBMS) and Instruction (IS) sections.  For 49 years RBMS has provided three days of programming for rare books, special collection, archives and manuscripts librarians at its annual preconference. The 49th RBMS Preconference, Rare and Special Bytes: Special Collections in the Digital Age, was held in Los Angeles, California, June 24-27, 2008.  RBMS celebrated its 50th anniversary preconference in Charlottesville, Virginia, June 17-20, 2009.

The ACRL Instruction Section often offers preconferences on information literacy topics. Recent preconferences have focused on instruction for first-year undergraduates, assessment issues, and web-based tutorial design. 

In 2002, ACRL began offering workshops prior to the Midwinter Meeting to help meet the demand for education sessions.  In 2003, Midwinter workshops included “Behaviors that Burden the Workplace” and “Creating a Continuous Assessment Environment,” 2004 saw “Information Commons 101,” “Information Literacy across the Curriculum,” and Strategic Marketing for Your Academic and Research Library” offered, and in 2005 offerings included “Assessment in Higher Education: Applying the New ACRL Standards,” “Getting Teacher/Faculty Attention for Information Literacy: New Practical Approaches,” “Reinventing Libraries for the 21st Century, “ and “Statistics for Librarians.”  Workshops and preconferences held in 2006 included "Assessment in Academic Libraries: Using the ACRL Standards for Continuous Evaluations," "“Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Academic and Research Library," "Assessing Information Literacy Learning Outcomes," "Assessment and Beyond: Starting It Off, Pulling It All Together and Making Decisions," "Taking Your Library Liaison Program to The Next Level: Strategies for Outreach and Integration," and "Federated Search: How Do We Teach It?"  2008 offerings were:

  • Assessing Learning Outcomes in Programs Large and Small: A Hands-On Approach
  • Injecting Fun into Library Orientation: How to Engage and Capture your Students through Interactive Presentations
  • Using Organization Development to Create a “Work Place of Choice”

Offerings during 2009 included:

  • Bring it on Home! Creating Custom Search Plug-ins for Your Library
  • Discovering Digitization: Defining Your Path to Digital Access 
  • Do You Q? Looking at Your Users in a New Way
  • Instructional Design for Librarians: The What, Why, and How of ID
  • Nobody told Me I’d Have to Teach! Strategies for the Accidental Librarian
  • The Not-So-Distant Librarian: Online Library Instruction to Engage Students and Faculty

ACRL also offers a variety of programs through its extensive chapter network. Local and regional chapters typically offer annual conference programming. To support these efforts, the ACRL Board of Directors has allocated funding for the ACRL president, vice-president/president-elect and the executive director to visit ACRL chapters. The ACRL Chapters Speakers Bureau fosters closer relations between the Association and its members by creating opportunities for leaders to share perspectives and concerns at the regional and national level.

Annual Conference Programs

As a means of addressing issues of concern and to increase the knowledge of academic librarians, ACRL units develop programs to present at the ALA Annual Conferences.  ACRL Sections and committees submit program proposals to the ACRL office 14 months prior to the Annual Conference at which the program is to be presented. This includes programs that are not requesting funding, as well as those that are asking for funds. In developing a proposal for an annual conference program, program planners must ensure that the program supports the ACRL Strategic Plan. ACRL encourages its units to cosponsor programs with other ACRL or ALA units and outside organizations.

The ACRL Board of Directors provides $20,000 from ACRL’s budget to support Annual Conference programs (excluding cost of audiovisual equipment). The ACRL Professional Development Coordinating Committee (PDCC) determines how these funds are allocated among the program proposals. How well program proposals meet the criteria outlined above is one of the determining factors in whether it is funded or not. The PDCC also considers the unit’s past program performance.  Sometimes there may be a need to seek funding beyond that which is allocated through ACRL to support programs. The Board believes that it is important to coordinate all requests to potential donors and other outside funders through a centralized program. ACRL members may not make any formal requests for contributions on behalf of the division to potential donors without first clearing the request with the ACRL Executive Director.

Career and Job Services

ACRL offers three ways for academic librarians to find out about career opportunities and for employers to build a pool of highly qualified individuals from which to recruit for vacant positions: 1) as the only magazine targeted specifically to academic/research librarians, College & Research Libraries News (C&RL News) is the premier place to advertise academic library job listings; 2) the JobLIST online career center, launched in 2006, is a joint project of American Libraries (AL) magazine, C&RL News, and ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) which incorporates the current AL and ACRL job sites and many services of HRDR, including placement services at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference; and 3) at each National Conference ACRL works with HRDR to offer a job placement service.

