New York Library Association
Records, 1890-1988

Quantity 216 Boxes (100 cu. ft.)
Access: Record group is open for research.
Acquisition: The New York State Library is the official repository for NYLA records, that have been transferred periodically since 1944.
Processed by: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections. Revised February 1990 and March 1997.
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Historical and Organizational Notes

The New York Library Association (NYLA) was founded in 1890 to promote unity among librarians and cooperation between libraries in New York State. George W. Curtis, Andrew Draper, and Melvil Dewey were the chief sponsors of its first meeting held in Albany on 11 July 1890. The 43 members in attendance voted to organize an association and adopt a constitution and bylaws. A provisional charter incorporating NYLA was granted 19 November 1919 by the Board of Regents. An absolute charter was granted on 20 December 1946.

The principal activity of NYLA since its founding has been the annual conference and business meeting. Held at various locations, it offered attendees a wide variety of programs and activities. Frequently, the program centered on a particular theme, such as "State-Wide Patterns in Librarianship," (1968); "Commitment to People," (1973); and "Strategies for the 80's," (1980). The program consists of plenary sessions for all members, as well as special sessions for sections, roundtables, and committees, where individuals speak or make special audio-visual presentations. The business meeting agenda included the formal installation of new officers, presentation of the financial report, and resolutions.

Legislation related to libraries in New York State has been a concern of NYLA, and the long history of years of committee work for the passage of desired legislation points to several highlights to bring library service to people in all parts of the state. One of its major accomplishments was the enactment of legislation establishing regional library systems on county or multi-county levels. Other legislative goals realized include the passage of State-Aid-to-Libraries Bill, in 1952, and appropriations beginning in 1966, for the Reference and Research Library Resources (3 R's) program.

Administration of enacted legislation has been the responsibility of the State Education Department, with which NYLA has had cooperative working relations from it's beginning. NYLA has served in an advisory capacity through its work on surveys and commissioner's committees studying certification, training and recruitment; financial needs; and library development programs. Reports to SED have kept them aware of needs in library service.

The governance of NYLA has evolved from an executive board of five in 1890 and is now delegated to a council which is the policy making and executive body of the association. The Council consists of the Officers, two members elected at large, the president of each section, and one representative of the New York State Association of Library Boards. Sections may be formed upon petition of 300 members and approved at the annual business meeting. Similarly, roundtables can be established upon petition of 25 members. Committees are established by the Council to provide assistance in administrative or policy matters. A secretary-treasurer has been appointed by the Council to handle everyday administration and bookkeeping at NYLA headquarters. It became a full-time position in 1957, and in 1974 the responsibilities of the office were more accurately described by the title executive director.

NYLA has six sections within its structure representing different kinds of libraries and professional specialties. The School Library Media Section (SLMS) was organized in 1942 from the School Libraries Committee. The Youth Service Section (YSS), formerly Children's and Young Adults Service Section, was established in 1951 from the Children's Books and Libraries Committee. The Academic and Special Libraries Section (ASLS) founded in 1954 as the College and University Libraries Section (CULS), was originally the College Library Committee. The Reference and Adult Service Section (RASS), formerly the Adult Service Section, was established in 1956 to replace the Adult Education Committee. The Section on Management of Information Resources and Technology (SMART), was established in 1959 as the Resources and Technology Section (RTSS) from the Technical Processes Committee. The Public Library Section (PLS) of NYLA is the most recently formed section receiving council and membership approval in 1971. The Library Educators Section, established in 1970, was downgraded to round table status in 1984.

NYLA maintains liaison relations with other library oriented organizations. Among these is the New York State Association of Library Boards, known as the Library Trustees Foundation until 1973. Chartered in 1949 by the Board of Regents as an independent advisory group on legislation and other matters of importance to libraries in the state. NYSALB and NYLA have representatives on each other's governing board to better coordinate their legislative goals.

