Celebrating Six Decades of Cooperation and Collaboration: 1956 – 2016
ASERL was founded in February 1956 when a group of library deans and directors from universities across the Southeast met at the newly-opened Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Those who attended the gathering found common cause and determined there would be value to creating an association dedicated to supporting the work of research libraries in the region.
For most of its history, ASERL remained an informal networking group for library deans and directors, with no staff to handle day-to-day operations. All work was performed by volunteers from member libraries, often with little or no budget. Despite these limitations, ASERL achieved some important accomplishments over the years:
- ASERL was a major supporter of establishing faculty status for research librarians;
- In the early 1970s, ASERL was the driving force behind the founding of SOLINET, the Southeastern Library Network that brokered centralized cataloging services developed by OCLC;
- Through the partnership with SOLINET, many ASERL libraries participated in many cooperative microfilming projects to preserve rare and unusual print materials;
- ASERL was among the first library organizations to establish reciprocal resource sharing agreements and group licensing offers for electronic content.
After years of declining activity, in the late 1990s ASERL members described the organization as “moribund.” Some considered disbanding ASERL altogether due to the lack of participation. A handful of Board members felt there were need that were not being met via SOLINET, ARL, SELA, and various state-based library networks that were emerging at the time. After a few sometimes-difficult conversations, ASERL members agreed to tax themselves to allow the organization to hire staff for the first time on an experimental basis, starting in May 2000. Since that time, ASERL has developed a broad array of activities that support its members’ needs for professional development, shared print, resource sharing, and shared collection management.