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American Library Institute | The American Library Association Archives

Name: American Library Institute

Historical Note:

The American Library Institute, in part a concept from Melvil Dewey, was established in 1905 and dissolved in 1951. Membership was limited to one hundred persons for terms of ten years as elected by current membership, which included all former presidents of the American Library Association (1). Initially, the five-member Board included a president and a secretary with election to a five-year term of office decided by a three-quarter vote of the membership or "Fellows." These terms of office were staggered for the election of one new Board member each year (2).

The stated purpose of ALI was involvement in matters of research and of deliberation: "to provide for study and discussion of library problems." However, many members and non-members viewed ALI as an exclusive, honorific club which was very vague in purpose and often in conflict with the ALA Council. A constitutional revision in 1934 reworded ALI's purpose: "to provide for the investigation, study, and discussion of problems within the field of library theory and practice." The revision also established a Nominating Committee for the election of Board candidates and called for a five-member Executive Committee and a fifteen-member Research Board, membership on which would be determined by the Executive Committee (3).

Meetings were to be held twice yearly (the 1934 revision reduced the number of meeting to one per year), but in actuality the meetings were sporadic with the first occuring at that 1908 ALA conference (4).

Besides the Research Board, which met in 1934 and 1936, other committees included Program, Research and Aids to Research, and Higher Education of Librarians. "Papers and Proceedings" were published in 1911, 1913, and yearly for 1915-1921. A Symposium on Library Planning and Equipment was held in 1931 (5).

The last regular meeting of ALI was held in 1941 or 1942 with a meeting on the question of dissolution in 1949. In June 1950, the ALI membership voted to discontinue its existence and to transfer remaining funds to ALA. The American Library Association recognized the dissolution and accepted the fund transfer on January 29, 1951 (6).




1. Bulletin of American Library Association 1.5 (1907): 21.

2. Sister Tressa Piper, "The American Library Institute, 1905-1951: An Historical Study and an Anaylsis of Goals," diss. U of Wisconsin, 1975, 72-73.

3. Piper, 31-34, 72, 73.

4. Piper, 15.

5. Piper, 59, 39, 40-41, 55.

6. Piper, 64-65.

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