MLA History

MLA is 125 years old!The Medical Library Association was founded as the Association of Medical Librarians on May 2, 1898.William McKinley was president, Victoria was queen, Congress declared war on Spain, the Hawaiian islands were annexed, and Henry Ford had put the cart before the horse just two years earlier.

MLA @ 125 horizontal Logo

MLA @ 125: Building a Better Future

MLA turned 125 on May 2, 2023. That meant that through May, 2024, we celebrated a century-and-a-quarter of incredible traditions, people, connections and more. Throughout our anniversary year (May 2023 – May 2024), MLA continued to build upon and deliver its commitment to support a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community of professional practitioners and leaders in health sciences information who will take us into the future.

We thank the MLA members and volunteers on MLA’s Building a Better Future Strategic Goal Task Forces:

125-Year Retrospective Task Force

  • Michele R. Lieggi, AHIP, Chair
  • Kathleen Amos, AHIP
  • Shannon Compton, PhD, AHIP
  • Montie Dobbins, AHIP
  • Suzanne Fricke, AHIP
  • Mary A. Hyde, AHIP
  • Brenda Faye Green, FMLA
  • Michael Kronenfeld, AHIP, FMLA
  • Carl Leak, AHIP
  • Christine Willis, AHIP
  • Sally Gore, board liaison
  • Mary M. Langman, staff liaison

Most Notable Workgroup

  • Sally Gore, Chair
  • Brenda Green, FMLA
  • Jodi Philbrick, AHIP
  • Susan Steelman, AHIP
  • Erica R. Powell
  • Barbara Epstein, AHIP, FMLA
  • Megan Fratta

The Most Notable Workgroup has identified groups who have made notable contributions to MLA since the 1998 Centennial (past 25 years) . Selections will be identified in upcoming MLAConnect issues.

Vision 2048 Task Force

  • Charlotte Beyer, AHIP, Chair
  • Heidi Sue Adams
  • Jane Blumenthal, AHIP, FMLA
  • Roy Brown
  • Janet Crum
  • Helen-Ann Epstein, AHIP, FMLA
  • Michelle Kraft, AHIP, FMLA
  • Joanne Marshall, AHIP, FMLA
  • Matthew N. Noe
  • M.J. Tooey, AHIP, FMLA
  • Toni Yancey
  • Krystal Madkins, Student Workgroup Liaison
  • Jordan Dias Correia, AHIP, Student Workgroup Liaison
  • Tara Douglas-Williams, AHIP, Board Liaison
  • Mary M. Langman, Staff Liaison

Vision 2048 Student Workgroup

  • M.J. Tooey, AHIP, FMLA, Chair
  • Jordan Dias Correia, AHIP
  • Jessica Diaz
  • Krystal Madkins
  • Rachel Montes
  • Carmela L. Preciado
  • Mary Margaret Thomas

Archives Task Force

  • Brandon Pieczko, Chair
  • A’Llyn Ettien, AHIP
  • Susan Lessick, AHIP, FMLA
  • Amy Lyons
  • Lindsay Million, AHIP
  • Steven Moore, AHIP
  • Meredith I. Solomon, AHIP
  • Mary M. Langman, staff liaison

MLA @ 125: MLA | SLA ’23 Photo Booth Highlights

From the serious to the silly, MLA | SLA ’23 attendees lined up to take single and group snapshots in the anniversary photo booth and at the final plenary session, combined here as a video.

MLA Timeline


National Library of Medicine (NLM) Milestone: First issue of Index Medicus produced.


The Medical Library Association (MLA) is founded as the Association of Medical Librarians on May 2, 1898, by four librarians and four physicians in the office of the Philadelphia Medical Journal at the invitation of George M. Gould, M.D., editor of the journal. The object of the association was the fostering of medical libraries and the maintenance of an exchange of medical literature among its members. Membership was limited to librarians representing medical libraries of not less than 500 volumes and with regular library hours and attendance.


The association’s Exchange is established in Philadelphia, PA. Some 300 volumes were exchanged between libraries during the first year.


The name of the association is changed to the Medical Library Association.


MLA begins publishing its own journal, the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. Three earlier titles contained association news: Medical Libraries, the Bulletin of the Association of Medical Librarians, and the Medical Library and Historical Journal.


Medical libraries responded to the war effort: made military medicine resources available to military officials and bases, stopped providing complimentary issues to save paper, and following the war worked to obtain overseas journals not distributed during the war.


Medical libraries gave duplicate journal issues and provided subscriptions to aid German libraries. At the same time, librarians were greatly concerned by the cost of German periodicals.