Building the Knowledge Base


ACRL strives to be a national and international interactive leader in creating, expanding, and transferring the body of knowledge of academic librarianship. One of the principle motives for creating a separate unit for academic librarians in 1938 was to stimulate research and publication in academic librarianship. The ALA First Activities Committee, a body appointed in the 1920s to review the activities and structures of ALA, reported in 1928 that the ALA publishing program had neglected scholarly and bibliographic publication, the areas of greatest interest to academic librarians. This neglect, said the committee's report, had been so extensive "as to threaten at times actual withdrawal of the College and Reference Section from A.L.A."(14)

C&RL and C&RL News

A year after its creation in 1938, ACRL established an official journal called College & Research Libraries (C&RL). The first issue of the new quarterly publication appeared in December 1939. It was at the same time a professional journal, an official organ of ACRL, and a vehicle for the exchange of news about libraries and librarians. A. F. Kuhlman, the first editor of College & Research Libraries, believed that "the absence of a professional journal devoted specifically to the interests of college, university, and reference libraries… no doubt accounts to a large extent for the lack of a definitive literature dealing with these institutions."(15) Under a series of able editors, from Kuhlman in the 1940s to Joseph Branin who presently edits the journal, C&RL established itself as a premier scholarly journal for the publication of empirical research in academic librarianship and helped to build a body of knowledge and intellectual technique for the academic library profession. In 1950, Arthur Hamlin, then ACRL's executive secretary, called C&RL "the principal jewel in the Association crown."(16) The ACRL Board of Directors decided in 1951 to make College & Research Libraries a membership benefit so that all members would receive the journal without charge. This far-reaching decision made it possible for C&RL to play a key role in unifying the association and the profession. In light of the growing quantity and quality of research about academic librarianship, the Association decided in 1956 to publish C&RL on a bimonthly rather than a quarterly basis. Current and archival issues are freely available online.

In 1967 the people and news portions of the journal were separately published, allowing the journal to focus on its role as a scholarly journal. Since 1967 College & Research Libraries News has served as the official magazine of record of the association and as a clearinghouse for news about academic libraries, librarians, and higher education. A history of the first 30 years of C&RL News appeared in the September 1996 issue as part of an anniversary celebration. In 1993 C&RL News became the first ALA print publication available through the Internet. In 2002 C&RL News began offering an electronic contents service and in 2002, ACRL Update, an electronic biweekly news publication, was launched to provide more current information and news. The full text of all C&RL News articles from January 2004 to the present is freely available online.  RSS feeds of C&RL News contents were launched in 2008.  A sampling of articles from each issue prior to 2004 is also available.

ACRL Publications in Librarianship

In 1952 ACRL began the ACRL Monographs series. By 2008, the series has grown to 60 titles and is now called ACRL Publications in Librarianship. The first volume in the series was Joe W. Kraus's William Beer and the New Orleans Public Libraries, 1891-1927. PIL #58, Centers for Learning (Elmborg & Hook) won the 2007 Ilene E. Rockman Publication of the Year Award.  Other recent titles include Teaching Literary Research: Challenges in a Changing Environment (PIL #60, 2009), Academic Library Research: Perspectives and Current Trends (Radford & Snelson, PIL#59, 2008), and Colleges, Code, and Copyright  (Elmborg & Hook, PIL #57, 2005).


In 1964 ACRL began publishing Choice, the monthly book selection journal for college libraries. Choice lists and carries compact reviews of significant new books and periodicals of interest to college libraries. It seeks to review and evaluate publications both for their place in the literature of the field and for their potential value to an undergraduate college library. Published in Middletown, Connecticut, Choice has a circulation of approximately 5,000, a budget of more than 1.5 million dollars, and a staff of 21.25 (FTE). In 1994 Choice celebrated its 30th anniversary. Choice has also updated Books for College Libraries, the retrospective list of books for college libraries that ALA first published in 1967 and then revised in 1975. Choice published the third edition in 1988. Choice now offers a variety of electronic products including, launched in April 1999, to provide web access to the entire database of over 145,000 Choice reviews published since September 1988. The database is updated monthly with reviews that will be printed in the next monthly issue of Choice. The Choice database is also available for uploading to online catalogs through site licensing agreements.

Resources for College Libraries

The product of a collaborative effort between CHOICE and R. R. Bowker, Resources for College Libraries, the long-awaited successor to Books for College Libraries, 3rd edition, was released in the fall of 2006. RCL is available in a 7-volume print edition and online at (RCLWeb). In addition, RCL content is the key benchmark used in the new Bowker Book Analysis System (BBAS) for college & academic libraries, also launched in the fall of 2006. Additional information about RCL can be found at

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage

RBM, a semiannual publication, began in the spring of 1986 as Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarianship (RBML) on a trial basis under the leadership of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section. The journal was incorporated into the ACRL publishing program in 1988. In 2000, the journal underwent a major revision, including a new name, a new graphic treatment, and a new editorial focus. The editorial focus was broadened to include all types of special collections in a variety of media in order to address the broad range of issues and concerns of professionals who work with such collections.

ACRL Nonserial Publications

Monographic works pertinent to academic and research librarianship are published by ACRL.  ACRL has published a variety of materials including, but not limited to, statistical reports, directories, handbooks, bibliographies, instruction, and collection development.  Typically, ACRL publishes 6 to 10 titles annually, each with an intended audience of 500 to 1,500.  The publications program is intended to be self-supporting.

A complete catalog of all available ACRL publications is available online. ACRL publications are available for purchase from the ALA Store.

CLIP Notes

Among the ACRL publications issued each year are the popular CLIP Notes publications. ACRL’s College Libraries Section produces CLIP (College Library Information Packets) Notes, a series of publications providing practical ideas for managing library programs and services. Each CLIP Note provides data and sample documents from college and small university libraries that will assist readers in establishing or refining services and operations. Recent titles include: Emergency Response Planning in College Libraries (ed. Thomas and Voss, Clip Note #40, 2009), Copyright Policies (ed. Keogh and Crowley, Clip Note #39, 2008), User Surveys in College Libraries (ed. Kopycinski and Sando, Clip Note #38, 2007), and Library Plagiarism Policies (ed. Stepchyshyn and Nelson, Clip Note #37, 2007).

Library Statistics

ACRL's involvement in library statistics goes back to 1906 when James T. Gerould read a paper to the College and Reference Library Section on comparative statistics. Gerould himself started an annual compilation of Statistics for Academic Libraries. Known in the 1920s as "Princeton Statistics," the compilation later became ARL Statistics.(17) In 1941 ACRL itself began to collect statistics for college and university libraries and continued to do so until the late 1950s when the service was discontinued in order to avoid duplicating the efforts of the National Center for Educational Statistics. In 1979, however, the ACRL University Library Section, citing the need for up-to-date comparative library statistics in a usable format, proposed that ACRL collect comparative statistics for the university libraries not covered by ARL Statistics. This led to the publication of ACRL University Library Statistics 1978-1979 in 1980. Additional statistical studies of university libraries were published in 1983 and 1985. In 1984 and 1985 a special Task Force on Library Statistics worked to define the statistical needs of academic libraries. Its work served as the basis for the new standing committee on Academic Library Statistics (now known simply as the Statistics Committee). This committee recommended expanding the survey universe to include the "ACRL 100 libraries" and also revised the survey form to match that used by the federal government. These survey results were published in 1987. In 1989 the survey returned to the non-ARL university libraries. Also in 1989, ACRL issued a compilation of the data from 1979 to 1989 in machine-readable form. Since 1989, the ARL-like survey was administered and published covering the years 1990-91, 1992-93, 1994-95, and 1996-97.

 In 1998, ACRL published the final edition of University Library Statistics, covering 1996-97, and initiated a new statistics project, Academic Library Trends and Statistics. This annual comprehensive data gathering effort includes libraries at all institutions of higher learning in the United States and Canada. The survey form uses a modified version of the form developed for the previous projects. Data gathering is largely via the web and relies on voluntary participation. A core set of data, intended for comparative analysis over time, consists of four major categories: Collections, Expenditures, Library Operations, and Local Characteristics or Attributes. In addition to the core set, additional questions are used to gather data on a variety of topics of interest to the profession and to identify trends and other changes that are having an impact on library operations. Results, arranged by Carnegie classifications, are published in two volumes as well as made available on the web.

