the beginnings of APLA*
Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, verses 1-4; 6; and 12-13, Good News Bible
When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered in one place. 2Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. 4They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. ... 6When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because each one of them heard the believers talking in his own language. ... 12Amazed and confused they kept asking each other, “What does this mean?”Introduction
Don’t worry, you are in the right place. That is, if you are here to hear about the early history of APLA. I just wanted to set the stage for what it must have been like at the early meetings of our Association. While I was doing the research for this presentation, and while I was preparing it, that passage kept running through my mind - I hope that you will shortly see the connection. By the way, is it a coincidence that Sunday is Pentecost? I think not!
Help me here. Who can give me a one-line description of why we should recognize these names:
My reason for taking this journey was to look at the history of the Atlantic Provinces Library Association and its predecessors, and to analyse the documentation relating to this history - to identify what there is and where it is. Since my start I have been guided by many people - both the dead and the living. You have heard the names of some of the deceased and you will be hearing more from them. Among the living I would like to acknowledge Wendy Thorpe, “our” archivist at the NS Archives and Records Management; Pat Townsend, Acadia University archivist; and the APLA Executive who approved the grant which made this research possible. As well there have been a number of people who have answered my queries for information, and I have a file of people who are on my “hit list” for future research, for, as with many an enjoyable journey, this one is just beginning.
For the next few minutes I would like to share my findings with you. To continue the metaphor of a journey, you might say that I am going to show you the snapshots that I have been taking. I will be covering the early beginning [1918-1922], the middle beginning [1922-1934], and will end with - the late beginning [1934-1958]. In the process we will be exploring some of APLA’s most cherished traditions:
1918-1922: The Early Beginning
This talk should have been given at APLA 1998 when we convened at Acadia University for Acadia has been a most important factor in the founding and development of the Association. Eighty years before our last meeting at Acadia, the May 1918 issue of the Acadia Athenaeum wrote about the founding meeting of a library association in the Maritimes. An item entitled “Maritime Library Conference at Acadia” appeared nestled between a description of the Propylaeum Society Lecture and an account of a gathering of The Evangelistic Band. The item read:
A meeting of Library workers, convened by Dr. [George B.] Cutten, was held in the Emmerson Memorial Library, April 17th to 19th. There were present delegates from Halifax, St. John [Saint John], Amherst, Yarmouth, Moncton, Canning, Truro, Windsor, and other places.Gone are the propylaeum societies and the evangelistic bands, but here we are gathered some 82 years later engaged in the same activities as those of our fore-parents. In addition to lectures, this earlier group also:
The need for a library association had been expressed as early as the 1880's when James Bulmer, legislative librarian of NS opined, during a speech, that there should be a library association along the lines of the American Library Association and the British Library Association which had been founded in 1876 and 1877 respectively. However, there were few libraries and even fewer librarians in the Maritimes and no real impetus for such an organization until 1918. But why 1918, and why Acadia?
A history professor recently counselled me that you should not ascribe motive to actions of the past; however, as an incautious amateur, I am about to do just that. I will suggest that as wise and as foreseeing as Dr. George Cutten, may have been, the calling of the 1918 meeting was not wholly his idea. And while I appreciate the role that Acadia played in the development of education and libraries in the region, I would suggest that, as President of Acadia University Dr. Cutten was greatly influenced by one Mary Kinley Ingraham who had recently been appointed librarian at the institution. During my research I began to think of Mary Kinley Ingraham as MKI - it seemed to suit her better than Ingraham, so that is how, with your permission, I will refer to her today.
It is not possible in the context of this presentation to do justice to this “awesome” woman. Hopefully, a thumbnail sketch will give you some idea of the range of her talents and energies. MKI came late to librarianship having taught school for a number of years before attending library school at Simmons College in 1917 when she was 43. MKI was appointed Acadia’s librarian that same year and held the post until her retirement in 1944. During those years she was instructor of library science at Acadia, 1918-1944; initiator of bookmobiles operated by Acadia which serviced the public of NS, NB, and PEI in 1935 and 1936; editor of a cultural magazine, Parlance; a poetess; and a playwright. In retirement, she became the operator of a mail order book room and lending library. And, not too incidentally, she was APLA’s secretary/treasurer for most of the years from 1918-1944 and the editor of the Bulletin from its founding in 1936 to her retirement in 1944.
