HISTORY AND MISSION
The Missouri Library Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization operating to promote library service, the profession of librarianship, and cooperation among all types of libraries and organizations concerned with library service in the State of Missouri.
The Missouri Library Association (MLA) is a non-profit organization that serves as the regional charter group for individuals working in the field of librarianship for the state of Missouri. The goal of MLA is to support the work of libraries and further advancements in the profession. The organization’s mission is to promote library service, the profession of librarianship, and cooperation among all types of libraries and organizations concerned with library service in the state.
Five Missouri library leaders established the Missouri Library Association during the turn of the twentieth century. The founding members represented public and academic libraries: Fredrick Crunden, Head Librarian for the St. Louis Public Library; Carrie Whitney, Director of the Kansas City Public Library; Charles Yeater, Trustee and President of the Board of Directors for the Sedalia Public Library; Purd Wright, Librarian at the St. Joseph Public Library; and James Gerould, University Librarian at the University of Missouri. These five individuals called for a meeting to establish the Missouri Library Association on December 18, 1900, where eleven more colleagues joined them to discuss the advancement of libraries in the state. One of the primary goals of the newly established organization was to create a state library commission. The members fought hard for several years before they finally accomplished their goal in 1907, when the state legislature passed a bill that created the Missouri State Library. Since its establishment, the Missouri State Library and the Missouri Library Association have benefited from a supportive relationship. The State Library and MLA have worked together to promote collaboration among Missouri libraries and equal access to information for all Missourians.
From its inception, the members of MLA have worked to pass legislation to support libraries and benefit the citizens of the state. It took the organization twenty years to accomplish its next objective, the passage of the County Library Law, which would create county library districts for the state. The state legislature passed this initiative in 1921. During the following thirty years, the members advocated for the allocation of state funds for public libraries and the regulation of state library policies. A favorite initiative was the creation of librarian certification. Many early members supported voluntary certification and in the 1930s, the organization moved to administer such a certification program by forming a Certification Board in 1934. The leaders of MLA petitioned the legislature on several occasions to pass measures regarding a state certificate for librarians, without any success. In the 1960s, the organization finally discontinued the initiative for certification. By this time, many librarians had obtained Master’s degrees in the field and the initiative was no longer necessary.
Over time, the goals of the association have changed, just like those of libraries. In order to continue to serve the needs of the citizens of Missouri, libraries have adapted new technologies, services, methods of organization and resources. The professional organization for librarians has had to keep pace with these changes and work to serve its members. Following the accomplishment of early initiatives, the group’s focus became providing support and advocacy for Missouri libraries. These activities provided many advancements for Missouri libraries and included: sponsorship of the library school at the University of Missouri, partnering with MASL to create the Mark Twain book award, retaining a legislative consultant to advocate for Missouri libraries, facilitating the establishment of the Missouri Library Network Corporation (currently Amigos Library Services), and creating the Building Block Picture Book award. These notable actions and many others have helped to ensure that the citizens of the state have access to libraries and have facilitated the advancement of the profession.
The Missouri Library Association has been instrumental in the development of libraries and the support of librarians and residents of the state. Some of the more recent initiatives incorporate new methods of support for the profession: establishment of Legislative Advocacy Day, participation in National Library Advocacy Day, creation of an organizational website and Jobline, establishment of the Bohley Scholarship, and sponsorship of House Bill 1372, which protects patron confidentiality and makes the theft of library materials a crime. Additionally, the association has managed to convene an annual conference every year, with only one exception, since its inception in 1900.
Currently, MLA has over 500 individual and institutional members. These members represent a variety of aspects of librarianship including special, academic, public, and government. MLA’s organizational structure has also been adapted over time to meet the needs of librarians and their patrons. The current structure includes an Executive Board of elected officers, Committees, Communities of Interest, Communities of Interest Council, and an appointed Archivist and Web Manager. Throughout its history, the Missouri Library Association has strived to support Missouri libraries as they pursue their missions and work to accomplish the goals for intellectual freedom established by the American Library Association.
The Missouri Library Association is dedicated to supporting the development of libraries and library employees in the state of Missouri.
Prepared for MLA by:
Stacy Hisle-Chaudri, Archivist
Missouri Library Association
Additional information regarding the history of the Missouri Library Association can be found in our organization’s archival collection at The State Historical Society of Missouri.