LITA's First Twenty-Five Years: A Brief History

by Stephen R. Salmon*

The below is a copy of an article that appeared in the March 1993 Silver Anniversary Issue of Information Technology and Libraries. It is presented without updates or corrections (other than those incurred during scanning).

Note that the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) was known as the Information Science and Automation Division (ISAD) of ALA from 1966 to 1977.

The Library and Information Technology Association is celebrating its Silver Anniversary. The association, a division of the American Library Association, began as a small, pioneering discussion group. However, its roots go back even further, to the years when libraries -- and their national association -- first became exposed to the wonders of computers. This article traces the growth of the organization from those beginnings to the present.


The Early Years

There were isolated experiments with punched cards as early as 1936 (by Ralph Parker at the University of Texas), but it was not until the early 1960s that libraries became interested in the possibility of using computers for library work. The MEDLARS project at the National Library of Medicine, the pioneering work in serials control at the University of California at San Diego, and Southern Illinois University's landmark circulation system all began in 1961, and were merely the first in a growing number of library applications.


The American Library Association was quickly alerted to the new trend and its possibilities. Joe Becker, who was then working on library and information tasks for an unmentionable government agency and would later become LITA's second president, suggested that ALA participate in the upcoming Seattle World's Fair in 1962 with an exhibit using computers. ALA agreed, and Al Trezza, then head of the Library Technology Project at ALA, worked with Joe to get corporate sponsors. Univac and others contributed almost a million dollars in equipment and services, and some twelve million people came to see the "Library 21" exhibit that resulted. The idea was repeated in 1964 at the "Library USA" exhibit during the fair in New York City. 1



In April of 1964, over fifty libraries sent representatives to the second Clinic on Library Applications of Data Processing at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Many attending recognized that they were pioneering a new field, and the discussions in the halls were animated and enthusiastic. Most of us, in fact, found the chance to talk with people doing similar work in other libraries the most valuable part of these conferences, but it was an impromptu, hit-or-miss proposition, since there was no organized way of identifying others with similar interests. Ann Curran of Harvard's Medical Library, however, suggested that we try to assemble those librarians who were interested in automated serials control systems, a hot topic at the time. We found a room with a table, assembled a small group, and a lively discussion of nuts-and-­bolts problems ensued.  2


The value of the meeting impressed all who were there, and Howard Dillon, then at Ohio State University, was convinced that some way should be found to hold such meetings on a regular basis. Clinics and institutes were usually restricted in attendance and often came at times and locations that made it difficult for many interested persons to attend, so we agreed to meet informally again at the ALA Annual Conference in St. Louis that summer. At that second gathering, Howard took on the task of organizing future meetings and maintaining a mailing list for the group. I agreed to explore the possiblities of formalizing our meetings by becoming an organized part of a larger body.  3


Elizabeth Rodell, executive secretary of the Resources and Technical Services Division (RTSD) of ALA, was helpful in explaining our group's options, such as becoming a discussion group or a round table. However, the issue of becoming a part of ALA was complicated by the fact that automation crossed over various organizational lines that existed within the Association at that time. Acquisitions, serials control, and cataloging fell within the responsibilities of RTSD, but circulation and general management came under the Library Administration Division. There were also information retrieval or "documentation" committees in several divisions and an Interdivisional Committee on Documentation. 4


Meanwhile, Howard bad persuaded the American Documentation Institute to provide facilities for a two-day meeting of "the Dillon committee" in October, prior to the Institute's annual convention in Philadelphia. During the meeting, I reported on what I had learned about becoming an organized part of ALA, and after discussion the group voted, by a large majority, to remain autonomous.


That resolved the question of affiliation, but it didn't solve a problem that was of growing concern for many of us. The Committee on Library Automation (COLA), as it now decided to call itself, insisted on restricting membership to individuals actually involved in developing or operating library systems. The group was never larger than about thirty-five, but once its existence became known, we were flooded with applications for membership. It was clear that large numbers of librarians who didn't meet COLA's standards for membership were in need of information on library automation and wanted leadership. Since there was no membership unit in ALA with the sole responsibility for library automation, there was no effective way for these librarians to communicate or to learn from each other, and since responsibility for the area (to the extent that it had been recognized at all) lay fragmented among various units within ALA, there was no effective way for the national professional association to provide guidance to its members. It was also clear that if ALA did not provide leadership, it would be found outside the Association, a development many of us thought would be unfortunate and should be avoided.


The Detroit Meeting

Fortunately, Elizabeth Rodell understood these concerns and suggested that I meet with the Interdivisional Committee on Documentation to pursue the matter. Jesse Shera of Western Reserve University, chair of the committee, graciously invited me to attend the committee's next meeting, during ALA's 1965 Annual Conference in Detroit.  5 The committee, in turn, was convinced of the importance of the problem and scheduled a public discussion of the issue later that same week.


The turnout for the discussion, on such short notice, was greater than expected; on July 8, 1965, several hundred librarians jammed all evening meeting to hear the first public review of the issue. Ed Heiliger, then at Florida Atlantic University, presented an impressive inventory of library automation problems, highlighting numerous areas requiring either research or concerted action by the library community. Following that, I urged the need for leadership by ALA; much of the current activity in library automation, I argued, was badly planned, imperfectly executed, and unnecessarily expensive, simply because there was very little opportunity for librarians to exchange information or learn from the experience of others. A major organizational unit was needed that would provide a forum for discussion, undertake a vigorous program to disseminate information, foster studies and research, and promote the development of appropriate standards.