Dr. Cutten’s opening remarks to the meeting of library workers said that the meeting had been called to provide a forum “namely for improving the existing libraries in the Maritime Provinces, for promoting library interests where no libraries exist, and especially [to meet] the need for organization of those engaged in library work.” (Minutes, April 17, 1918) In these words, I think that I hear the voice of MKI. My belief is greatly bolstered by the general tendency of herself and others in the Association to solicit the aid, patronage, and support of influential non librarians, all male, in both their library endeavours and their attempts to establish the Association.
A letter of invitation appears to have been sent to a varied group including librarians, archivists, clergy, educators, and even members of the legal profession - in other words, people who would be expected to be interested in culture and education. At the meeting, in addition to the lecture by Canon Vroom, there was a presentation on cataloguing, one on cooperation in library work, and a series of reports on libraries in the area - sound familiar. The cataloguing paper was delivered by Miss F. J. Lindsay and is thus described in the minutes: “Miss Lindsay gave an interesting account of the work of cataloguing in Dalhousie Library. Her narration was graphic and intellectual, touched by glints of a quiet humor.” (Minutes, April 17, 1918)
After this rather auspicious beginning, the MLA struggled to say the least. Its progress was greatly impeded by the death of its first president shortly after the 1918 meeting or, as one report put it, “Before the Association was definitely established as a working force in the Provinces Mr. Lay died, and interest in the movement lapsed.” (Bulletin of the Maritime Library Institute, v. 1, no. 1, June 1936, p. 1) I am not sure if there is an explicit cause and effect here, but there is an intriguing implicit one.
The planned meeting of 1919 did not take place and at least two other attempts by MKI to convene the group were unsuccessful. She finally managed to gather the interested parties together in what must have seemed like a flurry of meetings for there are records of a 1922 meeting in Wolfville and two meetings in 1923 - Saint John and Moncton, then nothing until 1926.
The 1922 meeting, once again at Acadia, set the stage for what was to be a vibrant, fascinating, and volatile period of the Association’s history. But we cannot go there yet, at least not until we have given some more consideration to the 1918-1922 period. I have noted what appears to have been a lack of activity - no constitution, no membership fees collected, no elections or meetings - in other words none of the outward signs of life. However, there were some interesting activities which indicate that the Association was alive. There is correspondence which states that a constitution had been prepared, but not printed, and there had been attempts to convene a second meeting. However, there are two other, and more significant, signs of life.
The first is a claim in a 1922 letter from MKI to W. H. Scovell, Librarian of the Air Board. In the letter she writes,
The influence of the organization has not been without effect,... About three libraries have been organised under its auspices, and I have had correspondence with people in various towns concerning library plans.I have not yet substantiated her claim, but I have no reason to doubt it.
The second activity was a major project undertaken by MKI in an effort to establish libraries in the Maritimes. It consisted of a proposal to Andrew Carnegie and is succinctly described in a 1981 article by Iain Bates and Pat Townsend (Bates, Iain and Pat Townsend. “William C. Milner and Maritime libraries.” CLJ, December 1981, p. 407-410). In fact Iain and Pat did such a great job of describing it that I am going to shamelessly crib from their article.
According to the article, MKI asked for $7,000 a year for the purpose of establishing a travelling library system: $3,000 to stock the libraries, $900 for staff to catalogue and circulate the collections, $1,600 for a travelling secretary reporting to the association (in effect a provincial librarian) and finally $1,500 for a summer school for librarians. The document is quite forward looking, but not without problems - the main one being that it was not realistic. And, although MKI had wide support from librarians in the Maritimes, the proposal died on the advice of Harvard professor Benjamin Rand, a son of Acadia who had been present at the inaugural meeting of the Association and who offered advice in the early years. Rand advocated that the Association should rather bend its efforts to securing legislation along the lines of that in Ontario.
I don’t know whether it was the rejection of this project or just what, but after this initial vigorous flurry, MKI seems to have been content to see her role as secretary/treasurer as being mainly to call meetings. Meetings which unfortunately never came to fruition until 1922. The important thing from our point of view is that all of this work was done in the name of the Association and in an effort to fulfill one of its aims - the improvement of the state of libraries in the region.
1922-1934: The Middle Beginning
At the meeting of June 13-14, 1922 William Cochrane [W. C.] Milner was elected president. Here again I would like to pause and introduce you to the person of W. C. Milner. Unfortunately, we do not have as much from his own hand as we do from the pen of MKI, but Milner was a more public figure than MKI so we do have his listing in The Canadian Men and Women of the Time, his obituary, and scattered notes about him from other people.
Milner had come to the library profession after an extensive career as a journalist, railway promoter and official, and organizer of a canal project in New Brunswick’s Missiquash River Valley. All of this before 1912 when he was appointed Dominion Archivist for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It was in this latter role, and into his retirement, that he became active in the Maritime Library Association from 1922 to 1934. Oh yes in 1922, when he became president of the MLA, Milner was 76.
At the very least Milner appears to have been a man of tremendous energy, eclectic interests, and an insatiable appetite for correspondence - even if most of it about the MLA doesn’t seem to have been saved. Milner in correspondence to MKI writes, “The life and soul of our movement is publicity” (Letter from W. C. Milner to Mary Kinley Ingraham, June 15, 1922) and Milner certainly tried to live up to this sentiment.
Once again I refer to the article on Milner by Iain and Pat in which they note that between June and December 1922, there are references in the Ingraham [MKI] papers to 15 articles and letters to newspapers, mainly in Halifax, ..., but also in the local press such as the Truro News and theTruro Citizen. (Bates, Iain and Pat Townsend. “William C. Milner and Maritime Libraries.” CLJ,, December 1981, p. 407-410) There is evidence that Milner waged an unrelenting letter writing campaign on behalf of libraries and under the banner of the MLA from 1922 until the late 1920s with another spurt in 1934-35 - although the latter was in a slightly less harmonious spirit. But more on that later.
Let me share with you some of the correspondence between Milner and MKI following the June 13-14 meeting. On June 15 Milner wrote decrying an article in the Halifax Mail which reported - badly - on the events at that meeting. Milner asked MKI to write an account of the proceedings and send it to papers in Halifax, Saint John, with a shorter account to the “various country papers” as well as the papers in Charlottetown and Summerside. He states that he would do it himself; however, “I cannot well take it up myself as it would have the appearance of self-puffery.” (Letter from W. C. Milner to Mary Kinley Ingraham, June 15, 1922)
As I got to know more about the man, I must admit that I found that last sentence out of character; however, he may have said it because his election as president was one of the facts that the article got incorrect. Milner also suggested in this letter that MKI “could safely put some work on the Vice-Presidents at St. John and Halifax. Let them know that the work is not honorary, but means business.” The use of the word “honorary” is particularly curious given what would in the future become a practice of having honorary officers, but that was still in the future at this time.
MKI wrote back a few days later that she had also seen an account in the Halifax Chronicle and that she was
terribly indignant that we were not given a good amount of space. I consider the Library Movement is as worthful as any that has ever been begun in this province, yet first place in our best newspapers must, perforce, be given to murders, suicides and fires. I have found, however, that if one is to do anything with the public one must be thick skinned...Is anyone going to the session on Public Speaking/Dealing With the Media (Dorothy Doyle, Saturday, June 2, 200, 3:00 - 4:30)? This might be a lesson to take with you.
MKI did prepare a letter to be sent to newspaper editors in which she asked their assistance in helping the Association “to put libraries, carefully selected, well administered libraries, in every city, town and hamlet in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.” (Letter from Mary Kinley Ingraham to The Editor, [June 30, 1922]) The letter is a passionate appeal which outlines the situation at the time and encourages everyone to join the MLA so that their names can “go on record as one committed to the work of removing from the people of the Maritime Provinces the stigma of being a people without libraries and without interest in establishing them.”
According, to a scrapbook kept by Milner, the Association did finally get support from the press.
In addition to letters to the editor, the Association, i.e., Milner also sent letters to senior provincial government officials and MLAs in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Was the campaign successful? Not as much as Milner would have hoped. His failure and subsequently that of the Association in its attempts to get better public library services in the provinces was due not only to Milner’s aggressive personality, and suspicion of his motives, but also to the economic and political circumstances of the period.
The region was still recovering from the First World War and had little money for “frills.” As for Milner, it seems that he offended as many people as he charmed. His motives were suspect as he was acting as an agent of a publisher who was attempting to get various books into Maritime schools.
I think that the strength of the Association was also undermined by the absence of MKI during much of the time from 1923-1926. In August 1923, MKI turned over the reins as secretary/treasurer to Margaret Lawrence of Saint John. This consisted of the minutes book and a treasury of $7.02. Lawrence was on the editorial staff of the Saint John Globe and, more likely than not, an acquaintance of Estelle Vaughan the librarian of the Saint John Free Public Library. However, these were rather tenuous qualifications for someone in the position of secretary/treasurer to a library association. The administrative business of the Association seems to have been dormant during this period for Lawrence was no MKI. To begin with Lawrence appears to have waited for direction from Milner. For his part, Milner does not seem to have offered any direction, but then he would have been used to MKI who, as a librarian activist, didn’t need direction.
There is evidence that Milner continued his letter writing campaign right up to 1926 and possibly beyond. In 1926 we have the next instance of organizational activity, which although acrimonious at least indicates life. In May 1926 Lawrence wrote to Milner suggesting that a meeting of the Association be called. Her impetus for writing had been a piece of MLA stationery with the name of a Dr. Crockett as vice-president in the place of Miss Barnaby who had been elected the NS representative at the last regularly convened meeting. I have not found any further correspondence until that of October 15, 1926 when Estelle Vaughan wrote to Miss Starrett of the Woodstock library. Vaughan writes:
Did you receive a notice of the Meeting of the Maritime Association to be held in Truro, Oct 12, at 11 o’clock A. M.? If not will you write, please to Mr. W. C. Milner and protest against the legality of the meeting held.Vaughan also wrote to Milner protesting the legality of the Association and calling him to task for the way that he had been running the MLA by ignoring the executive, indeed even seeming to replace them as he saw fit. She concludes the letter with:
I regret exceeding having to write this letter, but I feel I would not be doing my duty either as a New Brunswicker, or as the librarian of the largest library in the Association, if I did not protest against such a meeting as that held at Truro, when at least half our members received no notification that there was to be such a meeting.You have to give the woman credit for shear hutzpa when, in a PS she asks him to provide her with information about the Maritime Historical Society!
There is also correspondence between Milner and Lawrence in which Milner accuses Lawrence of not having done anything and Lawrence accuses Milner of heavy-handedness. The last in the series of correspondence is that between Lawrence and MKI when Lawrence returns the $7.02 that had originally been turned over to her plus $11.00 which she had collected in fees. Lawrence writes:
I am ... sorry to sever my connection with the association which I think is capable of good work, [sic] Dr. Milner writes me that I neither worked nor paid. I feel that the bills I paid should be considered as my fees. The work may not have been very hard but it was done in my capacity as a newspaper woman and in extending the interest of the organization. Perhaps it was not along the line Dr. Milner considers wisest but it was my best. However, I am tending my formal resignation without any feeling but one of thankfulness for the lesson I have learned. I never knew before that men talked to women as Mr. Milner does and I am glad not to have to stand it any longer - which by the way is about what you wrote to me when I took over your office, and I do regret not heeding your kindly words.Is it any wonder that the Pentecost passage keeps running through my mind!
The Association continued to have a public presence not the least of which was an essay contest which it administered from 1926 through 1928, and maybe longer. Although the contest appears to have been loosely administered, that is, there don’t seem to have been any rules, its intent was noble. It combined Milner’s interest in writing and history by offering monetary prizes for the best essays in local history. The competitions received may submissions of essays which were both original and of high quality. Some of the essays were later expanded to books and at least one winner, Will R. Bird went on to prominence as a Maritime author and historian.
However, the truth was that the Association was once again faltering. In the 1928 secretary’s report, MKI tries to justify the library association, indeed the need for books,
A developing civilization need books as much as it needs railways and automobiles [and] because the instinct for a sound, strong mental culture is in the best of our people, and may presumably lie dormant in the worst, [there is a need for the MLA.]But she also acknowledges that they may have been premature in organizing for it had been reported in no less illustrious a publication than the Library Journal that the Association was managing badly and inefficiently. According to MKI,
there has been an alarming lack of harmony among ourselves, a seemingly hopeless misunderstanding about our aims and purposes. And, therefore, while acknowledging that a Secretary-Treasurer should work, I plead that often it seemed better to wait rather than to write fatuous or futile letters, either to individuals, or for publication in the press. We trust that what we plan we shall one day build.The financial situation in 1928 was the best that it had ever been. The financial statement showed a balance on hand of $21.78. However, strangely enough, this balance may give us a clue as to why the Association was faring so poorly. I have already indicated that the first meeting, and all subsequent meetings, were open to the general public and that invitations were sent to a variety of people who did not have any direct library connection. Such was also true of membership. The intent of both the meetings and the membership was to create a mass of support. There were few librarians in the region and little active support for libraries so anyone who had the appearance of being able to exert influence - either at the popular or at the political level - was invited to join. There do not appear to have been elected officers during this period, but rather appointed ones. Vaughan in a letter to MKI writes the following on behalf of Archdeacon H. A. Cody in reference to his appointment as a vice president:
He wants to know, when and where he was appointed (he received no notification of his appointment and was dumb-founded when Mr. Shives Fisher met him on the street the other day and spoke to him about it). ... He says he has a “dim recollection” of Mr. Milner “ages ago” asking if he was in favour of trying to establish rural libraries, and if he would help in any way he could.The correspondence is full of mentions of such “honorary” appointments which seem to contradict Milner’s earlier assertion that the positions were not honorary, but meant work.
In a 1946 reminiscence, MKI neatly summed up the situation that the MLA was in in the 1920s:
Because we needed those fees so terribly we welcomed to active membership almost any and every person who would join us. The result was chaos. Naturally the aims became confused, and the struggling Library Association was used to promote the intellectual hobbies of one or two persons. We might name these but “nihil de mortibus nisi bonum” [say nothing but good about the dead]. The lack of single and intelligent aims made progress impossible.I cannot yet say for certain that nothing happened between 1929 and 1934 as I would like to first look at some other archival collections. For while I know that no meetings took place, and I have not found any record of fees being collected, I have not confirmed if letters were still being written in the Association’s name. However, I can say that whatever activity there might have been was low-key, and that of a single person, until June 28, 1934.
1934-1958: The Late Beginning
In 1934, a meeting was held during the annual conference of the American Library Association which was being held in Montreal. At that time, a number of librarians with Maritime connections met in the Thames Club. In the course of the afternoon they declared the MLA re-organized, drafted a two page constitution, and elected, or appointed in absentia, an executive with Mrs. John Stanfield, the founder, supporter, and voluntary librarian of the Truro Public Library as President. They also agreed to hold a conference at Acadia in 1935.
By the time that the 1935 conference was convened, May 30, there were 31 members, library clubs had been organized in Saint John and Halifax and were working with the parent association, and there had been one gathering of the group to hear a presentation by Nora Bateson of the PEI Carnegie Demonstration. Of the two library clubs, the Halifax Library Club later separated from the MLA to become the Halifax Library Association.
