A Short History of the Southern Chapter of the Medical Library Association

Although Southern Chapter began formally in 1982, its actual history goes back to 1951. For it was in this year that the first small meeting of what came to be known as the Southern Regional Group was called by William D. Postell, Sr., of Louisiana State University and Mary Louise Marshall of Tulane University. They invited medical librarians from six southern states to join them for lunch at the Jung Hotel in New Orleans to plan the new organization.

The Southern Regional Group developed rapidly from that first meeting, and grew to include these states at one time or another: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia plus the District of Columbia. Geographically, the Southern Regional Group stretched across the southern United States from the Atlantic to the Rockies. For the first nine years or so meetings were held at various times of the year before settling into the familiar autumn schedule that we now have.

In 1967 the National Library of Medicine established its Regional Medical Library (RML) program. This led to the creation of program regions that were not congruent with Medical Library Association (MLA) regions. Following the establishment of the Southeastern Regional Group in 1969, Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina left to join their respective regional groups.

In the late 1960s and the early 1970s the size of the Southern Regional Group became an issue. Travel across such a large area was prohibitive for many who wanted to attend the annual conferences, so a proposal was made to reduce the size of the Southern Regional Group by splitting it in two along RML program lines. Lively and sometimes contentious discussions followed at meetings, with ardent proponents on both sides.

Initially, the proposal was defeated, but in 1972, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas voted to secede from the Southern Regional Group and form a new South Central Regional Group. Although Louisiana joined the South Central Regional Group it also retained its membership in the Southern Regional Group.

In 1977 Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands became part of the Southern Regional Group.

In 1981 the MLA introduced its new group structure. This required changing the name "regional group" to "chapter" so the Southern Regional Group became the Southern Chapter. Louisiana, which had opted to keep a membership in the South Central Regional Group and in the Southern Regional Group, chose the South Central Chapter.

In 1996 Southern Chapter was awarded the first Majors/MLA Chapter Project of the Year Award for "Fund Raising for the Cunningham International Fellowship of the Medical Library Association using the Honoring and Remembrance of Mentors and Other Professional Colleagues."

Richard Nollan 6/12/97

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