International Association
of School Librarianship

History of the Association

During the early 1960s, school librarians attending meetings of the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) talked about an international meeting of people associated with school libraries. In 1962 when WCOTP met in Stockholm, Margot Nilson, coordinator of school library services in Stockholm, and Carolyn Whitnack, AASL/NEA delegate from the United States, approached the WCOTP President about the possibility of holding a forum as part of WCOTP which would bring together people from many countries who were interested in school library service. Discussion over the next few years culminated at the WCOTP meeting in Vancouver, Canada, when a committee was formed. The 30 educators and librarians present decided that the time had come to create an international forum for those people who were interested in developing library services for primary and secondary schools.

An international steering committee was formed, representing the United Kingdom, Kenya, Paraguay, Malaysia, Australia and the United States. The committee was directed to:

  • plan a program for the WCOTP meeting in Dublin in 1968,
  • try to conduct a survey on the status of school library programs in member countries, and
  • move toward a formal committee within WCOTP.

At the WCOTP meeting in Dublin in 1968 it was voted to ask WCOTP to create an ad hoc committee for school library development with the original steering committee to serve as members.

During the WCOTP meeting in Sydney, Australia, in August 1970, a tentative framework for IASL as an independent organisation was approved in principle. Following the Sydney meeting, the charter for the International Association of School Librarianship was drawn up and the association was inaugurated in Jamaica in August 1971. The first officers were:

  • President: Dr Jean E. Lowrie (USA)
  • Vice President: Margot Nilson (Sweden)
  • Treasurer: Phyllis Hochstettler (USA)
  • Directors:
    • Amy Robertson (Jamaica)
    • Margaret Scott (Canada)
    • John Ward (Australia)
    • Richard Mainwood (England)
    • J.B. Ekpong (Nigeria)
    • Muriel Eu (Singapore)

Since that time, the association has grown to include individual members and school library associations. Members include people who are concerns about school library media programs and services - librarians, school library media specialists, educators, publishers, and lay people. Conferences are held annually in different regions of the world.

In order to work closely with educators and librarians, IASL remained affiliated with the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) and became a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). However, because of a change in the organisational pattern of WCOTP in 1992, IASL no longer has a direct affiliation with this organisation. Currently, IASL is associated with UNESCO under Category C and works informally with the International Reading Association (IRA) and the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).

The first IASL international conference was held in London in 1972. Thus the 1996 conference and 25th Anniversary celebration in Jamaica, marked a return to the country where the Association was founded. Helen White and the Anniversary Committee produced a booklet collecting messages and reminiscences from Charter Members and others involved in early IASL activities.

Download booklet here: Sustaining the Vision: 1971-1996: Memories, a Sharing From Our Earliest Members

Honorary Members of IASL

Honorary members are individuals who have made noteworthy and outstanding contributions in the field of school librarianship. Unanimous approval of the Board of Directors is required in order to become an honorary member of the Association. The number of honorary members is limited to ten.

Current Honorary Members

  • Michael Cook, Wales, UK
  • Gerald Brown, Canada
  • Suzanne Mubarek, Egypt
  • Takeshi Murofushi, Japan
  • Mieko Nagakura, Japan
  • Dianne Oberg, Canada

Former Honorary Members

  • Dr. Jean Lowrie, USA (deceased November 2014)
  • Margot Nilson, Sweden (deceased July 2008)
  • Amy Robertson, Jamaica (deceased January 2008)
  • Lucille Thomas, USA (deceased June 2019)
  • John Ward, Australia (deceased 1997)
  • John Wright, Canada (deceased June 2022)

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