The oldest document on record for the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) indicates that the Association was established in 1982. Its founder was Dr. Bernard Vavrek, Director of the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. ARSL was “home” there until 2007, when it moved away from the University. Unfortunately, the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship was placed on hiatus when Dr. Vavrek retired from the University in 2008. Original membership was comprised principally of library and information science students and broadened each year to include librarians from rural & small libraries throughout the country.
ARSL Board Members held a meeting in January 2007 at Clarion to determine the new “shape” of ARSL. This included its enlarged Board and committee structure and looked at guiding documents as a foundation for future services. As an outgrowth of that strategic planning meeting, a course was set and, since then, the strategic plan is updated annually to reflect member needs and remain relevant to the ARSL Mission and Objectives.
Conferences are an enormous undertaking each year and a tradition for ARSL. Prior to ARSL’s Association’s formation, the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship at Clarion University in Clarion, PA sponsored conferences that were held throughout the US (1990-1999). From 2001-2007, an annual conference was held in Columbus, Ohio, and depended heavily on the Center for financial and logistical support. In 2003, the Association officially became the Association of Rural and Small Libraries, changing its name to Association for Rural and Small Libraries in 2007.
For three years (2004-2006), meetings were held in conjunction with our close colleagues, the Association for Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS). In response to member requests and to provide greater access by more rural library participants, the decision was made in 2007 to hold the annual meeting and conference in different states and geographic regions.
Our first conference partner in 2008 was the California State Library in Sacramento, CA. The fall 2009 conference was in Gatlinburg, TN, with our partnership with the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The 2010 conference was in Denver, CO in partnership with the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Library Consortium, and the Bibliographic Center for Research and the Association for Bookmobile And Outreach Services. The 2011 conference was in Frisco, TX . The 2012 conference was in Raleigh, North Carolina and in 2013, the conference is scheduled to be held near the border of Iowa and Nebraska, as those two states are our partners for the conference.