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Echelman, Shirley

Shirley Echelman was an Executive Director of the Medical Library Association, bringing an economics and public administration background to the organization. She feels that “leaders in librarianship, whether [or not] they started out wanting to be managers...must become managers.” She is also “appalled at how many librarians...would prefer not to be involved with budgeting...a good budget is about the best way to manage the library and if you aren't involved...then you are really at the mercy of somebody who doesn't understand your operation.”

Shirley received a Masters of Arts in Library Science in 1966 from Rutgers after working ten years in political science, economics, and public administration. She found that librarians' “commitment to their profession, the sense of cooperation and helpfulness...made the profession very attractive.” Her professional work as a librarian was with the Chemical Bank in New York City beginning in 1967, a position she enjoyed but regrets “not having the opportunity to work in a larger library setting [with] the benefit of a lot of peer involvement... ”

While Executive Director for the Medical Library Association Shirley saw the Medical Library Association as in transition “from the traditional kind of voluntary cooperative organization...toward becoming a nationally viable policy influencing organization.” Among other issues, she dealt with copyright problems, expanding use of computers, the White House Conference on Libraries, and the renewal of the Medical Library Assistance Act. A major concern was that “the Board and I should strike the proper terms of policymaking and decision making.” However, she says, “the most difficult thing was to work for 5000 bosses.”

Shirley was also concerned with the relationship of the Medical Library Association and the National Library of Medicine and worked to make it “one of partnership rather than one of a client organization related to a federal agency.” As part of this philosophy she insisted that Medical Library Association members pay their own travel bills when working with the National Library of Medicine as a way to “display what the actual relationship was between the two organizations.” However, she comments that, “[medical librarianship] is the most highly organized, the most advanced technologically, and the most concerned with formal and informal cooperation in a structured way,” partly because “the leadership of the National Library of Medicine [and] the clarity of their mission.”

Shirley Echelman Oral History Index

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