An Email from Howard Dillon on the Formation of COLA


October 6, 2014


It has been a long time since I read Stephen Salmon's overview of the early history of library automation and the formation of LITA within ALA.  I'm sure he got it right.  He had a better understanding of the dynamics and internal politics of ALA than I.  


I'll share with you the small portion of the history I know well.  


There was a group of librarians with whom I corresponded, individually, from 1962-64 when I was given half-time responsibility to investigate automation for The Ohio State University.  

See pp [7-8] oral history transcript titled Interview with Dr. Lewis C. Branscomb by Dr. Paul Underwood [June 5, 1985] 


In October 3-4, 1964, in Philadelphia, two-dozen or so of those librarians and I assembled just prior to the annual meeting of the American Documentation Institute (ADI).  The regional IBM office in Columbus, Ohio, picked up OSU's cost to rent the hotel meeting room for two days.  They did not participate or ask for quid pro quo.


Following the meeting I sent a chatty open letter to 30 persons--those who attended and a few who had been identified during the meeting on 3-4 Oct.  I received responses detailing projects, experiments or ambitions from many, including Barbara Markuson who was then leading such investigations for the Library of Congress.  I compiled those responses to share with my Director, Lewis C. Branscomb and his OSU Library committee that was overseeing my work.  The report was titled Newsletter on Library Automation, issue #1, December 10, 1964.  I also sent copies to the 30 and asked that they not quote or cite.    


Responses came quickly.  The writers welcomed the opportunity to share work in progress privately among peers.  Issue #2 was dated December 23, 1964.  By fall 1965, I had moved to Harvard.  Twenty-nine librarians assembled in D.C., October 9-11, prior to or during another ADI annual meeting.  Having been known as the Dillon committee to that time, the participants chose the more appropriate name Committee on Library Automation and elected leadership.  


"The Committee on Library Automation (COLA) is an informal group of librarians formed to provide a beams of exchanging information or research and development of automated systems applicable to libraries.  The group customarily meets twice a year, prior to the annual conferences of the American Documentation Institute and the American Library Association, for two days of discussion.


"Membership in the Committee is open to all who are employees of research libraries actively engaged in research and development of automated systems, and who are primarily responsible for this library's automation program.  Normally, only one person per library is admitted to membership.  Applications for membership should be sent to the Chairman.  Applications to attend particular meetings as an observer will also be accepted.


"The Committee issues a newsletter on library automation which is distributed to members only....Contributions are published with the understanding that they ill not be cited or quoted."


The first officers were chairman Anthony Hall (UCLA), vice chairman and chairman elect Charles Payne (U Chicago), secretary Connie Dunlap (U Michigan), treasurer, Sidney E. Matthews (Southern Illinois U), and editor Howard W. Dillon (Harvard).


Newsletter #14 was issued November 1965 bearing the new title Committee on Library Automation.  


Just to bring the story to quick conclusion, the final COLA Newsletter, #44, was issued September 1969 and we entered a new world.