After reviewing the pros and cons of round table, sectional, or divisional status, I concluded that only a division would have sufficient scope and authority to address the array of problems demanding attention and to carry out the programs mentioned. During the discussion that followed, many of those in the audience urged immediate action, and a resolution was overwhelmingly passed requesting that the committee "petition the ALA Committee on Organization to investigate possible division status for library automation activities."  6


The ALA bylaws, however, require the submission of a petition containing the signatures of not less than five hundred members of the Association as a prerequisite to the formation of a division. Accordingly, in the fall of 1965, 1 mailed a petition form, a report on the Detroit meeting, and a cover letter to a number of larger libraries, asking that they circulate them to their staffs. Librarians at smaller institutions were notified of the petition through a notice in the ALA Bulletin7 Several members of COLA (notably Fred Kilgour, then at Yale Medical Library) helped collect signatures, and by December 1965, 863 librarians had signed a total of sixty-four copies of the petition. The signed petitions and the required draft statement of responsibility for the division were then forwarded to Hannis Smith, then chair of the ALA Committee on Organization.


The committee handled the issue with complete fairness Mr. Smith solicited opinions from all existing divisions and from other interested parties and allowed verbal as well as written arguments to the committee, As the report of the committee later put it, there turned out to be "a wide variation of opinion" on bow to handle this "matter of grave concern."  8 Opponents argued, that there were too many divisions already, that automation should be the responsibility of an existing division, or that automation was only a "tool" that did not deserve a separate organizational unit. In response, I argued that the question of a new division should be decided on its merits, rather than on the basis of the number of existing divisions, that giving responsibility to an existing division would tend to prejudice the legitimate interests of other divisions, and that the division should be concerned with automated library systems, not equipment per se, and should not consider automation merely a means of doing differently the same things libraries have always done. Most important, however, was the argument that only a division would have the scope and authority to get the job done.


Midwinter 1966

On the morning of January 27, 1966, the Committee on Organization beard presentations by a number of divisional representatives, some of whom endorsed the proposal for a separate division and some of whom said merely that they would not oppose it. The Resources and Technical Services Division (RTSD) and the Library Administration Division (LAD) each suggested the establishment of a new section within their respective divisions, although LAD said it would not oppose a new division. Following this testimony, the committee considered the issue at length and by the afternoon session of council had prepared a report. It recommended the establishment of an Information science and Automation Division (the Reference Services Division had urged the inclusion of "information science" in the name), gave the proposed state statement of responsibility, and listed the matters needing immediate attention. The matter then went to the full, prestigious ALA Council, and I remember waiting nervously for this august body to hand down its judgment. The council's discussion, however, was brief, consisting only of a slight amendment to the proposed statement of responsibility The council then approved the recommendation, after which Wesley Simonton, RTSD's president, made a statesmanlike pledge of support to the new division. ISAD was born.


Getting Started

Although the division was now legally and formally established, it did not immediately become a functioning reality. For one thing, it had no money. Fortunately, however, ALA's involvement wish the world's fairs had produced a modest surplus, and Al Trezza suggested to Executive Director David Clift that the balance -- some $20,000 -- be used to get ISAD started.  9


The division also had no members.  Naively, I bad hoped that those who had already sent in their dues for 1966 could elect additional membership in the new division, and that those who had not yet paid their dues could sign up when they did. Correspondence with headquarters, however, indicated that this was impractical; a special mailing to ALA members would cost too much, and ALA membership records and procedures could not be adapted to accommodate the new division until the next membership and dues cycle, when ALA members renewed their memberships and designated their divisional choices -- i.e., in January 1967, a year later!  There was a suspicion that this state of affairs ironically resulted from the use of automatic data processing equipment by ALA headquarters.  11


Meanwhile, there was much to do. ALA President Robert Vosper asked me to chair an Organizing Committee consisting of Joe Becker, Henry Dubester of the National Science Foundation, Paul Fasana of Columbia University, Fred Kilgour, Frazer Poole of the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, and Melvin Voigt of the University of California at San Diego, all of whom bad been active in promoting and forming the division. Dubester, Fasana, and Voigt wrote the draft bylaws; Kilgour, Poole, and Becker recommended. a slate of "provisional" officers to serve until elected officers could take over in July 1967; Kilgour, Poole, and I drafted a budget request; and a fourth subcommittee of Voigt, Becker, and Fasana reported on the desirability and feasibility of establishing a division journal. The full committee met in St. Louis on June 3, 1966, adopted the report of each subcommittee, voted to requests full-time executive secretary, and drew up an agenda for an organizational meeting of the new division at the ALA Annual Conference in New York.


New York 1966

Several hundred people attended the organizational meeting on July 14, which marked the beginning of the division as a functioning reality. The bylaws were adopted, and officers were elected -- Carl Jackson of Pennsylvania State University as vice-president, Howard Dillon as secretary, Ralph Parker (then at the University of Missouri) as ALA Council representative, and Charles Bourne of Programming Services, Paul Fasana, and Frazer Poole as members of the Board of Directors, in addition to myself as president. Procedures for obtaining membership in the division were reviewed, and a form for expressing interest in the division was distributed. The fields of interest and responsibility for ISAD were outlined, and the initial plans of action and programs were then announced: a newsletter or journal, a clearinghouse for information about library automation projects, development of computer programs for use in library operations, a Preconference Institute in San Francisco in 1967, regional conferences for training librarians in automation, and appointment of committees to consider such matters as the development of a library programming language and appropriate standards. Suggestions from the floor concerned issues such as library access to machine-­readable data, standardization of indexing vocabularies, and distribution by the division of MARC tapes.  12


Implementing the Programs: Into the 1970s

Planning began at once for the Preconference Institute in San Francisco. It was intended as a state-of-the-art review, with papers covering acquisitions, cataloging, serials, circulation, and book catalogs. A brief course in library systems analysis and design was included, as were special papers on information retrieval and the implications of the Library of Congress systems study and the MARC Project, and a joint session with the LAD Library Buildings Institute on architectural implications of library automation. More than seven hundred librarians attended the three days of meetings (from June 22 to 24, 1967), and the proceedings were later published by ALA as Library Automation A State-of-the­-Art Review.


Publication of a journal to draw together the results of research and study in the field was also an urgent priority. At its first meeting in January 1967, the Board of Directors asked Fred Kilgour not only to continue as chair of the Publications Committee, but to be the editor of the journal. Plans were also made to seek a grant to cover the costs for the first two to three years. The Council on Library Resources later awarded a grant of $20,000 for start-up costs, Kilgour agreed to be editor, and in Match 1968 the first issue of the Journal of Library Automation (JOLA) appeared. Four volumes followed under Fred's editorship, containing seventy-three articles and ninety book reviews, and reaching more than eleven hundred subscribers.  13


An interim newsletter, called Interface, was published in January 1968 and again in May, followed in October 1969 by JOLA Technical Communications. Edited by John McGowan through 1971, and by Don Bosseau beginning in 1972, Technical Communications became a bimonthly in 1972 and was eventually subsumed into JOLA in March 1973.  14


The board also gave immediate attention to the task of finding a full-time executive secretary. Candidates were interviewed, and on September 1, 1967, the first executive secretary of the division, Don Culbertson from Colorado State University, began work. He served until 1973, when he left to join the Argonne National Laboratory, but he continued to be active in ISAD affairs until his untimely death in 1980.


Regional Institutes, Seminars, and Tutorials

To help meet its educational goals, ISAD from the beginning tried to reach librarians who were unable to attend annual conferences, but who still needed the kind of information presented at the first Preconference Institute. In January 1968, the board approved ten regional institutes "to tell the Project MARC story in technical detail to processing personnel throughout the country." IBM agreed to underwrite the initial planning with a grant of $3,000, and the library of Congress (LC) agreed to release key staff members to participate.  15 Nine of these MARC Institutes (as they came to be called) were held this first year alone. They attracted thousands of participants. The "faculty' consisted of Henriette Avram and colleagues from LC (including Lucia Rather, Lenore Maruyama, Peter Simmons, and Kay Guiles) and representatives from the institutions that were the earliest experimenters with MARC records (notably, Hillis Griffin from Argonne National Laboratory, who for a time distributed the tapes for LC; Josephine Pulsifer from Washington State University; Foster Palmer and Susan Martin from Harvard University; David Weisbrod from Yale University; Paul Fasana from Columbia University; John Kennedy from Georgia Institute of Technology; and Frederick Ruecking from Rice University). The MARC Institutes continued to be held regionally, several a year, until 1979, when the torch was passed to the library schools and local or regional associations.


In the meantime, to meet the needs of librarians who felt that the MARC Institutes were too complex to understand without a basic introduction to library automation, a series of library automation tutorials was inaugurated. The faculty for the tutorials was composed of some of the most prominent people in the emerging field: Barbara Markuson, Diana Delanoy, Heike Kordish, Susan Martin, and Ray DeBuse, assisted usually by other local experts. By the early 1970s, the needs of librarians had changed, and there were increasing demands for in-service training sessions dealing with specific applications. In response, ISAD instituted a series of seminars on applications, of various types, held almost monthly in various parts of the country. There were seminars on acquisitions, circulation, serials control, "the catalog" and 11 closing the catalog," authority control, networks, school library automation, telecommunications, administration and management aspects, specifications and contracting, and (later) microcomputers. Again the association drew on the expertise of members who willingly gave time to the enterprise, among them Michael Malinconico, Joseph Rosenthal, John Knapp, Brett Butler, George Abbott, Hugh Atkinson, Michael Bruer, and Helen Schmierer, in addition to many of those who had been involved in the earlier series.


By the mid-1980s, over 13,500 people had attended some seventy-five different institutes and seminars. There was a great feeling of adventure and excitement among those who prepared and presented these traveling road shows. Henriette Avram remembers the friendly and welcoming atmosphere they found everywhere, as well as the pervading sense of excitement. It cost the LC members more than time as well; the practice was to hold the institutes in reasonably nice hotels and for the team to eat in fairly nice restaurants, splitting the bill -- but the LC contingent received a per diem allowance of only $16! Maurice (Mitch) Freedman, ISAD President in 1977-78, remembers the "intellectual joy" of being associated with "the best minds in cataloging and automation," and Michael Malinconico, ISAD President in 1980-81, recalls the seminars and institutes as being stimulating forums for the discussion of issues such as the future of the catalog and the CONSER    project. There was often a feeling that those involved were living through momentous events, and sometimes these feelings were acted out. Susan Martin remembers an institute in Hawaii when Henriette Avram received the news that the first MARC tape had been successfully issued, at which she promptly rail into the ocean to celebrate -- fully clothed!



