History

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) was created in 1997 through the merger of the Council on Library Resources and the Commission on Preservation and Access. To understand CLIR, one must first look at its two parent organizations.

Council on Library Resources

The Council on Library Resources (CLR) was formed in 1956, during a decade marked by explosive library growth, the emergence of new technologies, and a proliferation of individual, uncoordinated activity among academic libraries. Lack of coordination had resulted in duplication of activities and increased competition among libraries that some feared would threaten the well-being of scholarly collections. Among those who shared this concern was Louis B. Wright, a scholar and librarian who believed that the nascent problems could be addressed only by creating an overarching organization built on intellectual integrity and commitment to scholarship.

Wright approached the Ford Foundation with his concerns. The foundation agreed to fund a conference of scholars, publishers, and librarians to consider what kind of a coordinating body was needed. Conference participants recommended forming an independent, non-membership organization of sufficient stature to address problems faced by the library community. In March 1956, the foundation responded with a grant, and CLR was born.

Gilbert Chapman of the Yale Lock Company was named chairman of the CLR board, and Verner Clapp was appointed president. Clapp, who had been deputy librarian of the Library of Congress (LC), welcomed the opportunity to develop a center of intellectual activity that would examine the role and function of the library.

CLR’s early programs focused on bibliographic structure, automation of library operations, preservation, and international activities aimed at helping European libraries recover from the devastation of World War II. Among the first grants CLR made was a large award to the Barrows Laboratory, part of the State Library of Virginia, to study the causes of paper deterioration. Concern about preservation of books and journals continued through the first two decades of the council’s history, when it made many grants to help libraries develop local preservation programs.

Commission on Preservation and Access

Warren J. Haas became president of CLR in 1978. In his previous post as head of the Columbia University Library, he had seen firsthand that large portions of Columbia’s nineteenth-century collection had become embrittled. Recognizing that national leadership was needed to address this widespread problem, Haas established a joint task force with the Association of American Universities. The task force later became a special committee of scholars and librarians charged with studying the problem of decaying scholarly materials in the nation’s libraries and developing a national plan for collective action. In 1985, the committee recommended the formation of a specialized, highly focused organization to address the issues. In 1986, the Commission on Preservation and Access (CPA) was established. Patricia Battin, who had succeeded Haas as head librarian at Columbia, was named CPA’s first president.

The CPA, working closely with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), developed a national strategy to undertake massive microfilming projects in major research libraries. The commission established a technical advisory committee to make recommendations on appropriate technologies and an advisory committee of preservation administrators. Targets for microfilming production were established and reported on annually to the Senate oversight committee responsible for the NEH budget.

New Challenges Prompt Creation of Digital Library Federation

During the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, CPA began to recognize the changes that would result from the emergence of digital technology. A group of librarians working on projects to test the feasibility of using digital technology for preservation urged CPA to coordinate activities of a small but growing group of libraries that shared digital interests.

The Digital Library Federation (DLF) grew out of informal discussions among eight librarians (called the LaGuardia eight in honor of the meeting site—LaGuardia Airport). The group soon grew to include 12 institutions that were committed to looking at the broader implications of digital technology. In 1994, the group called for a planning strategy for the development of digital libraries and began to organize themselves to continue local efforts while also sharing their findings.

At about the same time, LC announced its intention to create a national digital library. To ensure that their activities would be compatible with those of LC, the consortium asked LC and the National Archives to join in a new effort-the National Digital Library Federation, soon to be called the Digital Library Federation.

Today, more than 160 institutions are members of the DLF.

The Missions of CPA and CLR Converge in CLIR

In 1995, the boards of CLR and CPA appointed Deanna B. Marcum president of both organizations. The boards’ decision to merge was based on their belief that a single organization would better serve the mission and goals of the existing organizations, while streamlining staff and making better use of funds. The merger was completed in 1997, with the creation of CLIR.

CLIR represents the best of its two predecessor organizations. It is a catalytic, convening organization that seeks the best minds to address important issues of national and international concern. It is an independent, neutral body-one that brings together disparate organizations and individuals to resolve deep-seated problems facing the library community.

Related Reading

Reclaiming the Research Library: The Founding of the Council on Library Resources. By Deanna B. Marcum, March 31, 1995.