The NCNMLG History: Medical Librarians of the San Francisco Bay Area 1947/48 – 1958/59

The first meeting of the Medical Librarians of the Bay Area took place November 12, 1947 in the library of the California State Department of Public Health, San Francisco. While those who initiated the meeting are not named, leadership the first year was provided by Mary Elsie Caruso, Chairman; Alba Eldridge, program chairman; and Jeanette Barry, Librarian of the California State Department of Public Health, whose office was often the meeting place throughout the first five years.

Numerous organizational matters were discussed, definition and purpose, type of membership, types of libraries to be represented, possible affiliations, dues, types of programs and recruiting for membership. At the outset the offices were chairman, secretary, and treasurer. Committees functioning the first year were Program, nominating, policies committees, membership, and constitution, and in later years those for election and archives were added. Records through 1958-59 indicate that election of officers was from a slate prepared by a nominating committee and that the president appointed the committee chairmen.

The group originally called itself Medical Librarians of the Bay Area, officially changed in 1949 to Medical Librarians of the San Francisco Bay Area. This name was affirmed five years later after some efforts to shorten it. The constitution and by-laws, with three revisions, were adopted at the 1949 March meetings. Amendments in ensuing years had to do with officer tenure and the time of election and installation of officers. To support the activities of the organization, dues were levied, first at fifty cents then at sixty cents in 1949, to one dollar in 1953-54 and to two dollars on 1958-59.

Thirteen Librarians from nine institutions in San Francisco, and Berkeley were present at the first meeting, and twenty-three members and guests being the highest recorded attendance during the first year, by the end of which there were sixteen dues paying members. A year later membership had doubled and available records in the next decade showed typical membership as about forty-five. Attendance varied considerably, the highest each year ranging from twenty to forty. Active membership was supplemented by the associate category in 1952, when it was reported that the group also had one honorary member. The occasional membership lists were superseded by complete directories, more regularly issued or revised, as that dated May 1953, which lists forty-five members from twenty-seven library units from twenty-two institutions. Beginning with the first year meetings were business, social or program or combination of these. During the latter part of the early period, dinner meetings became the general practice. On occasions members offered their homes for social gatherings of the group.
The matter of archives received consideration several times, first in 1948 when it was referred to the constitution committee, again in 1955 when it was recommended that a committee be reported to organize and maintain the archives, the in 1958 when the archives chairman reported that the records had been kept and were in order. What was felt to be troublesome lack of information about interlibrary loan policies came to the fore at the second meeting and occupied the attention of the groups for several years. Members submitted descriptions of individual library policies for a compilation to be made to the group.

Possible affiliations proposed at the initial meeting were the Medical Library association, some appropriate group of the Special Libraries Association, and the college and research division of the Northern section of California Library Association. In 1950 when the chairman of the MLA committee on regional group meetings requested a report on the years activities to be read at the annual convention, affiliation was again considered, but then deferred. The local group continued to forward annual reports and lists of officers, and cooperatively responded to other requests, such as participating in the MLA recruitment program, and appointing a representative to serve as a coordinator at the MLA convention. Reports on the annual MLA conventions were given by local members who attended. Thus, while the group decided against the formal affiliation with MLA, it maintained a steady working and informational relationship.

A mutually beneficial connection was established with the Medical Librarians of southern California in 1949 when they invited northern librarians to attend their first two meetings, one a social get-together and the second an organizing session. The suggestion made by one of the northern librarians at this time that the two groups meet together bore fruit in 1950 when the first joint meeting was held in San Francisco. Thereafter joint meetings were scheduled almost annually, alternating between cities in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Areas.

The activities of the group were shaped by the members’ desires to get acquainted with each other and with the services and collections of Medical Libraries in the area, to discuss common problems and share solutions, and to inform themselves on medical and medical library subjects. In its first twelve years the group visited over twenty-five libraries for its meetings, often having guided tours of the parent institutions as well. Frequently the programs included talks by medical, nursing or administrative personnel of these institutions. The wide range of subjects given attention is shown by the following examples: the Rh factor, neurosurgical techniques, cancer research , use of radioactive materials in physiology, dentistry, alcoholism, relationship of the medical profession and the lawyer, medicine in the early days of California, interlibrary loan policy at the University of California at Berkeley, fluoridation, blood fractions, and the longshoremen multiphasic survey. In a different vein was an entertaining play entitled “The Librarian’s Labor Lost, or Much Ado But Nothing Done” written by Edane Rowell and performed by five members for the closing meeting of the first year.

The joint meetings provided opportunities to visit southern California medical and other Libraries and added a variety of talks and panels: book buying and book selection in relation to services of various types of libraries, cessation of index Catalogue Publication and its significance to the medical libraries, current medical periodical indexing, the planning of University of California Biomedical Library at Los Angeles, importance of a medical library teaching institution, library committees – their place in the organization, audio-visual aids and their value in the medical program, and medical libraries of California, their scope and collections, a survey for California Medical Association.

Through its early history, the Medical Librarians of the San Francisco Bay Area continued essentially as they began, a small informal, friendly organization, eagerly seeking out new members and welcoming all into active participation in a professional worthwhile program.