In June 2006, based on information provided by the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science Library Research Center (LRC) and committee discussion, the ACRL concluded that some libraries are burdened by a sub-set of the ARL survey questions and the effort necessary to gather data in support of these questions, have resulted in diminishing response rates.  Beginning with the 2006 survey, ACRL will produce two shortened versions of the existing ARL survey and tailor it to better meet the unique needs of member libraries.  The following versions of the existing ARL instrument were offered to ACRL member libraries: ARL survey (existing instrument); 4-year college survey (shortened version of existing ARL instrument); community college survey (shortened version of existing ARL instrument).  Four-year colleges and community colleges had the option of submitting the complete ARL survey (including supplementary e-metrics questions).  Beginning in 2007, four-year colleges, community colleges, and non-ARL doctoral libraries will have the option of completing the new ARL supplementary statistics in addition to the 2006 survey.

Section Newsletters

Most of the seventeen ACRL sections publish a semi-annual newsletter. These newsletters provide information about the section’s activities. A few sections, such as the Western European Studies Specialists and the Slavic and East European Section (SEES) produce in-depth newsletters. The SEES newsletter, published since 1985, averages 75-80 pages and serves as the official record of the section, reporting on section activities and on relevant activities in the field of Slavic and East European librarianship. Minutes from SEES mid-winter and annual committee meetings are included, along with the minutes of AAASS (American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies) Bibliography and Documentation; a reports section; information on new grants and significant acquisitions; new professional appointments; and a bibliography of recent publications. Profiles of special library collections and papers from the annual SEES program are frequently included. The newsletter is distributed internationally and serves as an archival record of Slavic and East European librarianship in North America.

ACRL Website

The World Wide Web provides a powerful opportunity for ACRL units to share information with their membership and with the academic community at large.  The URL of the ACRL Webpage is  The site maintains comprehensive information about ACRL and its programs, including mission and goals, strategic plan, advocacy, information literacy, conferences, institutes, preconferences, publications, standards, membership and links to sections and chapters.  ALA launched a new information architecture in September 2008.  After conducting user studies, ACRL re-designed its website in 2009, using the ALA design as a guide.  ACRL Sections and committees are encouraged to mount their pages on the ALA server but are also free to choose non-ALA servers.

ACRL Insider

In January 2008, ACRL launched a new Web log titled ACRL Insider. Primarily written by staff, ACRL Insider provides updates on ACRL activities, services, and programs, including publications, events, conferences, and eLearning opportunities. The blog also keeps readers up-to-date on ACRL operations.  With the launch of this new communication tool, ACRL hopes to foster openness and transparency by providing an outlet for connection between members and the Board and staff. ACRL complements ACRLog to provide a big picture view of the association. ACRL Insider is available online at


To provide a forum for major issues, the ACRLog, ACRL’s blog, was launched in October 2005.  On an average day, the ACRLog is visited 4,000-4,500 times and more than 4,600 individual posts are read. ACRLog is the work of a team of contributors including Steven J. Bell, Barbara Fister, Marc Meola, and Kevin S. Clark in addition to four first-year librarians.  ACRLog is available at

ACRL Podcasts

ACRL Podcasts have provided fresh dimensions on the issues and events in academic librarianship since January 2007. Podcasts include discussions of ACRL publications such as Student Engagement and Information Literacy, interviews with C&RL News article authors, a discussion of the ALA Emerging Leaders program with then ACRL Vice-President/ President Elect Julie Todaro, and an interview with filmmaker John Waters at the ACRL National Conference in Baltimore. The most popular podcast, with 5,852 listens, is a discussion of the top ten assumptions for the future of academic libraries. ACRL Podcasts are available on the ACRL Insider blog and through iTunes.

ACRL Office

First Executive Secretary

ACRL and its network of sections and committees grew so rapidly after 1938 that by the end of World War II the association could no longer, as A. H. Kuhlman put it, "be expected to run of its own accord."(18) The elected leaders of ACRL were convinced that it was now essential to have a professional executive secretary, working under the direction of the president and Board of Directors, to integrate the activities and services of the association. As early as 1931 the ALA Council, recognizing that the interests of academic libraries had not always received adequate attention at ALA headquarters, authorized the appointment of a College Library Advisory Board (CLAB) to advise the ALA Board of Directors on academic library questions. One of the first recommendations of CLAB was that a full-time academic library specialist be employed at ALA headquarters to provide information and advisory services for college librarians. The ALA Council approved this recommendation for a college library specialist in principle, but throughout the rest of the 1930s and the war period, ALA never found the money to fill the position.(19) The issue came to a head in 1946 when ACRL, with its growing membership and pressing need for professional staff, made clear that it would seriously consider withdrawal from ALA if the question of funds for a paid executive was not resolved satisfactorily. ALA responded within the year by appropriating funds to finance an ACRL headquarters staff.(20)