The most ambitious educational project in these earlier years was an impressive conference on networking, which was formally known as the Conference on Interlibrary Communications and Information Networks, but more familiarly as the "Airlie Conference." A grant of $125,000 from the U.S. Office of Education enabled the project staff, headed by Joseph Becker, ISAD's second president, to commission thirty-one papers and distribute them to over two hundred people in attendance. The conference itself was a full week of working group meetings, plenary sessions, and discussions, held from September 28 through October 2, 1970, at Airlie House, in Warrenton, Virginia. The proceedings, which stood as a landmark of the literature on networks for many years, were published in a unique way: transcribers put phonetic symbols on magnetic tape cartridges, which were then converted by computer to English text. After editing, the magnetic tapes were then used to drive a photographic typesetter to produce galley proofs of the pages.  16


A second important conference was a cooperative effort with the Library Education Division and the American Society for Information Science (ASIS). Titled "Directions in Education for Information Science: A Symposium for Educators," it brought together representatives from thirty-five accredited library schools in November 1971 to discuss future trends in information science education, From this conference came a comprehensive curriculum development program, call the DISC Project.  17



In addition to JOLA, Technical Communications, and the publications resulting from the conferences mentioned above, ISAD also pursued its educational mission with other publications. In 1970, the division published MARC Manuals, reproducing the manuals used at the Library of Congress, and Format Recognition for MARC Records. The division also produced three editions of the Bibliography of Library Automation, which appeared in American Libraries (then called the ALA Bulletin).  18 The institutes on "The Catalog" resulted in two publications, and cassettes of the proceedings of other conferences and institutes were also popular.


By 1970, JOLA had run into difficulties from two sources. In an economy move, ALA's Publishing Board abolished the editorial assistant position and cut JOLA's budget, ignoring U.S. Post Office regulations that an amount equal to 50 percent of the outside subscription price had to go from dues receipts to the journal's budget.  19 By the next year, without the necessary staff support, Fred Kilgour had resigned in protest.  20 A new editor was unable to produce any issues of JOLA for almost two years, and threats from the post office were increasing. Continued failure to supply issues to subscribers, the post office said, would constitute fraud. Fortunately for all concerned, Susan Martin agreed in early 1973 to take over as editor.  21 By that time, JOLA publication was seven issues in arrears, and the Post Office had imposed a deadline of December 1973 for the journal to be current again or lose its mailing permit. To the relief of the board and with the gratitude of all concerned, Sue managed to publish all the required issues by the end of the year.  22 She continued as editor until 1977, when she was succeeded by William Mathews.


A LITA Newsletter was reestablished in 1979, and edited successively (and successfully) by Pat Barkalow, Carol Parkhurst, and Walt Crawford.


Advisory Services and the Executive Secretary

The "clearinghouse for information on library automation projects" became, as expected, a responsibility of the executive secretary in ALA headquarters and grew into a more general advisory service. Requests were frequently received from librarians, equipment manufacturers, and others for information about various aspects of the library automation field.  23


After the first executive secretary, Don Culbertson, resigned in 1973, there was a brief hiatus while a search was conducted for his replacement. Later that year, Don Hammer was selected, much to the consternation of Fred Kilgour; Don had also been elected as ISAD president to succeed Fred, and his appointment as executive secretary meant that Fred had to serve as president for two full years. Dons long and fruitful service as executive secretary (later executive director) lasted thirteen years, until 1986. After another brief hiatus, Linda Knutson became the third executive director in February 1987.



One of the strongest supporters of ISAD from its beginning was Henriette Avram of the Library of Congress, "Mother of MARC" and ISAD's president in 1975-76. In 1967, Henriette suggested that ISAD might be the mechanism for distributing the new MARC tapes, but the arrangement foundered on objections by ALA's attorney.  24 Henriette also suggested that the division create a committee to study the proposed MARC II format (then under development) and consider approving it and supporting it.  25 The Resources and Technical Services Division and the Reference Services Division were asked to participate in the study, and a meeting of representatives from the three divisions was held in November 1967 to review the format and marshal professional opinion and support. At its Midwinter meeting in January 1968, the committee and the board endorsed the format as a national standard.  26


That same year, the Machine Readable Cataloging format committee, chaired by Allen Veaner, worked with the Library of Congress to develop a standard character set for use with the MARC format. These characters, which became known as the "ALA character set," were designed to permit representation of any language that uses the Roman alphabet or any language that can be transliterated into the Roman alphabet.  27 The characters were incorporated into Specifications for Library Print Train Graphics, which was then forwarded to manufacturers of computer printers. IBM then produced a print train with the characters, which became known as "the ALA print train."  28


In 1969, Paul St. Pierre of the New York Public Library proposed a MARC Users Discussion Group to coordinate the activities of those libraries beginning to use the tapes and to discuss any technical problems.  29 The group became an important forum for communication about MARC for many years.


The MARC format committee also continued to review and recommend action on proposed changes in the MARC format. Its formal name -- the RTSD/ISAD/RSD Interdivisional Committee on Representation in Machine Readable Form of Bibliographic Information‑proved to be a jawbreaker, so in 1973, committee chair Velma Veneziano suggested the acronym MARBI (Machine‑Readable Bibliographic Information), a more convenient tag by which the group has been known ever since.  30


Other Early Activities

In 1967, the division joined the Resources and Technical Services Division in creating a committee to study a proposed Universal Numbering System for publications.  31 The committee, chaired by C. Donald Cook, eventually recommended endorsement of what came to be known as the International Standard Book Number (ISBN).  32


Other standards activities were also undertaken Around this time. A Library Systems Standards Committee was established and later became the Technical Standards for Library Automation (TESLA). The committee identified the need for various standards, reviewed standards as they were developed, and forwarded them, when appropriate, to standards‑making bodies. The committee also presented several programs to alert librarians of the need for standards.


