The New Members Round Table (NMRT) was established as the Junior Members Round Table (JMRT) in 1931 by an informal group meeting at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in New Haven, Connecticut. It became an official part of ALA in 1941 when its constitution and by-laws were adopted at the Boston conference. Maria Leavitt, Chair of the ALA Membership Committee, saw the need in 1931 for an organization within ALA for newcomers into the library profession. At that time, new members had little opportunity for activity in the work of the Association, so many young professionals were not joining ALA. JMRT was conceived as a training ground to promote a greater feeling of responsibility for the development of library service and librarianship. It was established as a discussion group to get the young librarians to join ALA and help orient them to their profession.
The new JMRT members were eager for involvement and immediately undertook two projects. The first was a compilation of a subject index to the literature of the library field to supplement "Cannon's Bibliography of Library Economy, 1876-1920." This project was published by ALA as Library Literature, 1921-1932. The second was a survey concerning the effectiveness of library education.
Members of JMRT also began to be published with the cooperation of the H. W. Wilson Company. A monthly department in the Wilson Bulletin, "Junior Librarians Section," started in February, 1936, with Round Table members submitting articles and news. Educational pamphlets were also prepared for Wilson, the first ones on periodical indexes in 1937, and later on the card catalog in 1946.
Some other projects JMRT was involved with over the years include essay contests, a duplicate magazine exchange program, a local indexes project to make a union list of indexes of all types in libraries in the United States, exchanges of librarians, a project to aid European libraries damaged in World War II, and professional development grants. During the last 60 years JMRT/NMRT has been an active campaigner to stimulate methods of continuing education in the library field.
JMRT was also involved in the early years with helping new librarians become introduced to the profession. The Staff Orientation Committee was created in 1940 to consider the problems of a young librarian entering their first job, and to recommend methods to make the transition easier.
Soon after JMRT was founded, it had nearly 200 members, but quickly grew to 1200 by 1939. This was not sustained, however, and membership fell during the 1950s. This occurred even with new attempts to involve young librarians in ALA, including the development of a placement service in 1952 that listed job openings and made them available to JMRT members. A newsletter was also published at this time, providing information on state and local chapters and ALA conferences.
Low membership totals continued into the 1960s, with less than 200 active members in 1961. These totals did begin to rise through the 1960s, with 300 members in 1966 and 500 by 1969. This was a trend shared by ALA as a whole, which had 23,000 members in 1959 and nearly 37,000 a decade later. In response to this increased membership, JMRT greatly expanded its number of organized committees. This allowed young professionals to have more opportunities for involvement in ALA and the library profession. Before 1970, JMRT members primarily had only ALA committees on which to serve, because of the lack of committees sponsored by the Round Table. This situation changed dramatically in 1971, when JMRT grew to a total of 17 committees. This number rose to 20 by 1981 and to 25 in 1991. Some of the committees founded during this twenty year period include the Committee on Governance (1971); Olofson Memorial Award (1972); Handbook (1975); Archives, Membership Meeting, and Midwinter Activities (1977); and Exhibitor Contact and Relations, President's Program, and Scholarship (1983).
By 1971 JMRT had grown larger not only in size, but also in the scope of its mission. In addition to its original goals, it now sought to actively assist in the recruitment of qualified persons for the library profession. By 1983, the growth of JMRT continued, with 850 members; by 1991, over 900 members had joined the newly renamed New Members Round Table.
During this time of growth, a newsletter was again being published to promote JMRT and keep its members informed on ALA activities. Newsnotes (1966-71) and its successor Footnotes (1971- ) are the newsletters that have been put out by JMRT/NMRT. A second publication, Cognotes, issued each year at the ALA Annual Conference since 1972, serves to inform people in attendance at the Annual and Midwinter conference about meetings, events, and program changes. This is another way in which NMRT contributes to ALA and assists their fellow librarians. Cognotes is no longer issued by NMRT, but the name remains: the “COG” in Cognotes is an acronym for the Committee on Governance of JMRT .
The sweeping technological changes that occurred in the first decade of the 21st century have transformed how NMRT members collaborate and participate within the organization. The NMRT-L discussion listserv has allowed members to communicate with one another through email since 1997 . The NMRT Board members (NMRTBD) listserv facilitates communication amongst Board Members and Committee Chairs and allows them to take part in email-based NMRT Board Meetings . Another helpful resource for those interested in gaining writing experience is the NMRT New Writers List, NMRT Writer, where calls for papers and other writing opportunities are posted and general discussions about writing take place . By the fall of 2003, Footnotes began publishing their quarterly newsletter by way of email . Since 2007, ALA Connect has provided NMRT members, and committee groups, a forum for online collaboration, discussion, and information sharing . An official NMRT wiki was created in 2008 and NMRT Notes: Blog of the New Members Round Table of ALA began in June 2009 . NMRT has also maintained a presence on popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr . Most recently, Endnotes: The Journal of the New Members Round Table, an online journal, was launched in May 2010 to provide new librarians and members of the Round Table opportunities to publish scholarly work in a peer reviewed publication. Endnotes was realized through the efforts of the former NMRT Scholarship, Research, and Writing Committee which was created in 2006 .
In 2002, the Documents Digitization Taskforce committee, later renamed the Archives Committee, began to reflect on the importance of preserving the institutional history of NMRT and devised new policies to preserve its organizational memory. This committee digitized official NMRT records as far back as the 1970s, and adopted a forward-thinking approach to preserving “born digital” records such as emails, listservs, and online publications . These records are now accessible to all members in the searchable Archives database on the NMRT Popular Resources web page .
The myriad new ways of collaborating on the aforementioned forums have fostered new programs in NMRT. Career and Conference Mentoring Programs, created in 2003, pair seasoned professionals with new librarians in a “learn and give” experience for both librarians to help new librarians learn how to build their careers and to make the most of their conference experience . A Resume Review Service, which is also available year-round by email, provides a valuable service at ALA national conferences, in which seasoned professionals volunteer their time and offer invaluable advice to new librarians in scheduled one-on-one, in person meetings.
In the last decade, NMRT committees have worked diligently to offer a variety of social networking and learning opportunities at ALA conferences. Just a few of these events include socials, travel scholarships, a resume review service, and NMRT orientation sessions to help new members get the most out of national conferences. Since the 1970s, the NMRT Professional Development Grant and Shirley Olofson Memorial Award have aided new members to help defray the cost of attending a national conference . The Student Chapter of the Year Award, since 2000, also awards student chapters stipends to encourage student involvement in the organization, and to assist students financially with conference attendance . The New Members Round Table celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2006 with a growth in membership which exceeded 1,800 members and an expansion to 28 committees . Several new committees that have been created in the past decade, include: the Web Committee (2000), Resume Review Service (2000), Liaison Coordination and Support Committee (2003), Endnotes Committee (2005), Annual Program Committee (2005), Online Discussion Forum Committee (2005), and the Membership, Promotion, Diversity & Recruitment Committee (2007), Annual Conference Professional Development Attendance Award Committee (2011; previously the Marshall Cavendish Award Committee, 2006), and the LLAMA/NMRT Joint Committee on Collaboration (2011) .
Over the last 75 years, NMRT has developed from a small discussion group of young professionals to a large organization with many state affiliate chapters and members who are participating in a vital, healthy, and active association. Since its formation, NMRT has been the key for many to first find a niche in the organization of ALA, a place where they can begin to develop a career through involvement and participation with their peers in the library profession. As in 1931, when Junior Members Round Table was first conceptualized, the goals remain the same: to provide new members opportunities for participation within ALA, a forum for discussion to orient new members to the profession, and to promote a greater feeling of responsibility for the development of librarianship.
Written and edited by:
Robert Dunkelberger, Chair, Archives Committee, 1991-1992
Carla Robinson, Chair, Handbook Committee, 1999-2002
Virginia Pierce, Member, Handbook Committee, 2010-2011