History of the Public Library Association


The formation of the "Division of Public Libraries" of the American Library Association was approved by ALA Council on Oct. 13, 1944, following petitions signed by nearly 1,200 members (ALA Handbook, December 1, 1944; and ALA Bulletin, September, 1945).

75th Anniversary

Beginning in 2019 through the PLA 2020 Conference, PLA recognized its milestone 75th anniversary by reflecting on its storied history, celebrating its achievements, honoring the people who have contributed to its success, and garnering financial support for what comes next. Please visit the PLA 75th Anniversary website to learn more.


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).


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


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).

View the list of all past Executive Directors from 1944 to present.


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.