Things That Didn't Work

Not all of the initial programs of the division were successful, of course. An ad hoc Committee on a Library Programming Language was formed, with computer programming experts as well as librarians, to determine the need for a special library programming language. Experts cautioned that such a development would be a very large task, and that it might be best to examine existing languages first.  33 A subcommittee began evaluating existing languages, while the parent committee be‑came bogged down in questions about bow generalized the language should be, how it would be kept up to date, and whether it should be a programming language or a query language. After a year or two, the idea was quietly dropped.


ISAD founders had also envisaged a central collection of library computer programs and documentation that could be exchanged with other libraries interested in the same applications, following the model of IBM's SCOPE (Software and Computer Program Exchange).  34 Copies of these programs and materials were to be made available at cost, and indexes by type of application, type of equipment, and type of institution were to be compiled periodically and published. Lois McCune of the Library of Congress persuaded IBM to accept library programs into SHARE and to make free copies available, and Fred Ruecking of Rice University agreed to index them by application, institution, programmer, and language. It appears, however, that few if any programs were ever contributed and attempts to establish such a collection at ALA headquarters foundered on concerns about space and time requirements.  35


The more general proposal of serving as a clearinghouse for information about library automation projects lasted somewhat longer. The Clearinghouse Subcommittee had difficulty understanding its charge, and in 1968 the board merged it, the SCOPE subcommittee, and the Library Programming Language Committee into a single Computer Programming Committee.  36 Seven years later, the idea was revived, but Executive Director Don Hammer pointed out that in a more general sense he was already providing such a service.  37 In 1981, Hammer suggested creating a formal "directory of library systems in use." and a database.  38 The matter was referred to the Publications Committee, which reported a year later that they did not understand the intended audience or the scope, and the board tabled the matter.  39 Hammer pursued the idea for another year, but then reported that he had been forced to drop it for lack of time.  40


Organization and Reorganization: Moving from the 1970s to the 1980s

Originally, ISAD's organization was very simple. There were no sections, and only a few standing committees (for nominating, bylaws, program planning, and the like). The activities of the division were carried out through ad hoc committees that were supposed to disappear when their functions had been carried out. Some, however, such as the MARC Format Committee mentioned above, the Standards Committee, and the Telecommunications Committee, proved to have permanent value and have been continued.


Discussion Groups

To meet the needs of members who wanted a forum for exchanging information but did not need a more formal organizational structure, the division established "discussion groups." As mentioned earlier, the division actually started as a discussion group ‑‑ COLA ‑‑ which continued as a separate entity, then became a discussion group within ISAD in 1970.  41 Five years later, the group changed its name to the Library Automation Discussion Group,  42 and in 1981 it merged with the MARC Users Discussion Group to become the Library and Information Technology Discussion Group.  43 This group lasted until 1984, when it was disbanded because of low attendance.  44 Other discussion groups established early were the Educational Technology Discussion Group (for discussion of nonprint media), the COM Catalogs Discussion Group, the Online Catalog Discussion Group, the Retrospective Conversion Discussion Group, and (in the 1980s) the Vendor/User Discussion Group and the Consultant/User Discussion Group.


New Objectives

With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, Ralph Shoffner, ISAD's president for 1972‑73, asked me to chair an Objectives Committee to review ISAD's objectives and activities over the past five years, with the working hypothesis that "the division has fulfilled its objectives and thus should be disbanded."  45 The committee included others who had been involved with the division since its beginning: Henriette Avram, Fred Kilgour, John McGowan, John Knapp, Joseph Treyz, and Pauline Atherton. The committee's report, submitted in July 1973, concluded that the division's educational functions, publications, advisory services, forums for discussion, and promotion of standards had all been worthwhile and should be continued.


New Sections

During the bearings held by the committee, two groups asked for a broadening Of ISAD's activities and objectives to include (1) management and production of audiovisual materials, or "media," and (2) video and cable television. The committee noted that these interests were closely related to ISAD's traditional activities, that there was no existing "home" for them in the ALA structure (apart from a number of committees in various other divisions), and that the affinity or "chemistry" between these groups and ISAD's current membership and activities seemed good. In its final report, therefore, the committee recommended that the division's "area of responsibility include audiovisual and related educational technology."  46


In January 1975, the board formalized the relationship by creating two new sections: the Audio‑Visual Section (AVS) and the Video and Cable Communications Section (VCCS).  47 The earlier activities of the division were organized into the Information Science and Automation Section (ISAS), and the chairs of each section were given seats on the board.


A New Name

Expansion of the division's scope inevitably raised the question whether the name of the division should likewise be broadened. A bylaws committee, headed by Lois Kerschner, recommended that the name be changed to Library and Information Technology Association (LITA),  48 and the board then referred the issue to division members. A special mail ballot was sent to all members with the proposed new name and a revised function statement. More than 75 percent of the membership approved, and ISAD formally became LITA.  49


The final loose end was not tied up until five years later. In 1981, Charles Husbands, chair of the Publications Committee, recommended that the name of the journal be changed in 1982 to Information Technology and Libraries, to reflect the new name of the division.  50


ALA Reorganizes 

Meanwhile, the parent organization was itself being reorganized, and much less smoothly. The prolonged debate about the relationship of ALA to its divisions occupied LITA's officers as much as those of other divisions, and there was particular concern about how the finances of the division would be handled. Henriette Avram, president in 1975‑76, remembers long, hard fights to get money back from the seminars and institutes, and Brigitte Kenney, president in 1981‑82, remembers the strife continuing. For the first time, all of the division presidents met "to discuss common problems and to work out positive solutions to some of the internal strife."  51


LITA Reorganizes

President Kenney took the first step that led to another reorganization of the division. Feeling that "committees and sections seemed too confining, too rigid,"  52 she appointed a Goals and Long‑Range Planning Committee in June 1981.  53 The committee reported a year later with radical recommendations, among them the abolition of sections and most committees, and the establishment of numerous ‑interest groups" to carry out the division's objectives. The matter was then turned over to a Long‑Range Plan Implementation Committee to propose a detailed reorganization.  54  The committee was chaired by Nancy Eaton, who fortuitously was elected president for 1984‑85 and thus had the opportunity and responsibility for carrying out whatever changes emerged.