NYLA has had a close relationship with the American Library Association (ALA) throughout its history. For many years it had chapter member status, which allowed NYLA members to elect the New York State representative on the ALA Council. Beginning in 1971, this representative was chosen by ALA members residing in the state. NYLA has suggested ALA on legislation and issues of concern on the national level. For example, NYLA lobbied members of New York's Congressional delegation for passage of the Library Service and Construction Act of 1978.

The decision was made by the Council to convert the NYLA from simply a program organization to one that would provide effective leadership in the whole profession at the state level, and that the association should direct its ambition to the needs and users of libraries current and potential. This changed the action program to one of cooperative planning among librarians and with the bureaus and divisions of state government concerned with library service. This unification of effort has led to strengthening the effectiveness of the association.

Description of the Record Group

The records of the New York Library Association (NYLA), comprising one hundred cubic feet, document the diverse functions and activities of an organization from 1890 to the present. These records have been transferred periodically to the New York State Library (NYSL) since 1944, when it was designated as NYLA's official repository. Arrangement of these records is according to principal administrative functions and activities or in some cases the form of material. There are a total of ten series: Organizational, Executive Board and Council, Section, Roundtable, Committee, Financial, Conference, Subject, Printed, and Photographic Materials.

The Organizational series consists of a variety of materials relating to its governing and administrative structure and history. Included are (1) letters and printed items documenting its founding on 11 June 1890, incorporation by the Board of Regents, 1929, and granting of the absolute charter in 1946 by the Board of Regents. (2) Administrative Manuals, issued periodically since 1903, contain the constitution and bylaws, motions of the council, section, roundtable, and committee responsibilities, standard forms, historical background, and other essential facts for executive officers, council members, and administration staff. (3) Membership directories and rosters, various dates, containing an alphabetical list of the NYLA members. (4) Secretary-treasurer's Books, three bound volumes, containing the minutes of annual business meeting and financial reports for years, 1890-1922.

The Executive Board and Council Series consists of three subseries: Minutes of Council Meetings, (1907-1986), correspondence, (1912-1987), and Memoranda and Reports (1970-1988). Minutes of the Council meetings chronicle the action taken on all business set forth on the agenda. The decisions made by the Council are important as this body is empowered to determine all policies and programs of the association, with the exception of amending the constitution and bylaws. The correspondence subseries consists mostly of letters between the president, vice-presidents and executive director regarding the conference programs, legislation, and other administrative matters. It reveals the important role the executive officer has in formulating policies and setting the agenda for council meetings. Memoranda and Reports consists of these documents generated by Council meetings, other than the approved minutes. Included are the drafts of minutes and agenda, as well as reports presented at the meetings. In general this series documents the decision and policy-making process of NYLA.

The Section Record Series documents the policies and program of seven sub-organizations within NYLA that represent different fields and specialties within the library profession. Subseries are based on each individual section. Each section has been largely responsible for the creation and maintenance of its records, since it has its own constitution, by-laws, and governing body which are patterned after the parent organization. In general the records of sections indicate that their principal activity is the planning and administration of special programs and workshops to inform and educate its members in regard to trends and developments in their field. The kinds of records generated by each section as follows: Academic and Special Libraries Section consists of correspondence and memoranda (1954-1986); Library Educator's Section consists of 1 1/2 containers that include minutes of meetings (1970-1980), correspondence (1970-1974, financial reports (1970-1974), and other assorted printed items (1970-1974); Public Library Section records include minutes of meetings (1971-1979), correspondence and memoranda (1972-1979); Reference and Adult Section consists mostly of correspondence, memoranda, and reports of its officers and council members (1956-19876); Section on Management of Information Resources and Technology consists of minutes (1959-1986), correspondence and memoranda of its officers (1962-1970, 1975-1980), committee files, papers, and proceedings of Preservation Workshop (1970). Youth Service Section Records (1954-1985) consists primarily of minutes and related memoranda of its executive board meetings.

Roundtable Files (1975-1986) document the activities and functions of another kind of semi-independent associations in NYLA. They are established primarily to provide a forum in which a particular issue of a topic is discussed. For example the Ethnic Service Roundtable is concerned with how libraries can build special collections relating to different ethnic groups in their community. These files contain letters and memoranda regarding the planning and scheduling of their meetings at the annual conference and summary reports stating their position and relevant issues.

