Business Law

SLA-NY Archive: Inheriting Something Old and Gaining Something New

Winter Shanck | SLA-NY Archivist

In 2008, a call went out from Stephen Kochoff, the President of the SLA New York Chapter at the time, for a replacement Archivist for the Chapter Archive; the former Chapter Archivist wanted to retire from her long-standing position as Chapter Archivist. Since I am fascinated with historical documents and my position at work was Archivist of an audio-visual collection, I thought, This sounds like a good fit." It also helped that I enjoy working with old documents and I LOVE the smell of old moldy paper. I know, this sounds weird, but to this day I find joy in working with the materials in this kind of environment. Therefore, in 2008, I inherited something very valuable: stewardship of the Chapter Archive.
In taking over the responsibility of the Archive, I was informed by the former Archivist that working with the collection was a pretty tame job. She also shared with me that she created a basic "finding aid" which listed the contents of each box. I thought to myself, "That is great. I could take my time exploring the Archive and expanding on what she has done." This was the calm before the storm.

As most members know, 2009 was the centennial year of SLA. Even with this being know by all parties, I was assured that most of the work for the 2009 centennial was all ready taken care of. Well, imagine my surprise when I was asked constantly by SLA-HQ for materials and research from the Archive. I thought to myself, "You’ve been duped." This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

In spending hours pouring over the collection in 2009, I learned that special librarians ROCK! We rocked in 1909. We rocked in 2009. And, we will rock in 2109. We are part of a special brother/sisterhood of knowledge keepers.

Did you know the following fun facts about the Chapter?
  • In 1928, the Chapter Newsletter was established to document meetings held by the Chapter and for use as a publicity tool;
  • In 1940, SLA took over an entire playhouse to preview the performance of Ruth Chatterton in "Leave Her to Heaven" by John van Druten;
  • In 1942, the Chapter raffled off a trip to Havana (total cost: $75);
  • In 1948, the Chapter was asked by the American Statistical Association to assist in the compilation of a bibliogrphy on statistics about New York City;
And finally, what I think are the coolest facts about the Chapter so far:
  • In 1929, Amelia Earhart spoke at the Chapter's Friendship Dinner hosted at the Hotel Roosevelt; and
  • In 1939, six librarians challenged and beat six authors on NBC’s radio program, "True or False."
I would have never known these facts without taking the time to respond to SLA-HQ and without continuing the organization work started by the former Archivist.

As I re-house and organize the loose paper collection into acid-free folders, I am learning more and more about how amazing special librarians were in the past and how more so we can be in the future. In working on this project, I inherited something old and I am gaining a new perspective on what it means to be a "special librarian."

Do you have questions for Winter about the archive? Contact her at

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