Orwin Rush, the librarian of Clark University, came to ALA headquarters in the spring of 1947 as ACRL's first executive secretary. After launching the new ACRL office and clearing the way for its future, Rush departed for the University of Wyoming in 1949. In his place came "young Arthur Hamlin, fresh from the University of Pennsylvania." Hamlin described the ACRL office in the early fifties this way: "Physically, the ACRL headquarters office is a second floor front room, complete with fireplace, in the large, old-fashioned, reconverted mansion which is ALA headquarters at 50 East Huron Street in Chicago. Here an active staff of four, the executive secretary, the publications officer, a secretary and a clerk-typist, with their typewriters, telephones, file cabinets, and visitors hold forth. Like many a library staff area, ACRL headquarters is a noisy, crowded, active place."(21) In 1961 a modern headquarters building replaced the old mansion.

Coordination and Oversight

It is the responsibility of the ACRL executive director and staff to coordinate the work of ACRL's 56 committees, 17 sections, 254 section committees and discussion groups, 24 division-level discussion groups, 9 editorial boards, and 42 chapters. To ensure the smooth operation of this complex structure, the headquarters staff monitors the many procedural details associated with appointments, archiving, awards, budgets, elections, meetings, programs, reports, and so on. ACRL currently has 15.75 FTE approved positions for its Chicago office (housed in the ALA headquarters) and 22.4 positions for its CHOICE office in Middletown, Connecticut. The ACRL office works closely with committees and sections to plan stimulating meetings at ALA conferences, and also manages the arrangements for ACRL preconferences and national conferences. Planning for these conferences begins years in advance as detailed arrangements are worked out for hotel space, meeting times, exhibits, programs, publicity, and finances.

The ACRL office supports ACRL's publication program by providing assistance to the editors of C&RL, RBM, and Publications in Librarianship, by working closely with the editor of CHOICE who reports to the executive director, by publishing and distributing the many publications of ACRL committees and sections, and by writing, editing, and publishing C&RL News, the association's monthly news publication. With the exception of CHOICE, the ACRL staff based in Chicago manages the production of all ACRL books and journals.


Together with the ALA Headquarters Information Center, the ACRL office serves as a clearinghouse for information on academic library concerns and issues. The office handles inquiries by mail, fax, e-mail, and telephone regarding policies and practice. It also offers information about ALA activities and services and is in daily contact with the staff of other ALA divisions and offices, including the Washington Office.


ACRL serves as the ambassador for academic libraries and librarians at ALA headquarters. The ACRL Executive Director plays a key role in representing the association to other library and information associations as well as to higher education and government communities. In this role the executive director attends meetings and gives presentations in many parts of the country each year. In doing so, the director strives to maintain and establish lines of communication between the academic library profession and other communities. In 1984 a new standing committee, the Professional Liaison Committee, was established to further cooperative efforts and to put stronger emphasis on ACRL's liaison efforts with other associations. To build upon this work, in 1995 the ACRL Board abolished the Professional Liaison Committee and redeveloped it as the Council of Liaisons, identifying an initial nine important higher education associations to which it will send a liaison.  The Council and the Board annually review the list of liaison organizations

Strategic Planning

Guiding all association activity is the strategic planning process adopted by ACRL. This process relies on member input to articulate the direction of the professional organization, and to identify areas of the highest priority for association activity. Since 1981 ACRL has updated its strategic plan, mission, and vision on a regular basis. Each year the ACRL Board of Directors sets the priorities and performance indicators for the association.  At the 2003 Midwinter Meeting, the Board authorized contracting with Tecker Consultants to lead a strategic planning process.  Extensive data gathering took place including telephone interviews, focus groups, leadership sessions, and an all-member web-based survey.  The Board reviewed the data, drafted a plan, tested its thinking with the members, and made revisions.  The new strategic plan, “Charting Our Future:  ACRL Strategic Plan 2020,” was approved by the Board at the 2004 Annual Conference and is reviewed annually with minor changes being made each fall at the Fall Executive Committee Meeting.  The Board is now working to encourage ACRL’s units to align their work with the strategic plan.  The Board has asked each unit to participate in environmental scanning and to complete annual action plans.


In 2008, after renting space for more than forty years for CHOICE, the ACRL and ALA Boards approved the purchase of office space to CHOICE in the form of a condominium.  Located on Main Street in the newly constructed Liberty Square, CHOICE moved into its top floor in the spring of 2009.


Academic libraries are moving into a century of change that calls for strengthening our collaborations and community relationships if we are to succeed. Through its publications, professional development programs, public policy advocacy, and work with higher education associations, ACRL will continue to enhance the effectiveness of academic and research librarians to advance learning, teaching, and research in higher education. Scholarly communication, information literacy, and recruitment will be of particular concern to the profession and the association in coming years. ACRL initiatives in these areas will help academic librarians learn from one another, become more effective in their work, advance the quality of academic library service, and to promote a better understanding of the role of libraries in academic and research institutions.


The authors wish to acknowledge former ACRL staff whose history of ACRL (Chapter 15 in the ACRL Guide to Policies and Procedures) provides the basis for this entry.


1. Hale, Charles E. The Origin and Development of the Association of College and Research Libraries, 1889-1960. Xerox University Microfilms: Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1976, 24.
2. Thomison, Dennis. A History of the American Library Association, 1876-1972. American Library Association: Chicago, 1978, 6.
3. Hale, 25.
4. Thomison, 8, 9.
5. Hale, 33-36.
6. Ibid., 36-37, 49, 52, 69.
7. Ibid., 40-42, 46-48, 66-68.
8. Ibid., 75-76, 82.
9. Ibid., 106-107, 109-112, 119, 121-124, 136-138; Association of college and reference libraries: report of the committee on reorganization. ALA Bulletin. 1938, 32, 810-15; Reorganization of the college and reference section. ALA Bulletin. 1937, 31, 591, 593-598.
10. Hale, 190, 198-199, 235.
11. Ibid., 83, 179.
12. Kaser, David. A century of American librarianship as reflected in its literature. College & Research Libraries. 1976, 37, 116.
13. Academic Status: Statements and Resources, 2nd Ed.; Kroll, S. ed., Association of College and Research Libraries: Chicago, 1994, iii.
14. Thomison, 116.
15. Kuhlman, A. F., Introducing `college and research libraries'. College & Research Libraries. 1939, 1, 8.
16. Hamlin, Arthur T. Annual report of the ACRL executive secretary, 1949-1950. College & Research Libraries. 1950, 11, 272.
17. Kroll, 54-55.
18. Kuhlman, A. F. Can the association of college and reference libraries achieve professional status? College & Research Libraries. 1946, 7, 151.
19. Hale, 156-161.
20. Thomison, 168-169.
21. ACRL Organizational Manual. Association of College and Reference Libraries: Chicago, 1956, 10-11.

ACRL Presidents (beginning with 1938)*

*formerly College and Reference Section. Name changed by vote of section, June 1938. Approved by ALA Council, December 1938.