The bylaws are revised and significant changes in the organization and infrastructure are established. Members are reclassified into three classes: library members, supporting members, and professional members. Membership of libraries is broadened to include dental, veterinary, biological, and related libraries. A Nominating Committee is established; voting by mail is established; standing committees are established; location of the annual meeting is determined by the association instead of the Executive Committee.


Marcia C. Noyes, charter member of the association, is the first woman and the first non-physician to be elected president of MLA.


The association is incorporated in Maryland. MLA joins the International Federation of Library Associations. The association agrees to pay .05 per member for all classes of membership for IFLA dues.


Medical libraries once again support the war effort. The librarians opened their libraries to provide service to all medical officers and hospitals, sent books and other materials to military camps, and extended hours of operation to serve the military. Many libraries in major cities moved valuable books to safer locations.Medical libraries and librarians supported the work of libraries in Europe and shared duplicate subscriptions.


The first medical library manual entitled A Handbook of Medical Library Practice is published by the American Library Association.NLM Milestone: Survey of the Army Medical Library was undertaken by a six-librarian team (including Janet Doe and Mary Louise Marshall of MLA) to recommend ways to reinvigorate the library after years of inadequate funding and loss of trained staff. The team’s report recommended a new building, a career librarian to administer essential library functions, increased funding, etc.


The association hires its first salaried employee, Mildred V. Naylor, as manager of the Exchange.


The constitution is amended to provide for a physician as honorary vice-president with the office of the president and all other offices to be held by professional librarians in active work. The qualifications of professional membership are changed, and an Exchange Committee and Finance Committee are established. Mary Louise Marshall issues a call for the training and certification of medical librarians to fill the need for more professionals in the profession.


The International Cooperation Committee received the first of several three-year grants from the Rockefeller Foundation to finance fellowships for medical librarians outside North America to travel to the United States.


The first training program for medical librarianship is offered at Columbia University. Regional groups are established and subject groups begin meeting.First survey on employment and salary standards are published.NLM Milestone: First edition of The Army Medical Library Classification.


The association adopts a Code of Training and Certification of Medical Librarians, its first certification program. The first award to recognize the contributions of members to the profession — the Marcia C. Noyes Award— is presented to Eileen R. Cunningham.


The MLA membership directory is published as a separate publication for the first time.


The association published a book series with the Development of Medical Bibliography by Estelle Brodman as the first title.The association begins publishing Vital Notes on Medical Periodicals, which provides new information on medical and related journals.


The first Murray Gottlieb Prize Essay Award for an essay on American medical history is presented to Dorothy Long.NLM Milestone: Armed Forces Medical Library becomes National Library of Medicine as a result of legislation sponsored by Senators Lister Hill and John F. Kennedy.


Formal continuing education courses are offered for the first time at the annual meeting in Rochester, MN. Twelve courses are presented.


The association established a central office with Helen Brown Schmidt appointed as executive secretary. The association published the MLA News as the vehicle for disseminating association news more frequently than in the quarterly Bulletin.


The 62nd MLA Annual Meeting is held in conjunction with the Second International Congress on Medical Librarianship (ICML) in Washington, DC. Purposes of the ICML were to exchange information on the art and science of librarianship, to advance the state of the art and strengthen its techniques, and to improve the quality of the service which medical librarianship contributes to the advancement of medicine.


MEDLARS is implemented by the National Library of Medicine with the first automated printing of Index Medicus.


MLA supports passage of the Medical Library Assistance Act (MLAA). Under the administration of the National Library of Medicine, MLAA brings about unprecedented growth and development of medical library services, including: building, expanding, and constructing more than eighty-six medical school libraries, representing the greatest expansion in the history of medical school libraries; growth of hospital libraries during the 1970s, expanding both space and facilities; awarding of training grants to medical librarians to meet the special needs of health science libraries and the medical communities they serve; offering of training grants in the application of computer technology to the health sciences; MLA research grant program which supports basic research in health sciences librarianship and computers in medicine; establishment of the Resource Grants Program to assist public or private, nonprofit health sciences libraries in establishing, expanding, or improving their resource and information services; almost 700 percent increase in the number of hospital librarians with MLA degrees from 1969 to 1984; development of the Regional Medical Library Program with a network of over 3,500 libraries to provide health professionals with timely, convenient access to health care and biomedical resources; establishment of the Integrated Academic Information Management Systems (IAMS) program to support development of networks that facilitate the flow of recorded biomedical knowledge throughout academic health science centers and hospitals.


