A Signal Accomplishment-The 1920's

Mary Edna Anders' early history of SELA credits the idea of a regional meeting to discussions by a group of southern librarians enroute to the American Library Association Conferencein Colorado Springs in June, 1920. Five months later the first regional meeting took place at Signal Mountain, Tennessee, on November 12-13, 1920, with an attendance of approximately one hundred librarians from seven states. Known as the Southeastern Librarians'Conference, this initial meeting dealt with general problems rather than those of administration and technique.

The success of this meeting led its leaders, while at ALA in Detroit, to schedule a second for November of 1922, again at Signal Mountain. Nine states were represented this time with twice as many attendees.

They tackled two pressing problems--library service for Blacks and training facilities for black librarians. Plans were formulated for an association "to discuss primarily the problems of the Southeast and to promote library development in this region." A constitution providing for an informal organization based upon state memberships (automatically making members of the state organizations members of SELA) was adopted. Mary Utopia Rothrock of Lawson McGhee Library in Knoxville and Charlotte Templeton of Greenville (S.C.) Public Library were elected the first president and secretary-treasurer, respectively.

By the 1924 Asheville conference nine states--Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia --had ratified the constitution. At this conference the first section programs were held. Although their names and composition may have changed through the years, five of the present Sections were organized as early as 1922: Public Library, School and Children's, Reference and Adult Services, Resources and Technical Services, and College and University Sections.

The fourth conference, again at Signal Mountain in April 1926, was the only regular conference held in the Spring. Specific ten year goals for improvement of library service were approved, one being negotiation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regarding standards for school libraries and for institutions offering courses in school librarianship.

At the final conference of the decade at Biloxi in 1928, substantial progress was reported in the areas of standards, state library agencies, and service to minorities. In 1929 the Policy Committee prepared a special report citing critical needs for the Southeast to be submitted to national foundations at their January 1930 meetings.