Committee Files (1931-1986) documents the work of these special bodies created under the direction of the NYLA council to perform a specific task or function, which is primarily to assist in policy making or administering programs. For example, the plans for a regional library system was devised by the County Library Development Committee and Legislative Committee, formerly called Library Standards and Legislation. The Legislative Committee was also involved, along with the Federal State Relations Committee in formulating the 3 R's program. Besides external policy-making, some committees concentrate on administering internal matters, such as the Awards, Scholarship, and Conference Planning Committees. The kinds of papers found in these files include correspondence and memoranda.

The Financial Records Series (1925-1986) provides official documentation on the receipt and expenditure of its funds. Their primary source of revenue is member's dues payments. These funds are then distributed accordingly for a variety of programs and administrative funding. It appears that the bulk of funds are used to pay staff salaries, rent office space, and the purchase of office supplies and equipment. Other major expenditures paid, in part, by general funds include lobbying activities and conference programs. The specific kinds of records include: Account Audits (1938-1986), Treasurer's Reports (1915-1965), General Account Ledgerbooks (1925-1966), Dues Receipt Books (1957-1964), invoices (1915-1931), and vouchers (1959-1961). It should be noted that numerous gaps exist in the continuity of these records, and that date spans are variable.

The Subject Files (1894-1986) are comprised of the papers relating to the many activities, and programs of NYLA. The bulk of these files was generated by activities relating to planning and administration of the annual conference and business meeting. Specific files contain correspondence, memoranda, and forms concerning matters, such as meeting facilities, accommodations, scheduling, and exhibits. Other subseries include: Awards and Memorial Funds (1952-1984) that contain information on nominees and recipients; Educational Grants and Loans (1955-1973), consisting mostly of scholarship applications and loan payment receipts; Government Programs and Conferences (1944-1986) relates to the service of NYLA in an advisory capacity for many library aid programs administered by the State Education Department; Library Day and Lobbying Files (1975-1985) documents the association's efforts to help libraries secure adequate state funding for erecting buildings and expanding services. (Library Day is an organized gathering of librarians at the State Capitol each year to meet with members of the state legislature); Library Organization File (1948-1980) is concerned with NYLA's involvement in other library oriented organizations, such as the American Library Association and the New York State Association of Library Boards, Workshops and special project files (1957-1979) that concerns special programs, such as the county library film, "Books for All," (1959); and Publication Files (1952-1985) regarding the editing, printing, and distribution of the NYLA Bulletin and other publications. Correspondence (1952-1964) and Advertisement Files (1962-1969) comprise the bulk of these subseries. Lastly there are a number of miscellaneous subject files that relate to various administrative matters of the council, such as the appointment of an executive director (1981).

Ancillary materials in the NYLA records include most issues of the NYLA newsletter, (1927-1952) and the NYLA Bulletin (1953-1986). It should be noted that the archives lacks many of the Bulletin issued between 1953-1959. In addition there are files containing an assortment of other NYLA publications. Lastly, there are files of photographs taken at the annual conferences, (1974-1985) and Library Day, (1982-1985).

In general the NYLA records are an invaluable source of documents relating to the growth and development of library services and the librarian profession in the State of New York.

Series Title Boxes
1 Organizational Boxes 1-6 (1 cu. ft.)
2 Executive Board and Council, 1967-1988 Boxes 7-29 and 155-157
3 Sections, 1942-1986 Boxes 30-50 and 177-183
4 Roundtables, 1975-1986 Boxes 50-53
5 Committees, 1933-1986 Boxes 54-82
6 Financial, 1925-1986 Boxes 83-98
7 Subject, 1894-1986 Boxes 112-141 and 167-176
8 Publications, 1927-1980 Boxes, 142-150
9 Photographic and Audio Visual Materials Boxes 151-154
10 Later accretions to above series for years 1969-1994 Boxes 184-216

Boxes 1 - 98
Boxes 99 - 216

Last Updated: May 24, 2021