Excerpt from A history of the American Library Association, 1876-1972, by Dennis Thomison (Chicago: ALA, 1978)


...The executive board of the association urged all types of libraries to 
help wherever possible with military training.  To some people, this seemed 
to be premature, but it was certainly in keeping with the militaristic 
spirit that was engulfing the country. 

This spirit, and the steady drift towards war, alarmed a sizable minority 
of Americans.  The dissident faction was formally represented in the 
library profession by a group calling itself the Progressive Librarians 
Council.  The council aroused the ire of the executive board by sending a 
"peace telegram" to Roosevelt during the 1940 conference.  The message 
began with the following statement: 

"Alarmed by the rapid drift of this country toward involvement in the 
European war, we librarians, assembled at the sixty-second annual 
conference of the American Library Association in Cincinnati, May 26 to 
June 1, respectfully urge you to keep this country at peace." 

The board was angry over the possibility people might interpret this 
statement as emanating from ALA, and it condemned the telegram as 
misleading.  This in spite of the fact that the telegram had been signed 
"Progressive Librarians Council."  The board then sent a telegram of its 
own to President Roosevelt.  It was a rather curious message, which said 
the Progressive Librarians Council represented the opinion of a very small 
group and had no authority to speak for librarians on this or any other 
subject.  The telegram further stated that, if the members of ALA were 
polled on the question, they would overwhelmingly reject the ideas 
reflected in the original peace telegram.  This was a rather astonishing 
claim to make, since the membership had never been polled on the subject 
and had never given any collective indication of where it stood.  The 
telegram was release for publication by the White House, although no such 
treatment had been given to the earlier telegram.  Similarly, the text of 
the executive board's telegram was reprinted in ALA Bulletin.  The text of 
the telegram from the Progressive Librarians Council was ignored. 

In a matter related to the "peace telegram," a minor controversy developed 
in the Junior Members Round Table between its officers and its membership.  
The round table, at its membership meeting during the Cincinnati 
conference, endorsed the peace message to Roosevelt.  This official action 
was ordered deleted from the minutes of the meeting by the executive board 
of the round table.  The reason given was that the resolution "was out of 
order inasmuch as it did not pertain to the affairs" of the round table.  
The chairman said the executive board was simply fulfilling its obligation 
to act when the entire group was not in session.  Objecting members could 
raise the issue at the next meeting if they wished to pursue it. This was 
an arbitrary action on the part of the round table's leadership, and there 
seemed to be no adequate reason for it. 



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