A draft of the committee's recommendations was printed in the LITA Newsletter preceding the Midwinter Meeting, and two open hearings on the proposals were held during Midwinter. Revisions suggested during these hearings were incorporated into additional drafts that were widely circulated. The committee's final report was issued on May 29, 1984, and constitutes an important milestone in the division's history As suggested by the earlier committee, the sections were abolished. Committees were divided into administrative committees (such as bylaws, nominating, publications, and awards) and functional committees (MARBI, standards, education, and so forth). The main thrust of the reorganization, however, was the establishment and encouragement of "interest groups," which were "intended to reflect topics of current interest to members and to have a structure which allows for easy creation and easy elimination as interests and technology change." Interest groups could be formed by petition from as few as ten LITA members and were empowered to plan and present programs, institutes, and preconferences, and even to prepare publications of their own.  55


The rationale was more involvement in LITA on the part of its members, but the major reason behind the reorganization, from the board's point of view, was financial. Revenues were down significantly, seminars were seeing lower enrollments, there were fewer programs being presented, and the division was losing members. The board felt that the reorganization would revitalize the division by making closer connections with its members.  56


By all accounts, the reorganization has been remarkably successful. Membership has steadily increased, and the division is now restored to health financially. More importantly, its members are much more active in LITA's programs. Lois Kershner, president during the year the reorganization was implemented, remembers getting the new interest groups started as soon as possible and the excitement that was generated as more and more people began to participate.  57 Linda Knutson, who became executive director of LITA in February 1987, has also been impressed by the increase in the level of participation and by "the tremendous energy that the players have; they want to contribute, and they plunge in with both feet!"  58 Sherrie Schmidt, president from 1988‑89, remembers how the interest groups "took off' and generated so many programs that the ALA offices couldn't handle them.  59


The interest groups have indeed "taken off'; there are now interest groups for Adaptive Technologies, Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems, Authority Control in the Online Environment, Customized Applications for Library Microcomputers, Desktop Publishing, Distributed Systems and Networks, Electronic Mail and Electronic Bulletin Boards, Emerging Technologies, the Human/Machine Interface, Hypertext and Hypermedia, Imagineering, Library Consortia Automated Systems, MARC Holdings, Microcomputer Support of Technical Services, Microcomputer Users, Online Catalogs, Optical Information Systems, Programmers and Analysts, Retrospective Conversion, Serials Automation, Small Integrated Library Systems, Telecommunications, and Vendors and Users ‑‑ a total of twenty‑three in all! Lest they outlive their need or the interests of members, there is also a "sunset" law; each interest group must resubmit a petition and be reapproved every three years or be dissolved.


The PLA Challenge

There was one other significant organizational event in the late 1980s and early 1990s: a direct challenge from the Public Library Association (PLA) to LITA's responsibility for automation and library technology. In 1989, the PLA Board voted to establish a Technology in Public Libraries Section, creating a direct overlap with LITA's responsibility for technology in all forms of libraries. The LITA Board asked ALA's Committee on Organization to let the two divisions work together to meet the perceived need in some other fashion.  60 President Carol Parkhurst also wrote the president of PLA and suggested a joint Task Force as a specific means of addressing PLA's concerns. PLA endorsed the concept, and the matter was thus ‑‑ after two years of discussion ‑‑ resolved.  61


New Programs

In addition to the increased involvement of members, new financial stability, and the excitement of specialized, forward‑looking interest groups, there were other signs of the division's increased vitality in the 1980s and early 1990s: a new lecture series, new awards, and most significantly, a series of three national conferences.


The Distinguished Lecture Series

In 1982, President Carolyn Gray proposed a "distinguished lecture series" as a means of adding quality and distinction to LITA's programming,  62 and succeeded in gaining financial support for the series from the F. W. Faxon Company.  63 The program was an immediate success and has become a hallmark of LITA's conference programming.


LITA Awards

In 1978, LITA established the "LITA Award for Achievement in Information Technology" to recognize outstanding achievement in library and information technology.  64 In 1982, Gaylord Brothers offered to subsidize the award,  65 and it has hence been known as the LITA/Gaylord Award.


Following the untimely death of Hugh Atkinson, one of the original members of COLA and ISAD, and air outstanding member of the profession, the division established the Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award to honor his life and accomplishments by recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of ail academic librarian who has worked in the areas of library automation or library management.  66 Responsibility for the award is shared with the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Library Administration and Management Association, and the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services.


In 1992, a third award was established with the financial assistance of the periodical Library Hi Tech. The LITA Library Hi Tech Award is for a work, or a body of work, that shows outstanding achievement in educating practitioners within the field of library and information technology.


LITA Scholarships

LITA's awards have also taken the form of scholarships for deserving students. In 1983, CLSI, Inc., offered to support a scholarship in the area of information technology, since known as the LITA/CLSI Scholarship.  67 The award is intended to encourage the entry of qualified persons into the library automation field.


In 1990, the board established the LITA Minority Scholarship,  68 and later secured agreement from OCLC, Inc., to support it. The scholarship, known as the LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship', provides support for a member of a minority group who shows a strong commitment to the, use of automation in libraries.


