A Chapter in Arkansas Library History
Part 3, 1970 - 1986


The early 1970s featured a tentative breaking away of Association activities from those of the Arkansas Library Commission. It is clear why the "synonymous" relationship had developed, and it is equally clear why a separation began to take place in the 1970s.

Some of the weakness of the Association had been overcome. It now had more money, and membership was four times larger than it had been in the late 1940s. ALA was better able to take care of itself. From the Commission's viewpoint, not only did ALA now have more resources, but the association management activities and other functions being done on the Association's behalf were becoming expensive and burdensome to an underfunded agency.

Membership rolls during the early part of the 1940-1970 years had featured trustees and public librarians as the groups with the most members. The public library focus and the direction offered by the ALC and regional and county public librarians were acceptable to the rest of the membership.

By the early 1970s, school librarians were the largest group within the Association. Public librarian membership had fallen slightly but had quickly stabilized. Trustee membership, however, began a steady decline in the early 1970s that has continued. Once the largest section within the Association, trustees now represent the second smallest division, surpassing only the special librarians group.

Leadership within the Association, which had shifted to the Commission in the 1940s, swung back in the 1970s to the Little Rock Public Library (later named the Central Arkansas Library System), the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and now to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) as well. As a group, school librarians became more instrumental in determining the Association's direction.

After twenty-one years as Arkansas's Councilor to the American Library Association, Frances Neal declined to seek re-election in 1972, signaling the beginning of the realignment in leadership. Vera Snook had been the Association's guiding force for a twenty-two year period. Frances Neal filled a similar role, particularly during the 1950-1972 era.

During the 1970s, three people were elected to both the presidency and the position of councilor. They illustrate the realignment that occurred. These three new leaders were Rose Hogan (UAMS), Alice Gray (LRPL/CALS), and Richard Reid (UAF). They brought with them large staffs that increasingly became committee members and division officers. While not from any single institution, the school librarian division joined these three libraries as primary sources for Association workers during the years following the early 1970s.

Another example of the Association's new strength could be seen in the decision to hire an executive secretary following a dues increase (to $10) in 1972. Katherine Stanick became the first paid employee of the Association in 1974 and an office was opened in a room at the Little Rock Public Library. Stanick became the second editor of Arkansas Libraries following Compton's twenty-five year tenure.

A reassessment of the Association's publication took place in 1975 under the direction of Don Deweese, Fayetteville Public Schools. Following analysis of a membership survey, Deweese's committee recommended a new approach to publications. The new approach utilized a newsletter and a new type of Arkansas Libraries. Joan Roberts, from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, was named editor of what was to be a "journal" Arkansas Libraries, with Stanick editing the new Association newsletter.

Deweese would edit the journal himself in the late 1970s and would head the committee that in 1982 would assess Arkansas Libraries once again. A membership survey at that time indicated a 95 percent approval rating for Arkansas Libraries' "journal" approach.

A frequent visitor to ALA, financial crisis, returned in the second half of the 1970s. Dues were increased and a salary based dues structure was adopted in response. Once again, when faced with the possibility of cutting the Arkansas Libraries' budget or making other major cuts in services, the Association's membership preferred to raise dues in order to continue services.

Throughout the seventy-five year history of ALA, its leadership has waited to raise dues until the financial situation was desperate, instead of forestalling crises by raising dues more frequently. The membership has always recognized the pressing needs. Not only has a dues increase never been defeated by the membership, but there is no indication that any member has ever cast a negative vote on the question at business meeting where dues increases have been adopted.


A review of ALA's seventy-five years indentifies some trends that have remained constant, though years have passed and the individuals involved have changed. The Association has looked to certain institutions frequently for officers, division officers, and committee members. Staff members from the Little Rock Public Library/Central Arkansas Library System, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the Arkansas Library Commission, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences heavily populate such lists.

Presidents from these four institutions have served a total of thirty years. All of Arkansas's Chapter Councilors since the 1944 affiliation with the national association have come from these four institutions.

Part of the reason for this frequency can be explained by the fact that these institutions have larger staffs than other libraries in the state, yet the recognition must be made that a tradition of involvement exists as well. When the level of involvement of the school library division is added to that of an academic library, a special library, the state library agency, and the state's largest public library, it is easy to see why Arkansas's library community is not plagued with the organizational problems which exist in some other states.

All library interests have been able to fit under the Association's banner. Arkansas librarians have always agreed with Benjamin Franklin's admonition to his fellow signers of the Declaration of Independence: "We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."


Improved library legislation and better training for librarians are two issues that have been present throughout ALA's history. A concern for intellectual freedom has also been a part of the Association's purpose for a good many years.

In 1950, a membership resolution passed which read: "We reaffirm and state our steadfast belief in freedom of expression, freedom of acquisition for library collections, and freedom of access to libraries by all people, because these are irreducible factors of a free society." In 1966, an intellectual freedom committee became a permanent part of the Association's structure. Activities were directed toward education of ALA members and support for the Freedom To Read Foundation.

By the 1970s, the Association was prepared to do more. ALA asked Attorney General Bill Clinton to clarify the protections given librarians in obscenity legislation being considered in 1977. In 1979, the Association took the Arkansas Educational Television Network to task for its censorship of broadcasts. Governor Bill Clinton sided with ALA in its complaints, as did newspapers across the state. In 1984, the Association entered a school library censorship case in Concord.

The present year finds the Association questioning the censorship practices of the University of Arkansas's Sports Information Office and the decision by Wal-Mart and 7-11 stores to remove certain magazines from sale after having been criticized by a television evangelist. ALA again has received wide newspaper support, not only from editorial writers but also from sports columnists. The Association was termed a "David" going against three Goliaths at once by the Arkansas Gazette.

An interest in Arkansas literature and in developing library collections of Arkansas materials is also a characteristic of the events in ALA's history. These topics have been the most frequent subject for conference programs beginning with the "Books on Arkansas" talk at the 1913 conference.

Throughout Arkansas Libraries' publication, readers have requested Arkansas bibliographies and reviews of Arkansas related books. These items became a regular feature in the 1975 journal reorganization, and ALA members indicated in their 1982 assessment of the Association's journal that "Arkansas Books & Authors" was both the most read and the most useful feature of the publication.


ALA's 75th year finds the Association in even a stronger position than it enjoyed during its 50th year. The Association has a broad-based membership, no longer dependent on a few people or a few institutions for survival. We should remember that ALA's development and even its survival at times-depended on the commitment of its members-sometimes a very few members.

Frances Neal said it well when she wrote in 1961 about ALA's 50th anniversary. She told Arkansas Libraries' readers that the Arkansas Library Association's history was important because it was "not only substantial proof of the vision and determination of many Arkansas people since the early 1900s, but it also gives a clear and unchallenged history of the idea and the desire [for] library service in Arkansas."

In this sesquicentennial year of Arkansas's statehood, Arkansas librarians, trustees, and library supporters should also remember to say happy birthday to the Arkansas Library Association. Why not mail a birthday check to the scholarship fund? It may be future winners of that scholarship who plan the activities for ALA's centennial year.

The above piece is a republishing to Bob Razer's history of the Association in the December 1986 issue of Arkansas Libraries.

Razer, Bob. "A Chapter in Arkansas Library History" Arkansas Libraries. Vol. 43 no. 4 (December 1986) p. 6-15.

Go to: TOP OF PAGE,  History Intro,  Part 1,  Part 2