The first Janet Doe Lecture on the History of Philosophy of Medical Librarianship is presented by Gertrude L. Annan. NLM Milestone: Regional Medical Library Program begins.


The advent of online searching is instituted with the nine libraries accessing the SUNY Biomedical Communication Network Index Medicus database.


The Clinical Medical Librarian Program is instituted. NLM Milestone: MEDLINE becomes operational.


The association hires its first full-time executive director. NLM Milestone: Toxline becomes operational.


MLA sends delegates to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services.


The Matheson/Cooper report, Academic Information in the Health Sciences Center: Roles for the Library in Information Management, is published. The resulting IAIMS grant program brings about profound changes in the way libraries organize information services within their institutions.


The MLA Board of Directors begins to use electronic mail for communicating.


Increased emphasis on legislative and advocacy issues is realized with the establishment of the Joint MLA/AAHSL Legislative Task Force.


NLM Milestone: Grateful Med is introduced.


Challenge to Action: Planning and Evaluation Guidelines for Academic Health Sciences Libraries is published. MLA develops a strategic plan, Shaping the Future.


A new credentialing program, the Academy of Health Information Professionals is established.


MLA participates in the second White House Conference on Library and Information Services.MLA supports passage of the High-Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Act to facilitate development of a high-speed national computer telecommunications network.National Coordination Office for the HPCC Program is established at NLM which funds grants to connect educational institutions and local hospitals to NLM’s databases. MLA participates in Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) Information Management Task Force which is charged to develop new standards on hospital information management, including library services.


Platform for Change, MLA’s educational policy statement, is published. The focus is on the individual’s responsibility for his/her own lifelong learning.


MLA adopts a code of ethics for professional practice.The first volume, Reference and Information Services in Health Sciences Libraries, of the eight-volume series Current Practice in Health Sciences Libraries, is published. This series is the successor to the four editions of the Handbook of Medical Library Practice.


MLA is joint sponsor of the 7th International Congress on Medical Librarianship held in conjunction with its annual meeting in Washington, DC.MLA participates on the Education and Training Panel convened by the National Library of Medicine that results in grants to study the future education and training needs of health sciences librarians.MLA adopts a research platform entitled Using Scientific Evidence to Improve Information Practice. MLA mounts MLANET on the World Wide Web.


NLM Milestone: Grateful Med available to search MEDLINE and other databases.Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (BMLA) launches electronic table of contents on MLANET.


NLM Milestone: Free web access to MEDLINE via PUBMed and Internet Grateful Med is announced by Vice President Albert J. Gore. MLA supports the provision of MEDLINE free to the public.


MLA’s 100th anniversary celebration takes place in Philadelphia, the city where MLA was founded. Meeting attendance is the highest ever for an MLA meeting not held in conjunction with another group.


MLA commissions the Hay Group to conduct a study about how organizations compensate medical library professionals performing information technology oriented roles, and how that compensation compares to IT professionals. 


The Donald A. B. Lindberg Research Fellowship is established with a $25,000 endowment to fund research that extends the knowledgebase of health sciences librarianship and informatics and improves the practice of the profession.

  • With volume 90, number 1, the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association changes its name to the Journal of the Medical Library Association.
  • Supported with a grant from NLM, MLA hosts an invitation-only informationist conference in Bethesda, MD, to facilitate a national discussion.
  • Entire back file (1911–2001) of BMLA digitized on PubMed Central. MLA publishes a statement that supports both the concept of open access to information generated from federally funded scientific and medical research and maintains that having access to timely, relevant, and accurate information is vital to the health of our nation and its education and research programs.
  • MLA begins offering the Consumer Health Information Specialization program, open to public librarians, allied health professionals, and librarians working in consumer health libraries as well as medical librarians.
  • Librarians without Borders® is established to provide training in the field of information retrieval and library information assistance to people anywhere in the world, namely training in the use of computers used for library research and general training on how to effectively conduct research using a library. The initiative also helps provide medical information for healthcare personnel responding to epidemics and natural and man-made disasters anywhere in the world.
  • MLA establishes an online medical library disaster relief fund in the wake of the Indonesian tsunami disaster. The fund is activated again later that year to support medical libraries impacted by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

The JMLA editorial team starts the first official MLA blog, JMLA Case Studies in Health Sciences Librarianship.


MLA and Neal-Schuman publish a record-breaking eight books, including updated editions of Introduction to Reference Sources in the Health Sciences and Drug Information.


For the first time, members can attend the annual meeting virtually through the lower-cost “e-conference” registration option, which includes live streaming video and audio recordings of plenaries and other meeting sessions, as well as access to the online Conference Community.