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Insider Article [September 2012] [08/27/12] (Interest Group Spotlight)
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Interest Group Spotlight

CLA’s Library History Interest Group

Photo of James Gillis
James L. Gillis, California State Librarian from 1899 to 1917, is one of the ten inaugural California Library Hall of Fame honorees. Photo: Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.

A small group of CLA members has worked to promote awareness, preservation, and discussion of historical materials and issues involving libraries and librarianship with primary emphasis on California and Californians. Originally a Round Table, the group has morphed into an Interest Group. These dedicated librarians strive to remind us all of the rich history that we all share.

Celebrating the history of libraries at the turn of the last century, touring Carnegie libraries, updating a major bibliography of California library history, producing a calendar of interesting older libraries, visiting a historic department store converted into a library and law school building, and sponsoring a poster session on the history of the California literacy program are but a few of the activities and projects that the group has conducted over the years. The Interest Group hopes to promote and assist others in library centennial celebrations and make available oral histories of CLA past presidents.

The Library History Interest Group’s latest major project is one of its grandest. This year, the California Library Hall of Fame will be celebrating ten librarians in the inaugural class honoring the historical significance of distinguished librarians, library workers, and library supporters who have helped to improve library services in California over a sustained period of time. This first group includes academics, public librarians, CLA and ALA presidents, state librarians, a librarian imprisoned for her beliefs, one of the creators of our state county library system, an editor of cataloging rules, and the first certified African-American librarian in California. Honorees will be featured in CLA’s online California Library Hall of Fame and recognized at CLA’s Awards Gala during the annual conference in San José. In addition, some of the living awardees will be featured in a program at the conference. The California tribute is patterned after a similar one sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation.

Although the Library History Interest Group has had a loyal core of active members, mainly from the southern end of the state, it is open to all librarians and others who wish to help remember the very important, significant, and interesting history of California’s libraries and librarians. If you would like to join or contact us, please email:

David McFadden, Chair
Library History Interest Group

CLA members network with others who share their interests by participating in Interest Groups. To join the Library History (and any other) Interest Group, simply go to your member profile at and select the group or groups you’re interested in. Once you’ve signed up, visit your group’s home page and join its listserv to ensure you receive your group’s communications. If you need assistance, please contact the CLA Help Desk.