1938-39 Frank K. Walter
1939-40 Phineas L. Windsor
1940-41 Robert B. Downs
1941-42 Donald Coney
1942-43 Mabel L. Conat
1943-44 Charles B. Shaw
1944-45 Winifred Ver Nooy
1945-46 Blanche Prichard McCrum
1946-47 Errett Weir McDiarmid
1947-48 William H. Carlson
1948-49 Benjamin E. Powell
1949-50 Wyllis E. Wright
1950-51 Charles M. Adams
1951-52 Ralph E. Ellsworth
1952-53 Robert W. Severance
1953-54 Harriet D. MacPherson
1954-55 Guy R. Lyle
1955-56 Robert Vosper
1956-57 Robert W. Orr
1957-58 Eileen Thornton
1958-59 Lewis C. Branscomb
1959-60 Wyman W. Parker
1960-61 Edmon Low
1961-62 Ralph E. Ellsworth
1962-63 Katherine M. Stokes
1963-64 Neal R. Harlow
1964-65 Archie L. McNeal
1965-66 Helen Margaret Brown
1966-67 Ralph E. McCoy
1967-68 James Humphry III
1968-69 David Kaser
1969-70 Philip J. McNiff
1970-71 Anne C. Edmonds
1971-72 Joseph H. Reason
1972-73 Russell Shank
1973-74 Norman E. Tanis
1974-75 H. William Axford
1975-76 Louise Giles
1976-77 Connie R. Dunlap
1977-78 Eldred R. Smith
1978-79 Evan I. Farber
1979-80 Le Moyne W. Anderson
1980-81 Millicent D. Abell
1981-82 David C. Weber
1982-83 Carla J. Stoffle
1983-84 Joyce Ball
1984-85 Sharon J. Rogers
1985-86 Sharon Anne Hogan
1986-87 Hannelore B. Rader
1987-88 Joanne R. Euster
1988-89 Joseph A. Boissé
1989-90 William A. Moffett
1990-91 Barbara J. Ford
1991-92 Anne K. Beaubien
1992-93 Jacquelyn McCoy
1993-94 Thomas Kirk
1994-95 Susan K. Martin
1995-96 Patricia Senn Breivik
1996-97 William Miller
1997-98 W. Lee Hisle
1998-99 Maureen Sullivan
1999-2000 Larry Hardesty
2000-2001 Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson
2001-2002 Mary Reichel
2002-2003 Helen H. Spalding
2003-2004 Tyrone H. Cannon
2004-2005 Frances J. Maloy
2005-2006 Camila Alire
2006-2007 Pamela Snelson
2007-2008 Julie B. Todaro
2008-2009 Erika Linke
2009-2010 Lori Goetsch
2010-2011 Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe
2011-2012 Joyce L. Ogburn
2012-2013 Steven J. Bell
2013-2014 Trevor A. Dawes
2014-2015 Karen A. Williams
2015-2016 Ann Campion Riley
2016-2017 Irene M. H. Herold

Publications in Librarianship Editors

1952-1953 Lawrence S. Thompson
1953-1956 David K. Maxfield
1956-1960 Rolland E. Stevens
1960-1966 William V. Jackson
1966-1970 David W. Heron
1970-1972 Edward G. Holley
1972-1977 Kenneth G. Peterson
1977-1982 Joe W. Kraus
1982-1988 Arthur P. Young
1988-1993 Jonathan A. Lindsey
1993-1998 Stephen E. Wiberley Jr.
1998-2003 John M. Budd
2003-2008 Charles Schwartz
2009–2014 Craig Gibson

C&RL Editors

1939-1941 A. F. Kuhlman
1974-1980 Richard D. Johnson
1941-1948 Carl M. White
1980-1984 C. James Schmidt 
1948-1962 Maurice F. Tauber
1984-1990 Charles Martell
1962-1963 Richard Harwell
1990-1996 Gloriana St. Clair
1963-1969 David Kaser
1996-2002 Donald E. Riggs
1969-1974 Richard M. Dougherty
2002-2008 William Gray Potter
2008–2011 Joseph Branin
2012-           Scott Walter

C&RL News Editors

1967-1979 member editors include David Kaser, David Doerrer, Michael Herbison, Alan Dyson, Susana Hinojosa, Mary Frances Collins, Anne Dowling, John V. Crowley
1979 Jeffrey T. Schwedes (First staff editor)
1980-1990 George M. Eberhart (staff)
1991-2001 Mary Ellen K. Davis (staff)
2001-2002 Maureen Gleason, acting editor
2002-2007 Stephanie Orphan
2007-present David Free

RBM (formerly RBML) Editors

1986-1989 Ann S. Gwyn  
1989-1993 Alice D. Schreyer
1993-1999 Sidney E. Berger
1999-2003 Lisa Browar/Marvin Taylor
2003-2009 Richard Clement
2008–2013 Beth Whittaker

ACRL Executive Directors

1947-1949 N. Orwin Rush
1949-1956 Arthur T. Hamlin
1956-1957 Vacant
1957-1961 Richard Harwell
1961-1962 Mark M. Gormley
1962-1963 Joseph H. Reason
1962-1968 George M. Bailey
1968-1972 J. Donald Thomas
1972-1977 Beverly P. Lynch
1977-1984 Julie Carroll Virgo
1984-1990 JoAn S. Segal
1990 Cathleen Bourdon (Acting)
1990-2001 Althea Jenkins
2001-present Mary Ellen K. Davis

Written by Mary Ellen Davis, Executive Director, and Mary Jane Petrowski, Associate Director, based upon earlier histories of ACRL developed by former ACRL staff members.