The National Conferences

In 1980, Kaye Gapen, chair of the Program Planning Committee, reported to the board that the committee was considering new ways to provide high‑level continuing education, among which was the idea of a "technology fair."  69 This idea developed into the concept of a national conference: not a preconference, but a separate LITA‑only conference, to be held at a different time and location than the ALA Conference, implicitly taking advantage of the new, more independent relationship between ALA and its divisions.


By 1981, a planning committee had been appointed, with Berna Heyman as chair, the site and date of the conference had been picked (Baltimore in 1983), and the purpose and format had been established.  70 Much like the very first preconference, the program would "bring together in one forum current and anticipated developments in library and information technology‑ and "present and share the state‑of‑the‑art in a concise and concentrated manner." The format would permit much broader and more diverse programming than was possible during a regular ALA conference or a LITA institute, and would include demonstrations, speeches by experts, contributed papers, and workshops.


In the intervening years, planning proceeded on multiple fronts and in multiple committees. The conference was held on September 17‑21, 1983, and was a great success, both intellectually and. financially. Over fifteen hundred people attended, there were 97 booths of exhibits, and the budget ended up substantially in the black. The final format included four keynote speakers, seventeen contributed papers, six panels, nine state‑of‑the‑art papers, a preconference tutorial, two postconference workshops, six bus tours, an exhibitors' seminar, a video nightcap, five hands‑on technology shops (called "hotshops"), and a midnight cruise!


The "hotshops" proved to be very popular activities. The Microcomputer Software Swapshop allowed participants to copy and trade software; the Electronic Mail Message Center allowed participants to send messages at no charge; the Video Swapshop allowed them to copy and exchange video tapes of material originally recorded by themselves or their libraries; the Teleconference Showcase allowed them to "meet" each other from two different places; and the Demo/Expo allowed thirteen libraries to demonstrate their locally developed systems.  71 Panel discussions and exhibits also received great praise.  72


LITA's second National Conference, on October 2‑6, 1988, in Boston, was even bigger. Almost twenty‑three hundred people attended, there were 123 exhibit booths, and the conference again made a profit. While there were only two keynote speakers, other program activities were enlarged: there were six technology seminars, forty technical sessions, forty‑six "professional show‑ cases," twenty‑four new product reviews, ten tours, and a total of six postconference workshops. Over one thousand people jammed the Boston Public Library for the opening reception, and almost as many attended a "New England Clambake" later in the conference. A total of thirty‑five volunteers, led by the steering committee chair, Carol Parkhurst, worked long hours over a two‑year period to make it   a success.  73


Encouraged by the success of the first two, a third National Conference was scheduled for September 13‑17, 1992, in Denver. Attendance was just over two thousand. Held in the depths of a recession, the planners, led by Chair Betty Bengtson, had expected (and budgeted) for fewer and were thus pleased at the turn‑out, and at the financial success of the conference as well. Major speakers included a keynoter and three "featured speakers" on challenging and futuristic topics and the program included five workshops (essentially tutorials on topics ranging from retrospective conversion to desktop publishing); a huge total of fifty‑six separate programs on the full range of information technology topics, from artificial intelligence to information policy, from viruses to staff management; "talk tables "I which allowed participants to discuss hot topics during the lunch hour; "showcases," where people could demonstrate projects of their own design and making; and "research forums" to present status reports and results of studies and projects. The conference also included an opening reception at the Denver Museum of Natural History and a banquet at the famous Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs.


A Look Toward the Future

LITA is now a mature, well‑established organization. Its membership has grown steadily, from the initial roster of 2,334 to a total of 5,802 as of February 28, 1993.  74 The division also has a full‑blown strategic plan, begun in 1989 under President Carol Parkhurst, and updated each year since then. 75 The current four‑year plan "envisions a world in which the complete spectrum of information technology is available to everyone," restates the mission of the division ("to provide ... a forum for discussion, an environment for learning, and a program for action on the design, development, and implementation of automated and technological systems in the library and information science field"), and sets forth three main goals ("to provide opportunities for professional growth and performance ... to influence national and international initiatives.... [and] to strengthen the association and assure its continued success"), under which are listed a series of specific objectives and strategies.  75


Clearly, LITA has a firm grip on what it is, what it does, and where it is going. The greatly increased involvement of members and the democratization of the association will give LITA the strength needed to sustain its many initiatives and programs. Even more importantly, its new organization, built around the mechanism of specific interest groups, will allow it to grow and change in the future, discarding gracefully those organizational elements that are obsolete and no longer needed, and acting swiftly to meet the new and emerging needs of its members and the profession.



Reference and Notes

  1. From telephone conversations with Becker and Trezza.
  2. Much of the information in this and the following paragraphs is from a brief article, "Information Science and Automation; the Newest Division," ALA Bulletin (June 1967): 637‑42.
  3. I hope the reader will forgive the immodest use of the personal pronoun (in lieu of the more awkward "this writer" or "the author") and its frequency in the next few paragraphs. As in all human affairs, events in this history happened largely because people made them happen, and I have tried to name as many of the key individuals as the documents and memory will allow.
  4. Letters, Salmon to Rodell, July 22, 1964; Rodell to Salmon, August 4, 1964; Salmon to Rodell, August 14, 1964; Rodell to Salmon, August 20, 1964; Salmon to Rodell, August 27, 1964.
  5. Letters, Rodell to Shera, April 30, 1965; Salmon to Shera, May 6, 1965; Shera to Salmon, May 17,1965.
  6. Library of Congress Information Bulletin (July 26, 1965): 395‑96.
  7. ALA Bulletin (Oct. 1965): 769.
  8. Committee on Organization, Report to Council, January 27, 1966.
  9. Telephone conversation with Trezza.
  10. Letters, Salmon to Clift, February 3, 1966; Clift to Salmon, March 16, 1966; Salmon to Clift, May 2, 1966; Clift to Salmon, May 24, 1966.
  11. Library of Congress Information Bulletin (Aug. 11, 1966): 499.
  12. Library of Congress Information Bulletin (Aug. 11, 1966): 499, and ALA   Bulletin (Sept. 1966): 753‑54.    ‑
  13. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 9, 1967; ALA Bulletin (March 1967): 306; letter, Clift to Verner Clapp, President, Council on Library Resources, May 25, 1967; Donald S. Culbertson, "Information Science and Automation Division," in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, p. 496.
  14. Culbertson, "Information Science and Automation Division," pp. 498‑99.
  15. Joseph Becker (president, 1967‑68), Report to ISAD Board and Committee Members, March 27,1968.
  16. Culbertson, "Information Science and Automation Division," p. 499; Culbertson, Information Science and Automation Division Annual Report, 1969‑70, p. 3; and Donald P. Hammer, Information Science‑ and Automation, Division Organization Profile, 1975(?), p. 7.
  17. Culbertson, "Information Science and Automation Division," p. 497, and Hammer Information Science, p. 7.
  18. Culbertson, "Information Science and Automation Division," p. 499; Hammer, Information Science, p. 8.
  19. Minutes, Board of Directors, July 1, 1970, p. 11.
  20. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 18, 1971, pp. 2‑3.
  21. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 29, 1973, pp. 3‑4.
  22. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 23, 1974, pp. 14‑15.
  23. Hammer, Information Science, p. 9.
  24. Letter, William D. North to Ruth Warnecke (Deputy Executive Director of ALA), February 15,1967.
  25. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 25, 1967, p. 5.
  26. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 10, 1968, pp. 3‑4.
  27. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 27, 1968, pp. 7‑8.
  28. Hammer, Information Science, p. 2.
  29. Minutes, Board of Directors, Midwinter Meeting 1969, p. 7.
  30. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 29, 1973, p. 10. With changes in the names of all three divisions over the years, the official name has now become "The ALCTS/LITA/RASD Interdivisional Committee on the Machine‑Readable Form of Bibliographic Information."
  31. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 25, 1967, p. 7.
  32. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 22, 1970, p. 9.
  33. Donald S. Culbertson, Report of a meeting of a subcommittee of the Committee on a Library Programming Language,
  34. Stephen R. Salmon, Information Science and Automation Division Annual Report, 1966‑1967, p. 3.
  35. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 25, 1967, pp. 2‑3.
  36. Minutes, Board of Directors, Midwinter Meeting 1968, p. 7.
  37. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 27, 1975, pp. 7‑8.
  38. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 29, 1981, p. 3.
  39. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 27, 1982, p. 15.
  40. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 28, 1983, p. 14.
  41. Minutes, Board of Directors, July 2, 1970, p. 9.
  42. Minutes, Board of Directors, July 2, 1975, p. 9.
  43. Minutes, Board of Directors, February 2, 1981, p. 5.
  44. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 23, 1984, p. 1.
  45. Hammer, Information Science, p. 6.
  46. Report of the Committee on Objectives, p. 5.
  47. Hammer, Information Science, P. 3.
  48. Minutes, Board of Directors, February 3, 1977, p. 11.
  49. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 22, 1978, P. 3. Lest there be confusion on the matter, the board ruled that the official pronunciation of the name would be "leeta."
  50. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 30, 1981, p. 10. The question of whether it should be printed in ITALics was apparently suppressed.
  51. Letter, Kenney to Salmon, September 16, 1992.
  52. ibid.
  53. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 29, 1981, p. 2.
  54. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 8, 1983, p. 2.
  55. Final Report of the Long‑Range Plan Implementation Committee, May 29, 1984.
  56. Telephone conversation with Nancy Eaton.
  57. Telephone conversation with Lois Kershner.
  58. Telephone conversation with Linda Knutson.
  59. Telephone conversation with Sherrie Schmidt.
  60. Minutes, Board of Directors, June 27, 1989, pp. 13‑14.
  61. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 5, 1990, pp. 5‑7, 18; September 20, 1990, pp. 5‑6.
  62. Minutes, Board of Directors, July 13, 1982, p. 11.
  63. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 12, 1983, p. 8.
  64. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 24, 1978, pp. 12‑14; January 25, 1978, p. 20; June 26, 1978, p. 4.
  65. Minutes, Board of Directors, July 12, 1982, p. 2.
  66. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 19, 1987, p. 6.
  67. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 7, 1984, p. 3; January 11, 1984, p. 14.
  68. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 5, 1990, p. 5.
  69. Minutes, Board of Directors, July 2, 1980, p. 12,
  70. Minutes, Board of Directors, February 2, 1981, p. 8.
  71. Hammer, Final Report on the 1983 LITA National Conference.
  72. Minutes, Board of Directors, January 7, 1984, p. 3.
  73. Linda J. Knutson, "Preliminary Report on LITA's Second National Conference."
  74. Knutson, "FY 93 Budget Impact Statement," p. 3.
  75. Library and Information Technology Association, Strategic Plan 1992­-1995.




*Stephen R. Salmon, Chairman of the Board of Carlyle Systems, Inc., since 1983, founded and served as first president of ALA's Information Sciences and Automation Division (now Library and Information Technology Association) in 1966-67.