Brief History

Robert Rose, based on a brief history developed by Georgia Quirk

The Iowa Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) grew out of the College and University Section of the Iowa Library Association (ILA). The ACRL Board of Directors approved the Section’s petition to become an ACRL Chapter in 1976 at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter meeting. The petition that was presented to ACRL contained 38 signatures, 13 more than required.

One of the first official activities of the new Chapter was sponsorship of a bibliographic instruction workshop held in the Spring of 1976. Other programming was developed and the characteristic pattern of a spring meeting and sponsorship of sessions at the ILA annual Meeting was established and has continued to this day.

New direction came about in 1982 because of ILA reorganization. The chapter, previously a Section of the Iowa Library Association, became a forum, an action approved at the 1983 Annual meeting. Compilation and distribution of an Iowa academic library directory began that same year under the direction of an ad hoc Directory Committee, charged with creating the framework for an annual directory – a framework that has served as the basis for every subsequent edition.

In the fall of 1988, Marilyn Moody, Iowa State University, and Patrick Wilkinson, University of Northern Iowa, received a grant from ACRL to form a Leadership Retreat Planning Committee that would study Iowa academic libraries with the purpose of identifying areas of interaction that could be developed in order to enhance library services.

The committee proceeded to divide into two subgroups. One group took primary responsibility for the survey and the other for the planning document. Using the national ACRL task force survey as a model, the committee developed a survey that consisted of 45 multiple-choice questions and five short answer questions. They distributed the survey to all academic librarians and staff listed in the Chapter’s directory. The survey received a 56 percent response rate. The results of the survey provided basic demographic data on the Chapter’s membership as well as information about members’ attitudes and opinions on various issues.

After analyzing the information, the committee began drafting the strategic plan. This took a significant amount of time even though the ACRL plan served as a model. In 1990, the ILA/ACRL Executive Board accepted the final document. Since then the Executive Board has reviewed the document annually as it plans the Chapter’s activities. One of the results of the Strategic Plan was the initiation of a Chapter newsletter in 1991. A second iteration of the plan began to be developed in 1995 following another comprehensive survey of Chapter members. A new plan was approved in 1996 (see Section 4 of this manual).

Adoption of the 1990 Strategic Plan and efforts to implement its goals and objectives led to a major revision of the Chapter’s bylaws. An Ad Hoc Bylaws Committee was formed in 1991 and after numerous revisions, revised bylaws were approved at the Fall, 1992, business meeting. Major changes included forming a Directory Committee to publish the membership directory, assigning the Communication Committee to the newsletter, and conducting Chapter elections by mail immediately after the Annual Meeting. The bylaws subsequently underwent one additional revision, approved by mail ballot in 1995. Major changes resulting from that effort included dividing the Program Committee into two separate committees responsible for the spring and fall programs, and making the Staff Development Committee a standing rather than an ad hoc committee.

The strategic planning that began in 1988 led not only to a newsletter but also to a second publication the ILA/ACRL Organization Manual. Discussion of the need for a handbook had surfaced from time to time and was officially recorded in the Strategic Plan. Following Springbrook in November 1991, Georgia Quirk volunteered to draft a manual. At the next Springbrook Annual Planning Meeting, those who assembled for the ILA/ACRL Executive Board Meeting reviewed the draft and offered comments and suggestions for the first Manual which was dated November 1992. The Board decided that the incoming Vice-President/President-Elect would compile annual updates to the information and distributing replacement pages as necessary.

The Chapter has long demonstrated a commitment to the professional development of its members. Scholarships for attendance at the Chapter’s spring conference and/or the ILA annual conference have been made available for members since the early 1980’s. For a number of years after the death of Pat Foley (president of ILA/ACRL in 1983 and 1984), funds were contributed by members in her memory specifically for scholarship awards.

Another opportunity for enhancing members’ professional development began in 1993 when contributed papers began to be presented as a regular feature of the spring conference program. In that and succeeding years, between 5-6 papers have been presented at each conference. And in 1994, a discussion forum was implemented as a regular concurrent session at the fall conference meeting to provide an opportunity for members to discuss with on another a topic related to the ILA/ACRL speaker’s subject.

A very recent, but very notable, achievement of the Chapter was the establishment of a Chapter Web site in 1996. The Web site holds great promise for becoming a primary communications vehicle for Chapter news and activities.

The above descriptions are only samples of the accomplishments of the Chapter over the past 20 years. A full history of the Chapter has yet to be recorded, but when it is compiled, one theme will recur: ILA/ACRL is an organization that has developed from the efforts of many members, and its growth will continue because of those that are willing to serve.


For further information on the Iowa Chapter’s Strategic Planning process, consult the following resources:

  • ACRL Planning Committee, “The strategic plan in action,” College & Research Library News, September 1989, 50(8):711-2
  • Hervey, Norma and Morris, Dilys, “Iowa Academic Libraries: History of a Cooperative Effort.” Paper distributed at the 1996 ILA/ACRL Spring Conference;
  • Iowa Library Association, Organization manual of the Iowa Library Association, Des Moines; 1980-
  • Martin, David, “Iowa academic librarians meet to discuss future cooperative efforts,” College & Research Library News, July/August 1990, 51(7):652-3
  • Parsons, Kathy A. “Strategic planning by the Iowa Chapter of ACRL,” College & Research Library News, January 1991, 52(1):24-8

For further information on the Iowa Chapter’s Web Site history, consult the following: