History & Purpose

Adapted and expanded from “NETSL in a Nutshell”, 2nd ed. revised 1976, by Frank J. Seegraber (Boston College)

The organization known today as NETSL (New England Technical Services Librarians) grew out of a decision made at the 1922 American Library Association Conference in Detroit, when a committee was appointed to consider reorganizing the Catalogue Section of ALA, and to assess the degree of local interest in the formation of regional groups that would hold regular meetings for the discussion of common problems.

Practicing librarians in the Greater Boston area responded with enthusiasm. On April 3, 1923, Simmons College hosted a meeting at which 104 representatives from 33 different libraries passed the following resolution:

“That a regional organization of the cataloguers of Boston and vicinity be formed for the purpose of sociability and discussion, and to assist the Catalogue Section of A.L.A. with its suggestions as to program and speakers.”

Thus was born the Boston Regional Group of Cataloguers and Classifiers (BRGCC), one of the earliest and most active regional groups within ALA. Membership was limited to those actually engaged in cataloging within a 50-mile radius of Boston. Simple in organization, and virtually without committee structure, it continued relatively unchanged through the 1940s. A faithful core of about two dozen stalwarts kept it alive during the war years.

After World War II, the impact of numerous forces began to have a cumulative effect upon the BRGCC. The proliferation of new campuses and expansion of older ones, mushrooming suburbs demanding better school and public library facilities, superhighway construction, the separation of staffs into public and technical services, the wholesale switch to Library of Congress cataloging by research libraries, centralized processing, and the emergence of library networks are some of the factors that generated increasing pressure to expand our scope of operations.

At the Spring Meeting of April 30, 1959, the name was changed to New England Technical Services Librarians, and membership was extended to anyone in New England interested in technical services. In 1962, when the New England Library Association (NELA) was formally reorganized, NETSL members voted to become a section of NELA, while preserving our status as a Regional Group of ALA and retaining our name. Active membership in NETSL is limited today to personal members of NELA. NETSL is affiliated with the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) of ALA, and is part of ALCTS’ Affiliates Relations Committee, formally the Council of Regional Groups.

Today, NETSL’s bylaws state our purpose: “to bring together for the exchange of ideas and discussion of problems all persons in the region interested in technical services in libraries and to cooperate with regional and national agencies having related interests.”

NETSL is known for its lively and provocative Spring Meetings, generally held in April at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and for its programs and discussion groups held as part of NELA’s Annual Conferences in October.

Compiled by David Miller (Curry College, Milton, Mass.)
Thanks to NETSL Archivist Robert Cunningham (NELINET).

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