Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries at comprehensive, research institutions in Canada and the United States. ARL member libraries make up a large portion of the academic and research library marketplace, spending more than $1.4 billion every year on information resources and actively engaging in the development of new models of scholarly communications.

The Association of Research Libraries held its first meeting in Chicago on December 29, 1932. At that time, its membership included 42 major university and research libraries. This first meeting was primarily organizational. The prepared constitution and bylaws were accepted and each library adopted a constitution that stated, "the object shall be, by cooperative effort, to develop and increase the resources and usefulness of the research collections in American libraries." Donald B. Gilchrist was elected as Executive Secretary. The Advisory Committee members included J. Christian Bay (John Crerar Library), James T. Gerould (Princeton University), Harold L. Leupp (University of California Berkeley), C. C. Williamson (Columbia University), and Phineas L. Windsor (Illinois University).

The first venture to be undertaken by ARL was a project for the collection of data regarding manuscript collections. This project had little support and was relatively short-lived. However, the second project, the annual listings of the titles of the PhD theses was a significant contribution to the profession. The first volume of Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities was compiled by ARL and was published by H. W. Wilson in 1933. This series of publications would become the predecessor of what is now Dissertation Abstracts. Passed into law in 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act allowed trade associations and industry representatives to draft industrial codes of fair competition. In order to encourage the preservation of these records, ARL published Address List of Local Code Authorities under N.R.A.: 1933-1935 in 1933 which had been prepared by the National Recovery Administration for the Joint Committee on Materials for Research established by the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Research Council. Two new members were added to ARL in 1936; Grosvenor Library (Buffalo) and New York University. The National Archives had expressed interest in joining but rejected the subsequent invitation.

ARL initiated two projects in 1937; publication of the Library of Congress catalog and an investigation into the pricing policy of the Wilson Company. In December 1937, Keyes Metcalf (Harvard University) succeeded Gilchrist as Executive Secretary. Gilchrist continued to edit Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities and serve on the Wilson Pricing Policy Committee. The University of California Los Angeles joined the ARL in 1937. Louisiana State University joined ARL in 1938. Keyes's term ended in 1940 and he was replaced by Paul N. Rice (New York Public Library). In a meeting in January 1942, a proposal for the division of acquisition responsibility was presented. Rice formed a Committee on Postwar Competition in Book Purchases. Members of this committee included Archibald MacLeish (Library of Congress), Keyes D. Metcalf, and Robert Downs (future Director of Libraries at the University of Illinois). This program served as a pilot project for the Farmington Plan. As part of the Library of Congress project, the ARL sponsored the publication of A Catalog of Books Represented by L.C. Printed Cards in 1942.

A two-day meeting was held in March 1944 to discuss a multitude of issues. Resulting from the meeting were a number of committees: Committee on Division of Responsibility for the Acquisition and Recording of Research Materials, Committee to Investigate the Wilson Proposal for Publication of LC Catalog Cards in Book Form, Committee on Reprinting the British Museum Catalog, Committee on Securing Complete Files of Foreign Documents in Certain Designated American Libraries, Committee on Standards for Graduate Colleges, Committee on Statistics of Library Holdings, Committee to Study Plans of Cancellation of Library Discards, Joint Committee on Government Documents, and Joint Committee on Cooperative Buying of Chinese Materials. In 1946, Charles E. David (University of Pennsylvania) was elected Executive Secretary.

The Farmington Plan was initiated in January 1948 covering limited to monographs published in France, Sweden, and Switzerland by 52 cooperating libraries. The overhead expenses were paid for by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Also in 1948, ARL Minutes were submitted for publication in College & Research Libraries for the first time.

Robert A. Miller was elected Executive Secretary in December 1951. The Foreign Newspaper Microfilm project was initiated in January 1956. It has 46 subscribers and a first year budget of $14,000. William S. Dix, the 6th Executive Secretary, was elected in 1957. His term lasted only 2 years as he was elected Chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in 1959. Stephen A. McCarthy was elected in 1960.

On December 5, 1961 the ARL was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. In May 1962, the National Science Foundation approved a 2-year grant of $58,350 towards the establishment of a full-time ARL Secretariat. The June 1962 invitation meeting brought the total number of ARL members to 72. In 1963, ARL assumed responsibility of publishing annual library statistics.