However, all was not yet smooth sailing. The gathering at which Bateson spoke had taken place during a November meeting of the Women’s Institute in Truro. As there were seven members of the MLA present, they decided to hold an informal meeting during which President Stanfield spoke of the difficulty encountered in pursuing the work of the Association because of the hostile attitude of the former president, W. C. Milner. She had in fact gone so far as to get a lawyer’s opinion on the matter to the effect that Milner could not bring suit against them and could not put any legal obstacle in the way of their work.
The matter of concern is more fully described in the minutes of the another 1935 meeting:
Though we might claim that our body was fairly representative of the librarians of the Maritime Provinces the fact that another organization of the same name was reporting its meetings in the press tended to confuse the mind of the public and to make our own work more difficult. Principal E. W. Robinson, an officer of the other Association, was present, and read a letter from its recently appointed President Rev. W. L. Ross Flemington. Neither Mr. Robinson nor Mr. Flemington wished to be in any active opposition to our organization and its work.Robinson and Flemington may have been amicable; however, the gathering decided not to take any chances on Milner. Harry Piers, the librarian of the NS Provincial Science Library, wrote in his diary
I strongly urged them to make some change in the title of the society, as W. C. Milner had been, as usual, making himself particularly disagreeable ...To that end the group passed a motion to change the name of the association to the Maritime Library Institute and to turn over the books, monies, and property of the Maritime Library Association to the other group. An executive was elected with Estelle Vaughan as President.
By the way, we were the Maritime Library Institute until 1940 when the name reverted to the original Maritime Library Association. Not too coincidentally, W. C. Milner died in November 1939.
From here on the Association did settle down to business and the sturm and drang period seems to have ended. It is not to say that we have not had our interesting personages since 1940, or that we have not had our controversial issues. However, we look to be a rather tame bunch after our stormy beginnings.
I have concentrated on people - the personalities of these early years - because I think that the heart of APLA, of volunteer associations, is people. As part of my archival project, I have been preparing finding aids to the constitutions, the official publications, the conference proceedings, and the minutes of both executive and annual meetings. It is my hope that these finding aids will allow others to do the work of fleshing out the evolution of the Association through its documents. In particular, it would be wonderful if someone would look at the Bulletin - not only the content and editorial policy, but also the format, frequency and, maybe even more interesting, the editors and how they have influenced the publication.
I have sent Bertrum MacDonald [Dalhousie University, School of Library and Information Studies] and Peter McNally [McGill University, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies] a list of topics which might make good research projects for graduate students (see Appendix 2). Tuesday of this week, a small group met to discuss the possibility of collecting anecdotal information about the Association and libraries/librarians of the Atlantic region and we will try to work on this project.
One observation that I can make as the result of my work to date is that librarians are better at preserving the documents of others than they are at preserving their own documentation. It is my hope that we, the membership and especially the executive, remember that much of what we are will be lost if we do not make an effort to preserve it. Of particular concern is the business of the Association which takes place through e-mail that is destroyed.
For myself, I look forward to delving into the papers of W. C. Milner, Margaret Lawrence, and Estelle Vaughan among others and to spending some more time with the delightful Mary Kinley Ingraham.
I do have an objective in looking at these papers for I have still not answered the question of whether or not we were/have been an association from 1918 to the present. I have a gap of about six (6) years in the late 1920s - early 1930s which I would like to find out more about. I think that, by most standards, we have been an association since 1918. If you look at the history of other provincial associations (see the Appendix 1), you will see that they also have a stop/start continuum. In fact most of them have a more interrupted continuum than we have. With a beginning date of 1918, we would be one of the oldest provincial/regional library associations in Canada.
Thank you for coming this afternoon and for your interest in the beginnings of what is now the Atlantic Provinces Library Association. I look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or comments on this presentation and particularly where we should go from here. As well, if you are interested in working on any of the possible topics (see Appendix 2), please contact me at email@example.com.
*This presentation was originally given on June 1, 2001 at the annual conference of the Atlantic Provinces Library Association in Charlottetown, PEI.
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