History of the Public Library Association

Celebrating 75 Years

For the past 75 years, the Public Library Association (PLA) has worked tirelessly to support the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Since our inception, on Oct. 13, 1944, PLA has grown by leaps and bounds, from a small group of charter members to nearly 10,000 professionals representing public libraries large and small. From now through our 2020 Conference, PLA will recognize its milestone 75th anniversary by reflecting on our storied history, celebrating our achievements, honoring the people who have contributed to our success and garnering financial support for what comes next. We invite you to join us.


Formation

The formation of the "Division of Public Libraries" of the American Library Association was approved by ALA Council in 1944, following petitions signed by nearly 1,200 members (ALA Handbook, December 1, 1944; and ALA Bulletin, September, 1945).

Mission

The original mission of the division was "to advance public library interests and to cooperate in the promotion of library service in general" (ALA Handbook, December 1, 1944).

Dues

Original dues were established as 20 percent of the dues paid to ALA, not to exceed $2.00 (ALA Handbook, December 1, 1944).

President

First PLA President was Amy Winslow, Cuyahoga County (OH) Library (ALA Handbook, December 1, 1944).

View the list of all past Presidents from 1944 to present.

PLA Presidents' annual reports (beginning with 2010–2011) are available in the ALA Institutional Repository.

Executive Secretary

First PLA Executive Secretary (now titled Executive Director) was Julia Wright Merrill (ALA Handbook, December 1 1944).

Journal

Public Libraries, the official journal of the Public Library Association, commenced publication in January, 1947. The first editor was Muriel E. Perry, Decatur (IL) Public Library (Public Libraries, Vol. 1, No.1, January, 1947).

National Conference

PLA's First National Conference, with the theme "Serving People: Public Libraries Today and Tomorrow," was presented March 23–26, 1983, in Baltimore, MD. The conference chair was Charles W. Robinson.

View the list of past PLA Conferences from 1983 to present.