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Categorized | V46-N4-Summer 2009

From the Archives: The Past President’s Report (1940-1950)

The following are excerpts from the Toronto Chapter Special Libraries Association: Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 3, Spring [1950] Issue. This is a summary of the first ten Chapter President’s years in office, written by those individuals. Some text has been abridged for the sake of space. For the complete article read the attached pdf version.

The Toronto Chapter of Special Libraries Association owes its being to the enthusiasm and foresight of a young Englishman named Peter Morgan, who was Librarian of the Confederation Life Association ten years ago.

Miss Pauline Hutchinson 1940-1941

In 1940, unlike to-day, the hotels were begging for Conventions, and two convention-minded gentlemen were very anxious to have the Special Libraries Convention in Toronto in 1941. They were Mr. Street, Convention Manager of the Royal York Hotel, and Mr. McNally of the Toronto Convention and Tourists Association.

These two gentlemen got in touch with Mr. Morgan and prevailed upon him to invite to a dinner at the Royal York a representative group of Librarians, with a view to discussing the possibility of inviting Special Libraries to meet in our city.

Young Mr. Morgan saw in this the very opportunity he’d been looking for, and invited eleven Librarians to meet Mr. Street and Mr. McNally and partake of a very excellent dinner as their guests.


The group realized the inadvisability of attempting to entertain an International Convention without a local organization, and while this was forsaken, the Toronto chapter was definitely launched then and there. […] by the time our petition to form a chapter was presented to the June Convention of Special Libraries, there were the necessary ten [members].

With the first monthly meeting scheduled for September, 1940, disaster befell us, when Mr. Morgan received his long-awaited call to the Royal Canadian Air Force, and departed forthwith, leaving the fledgling with a substitute Charter President.

In the first and second years, through the kindness of Mr. C.R. Sanderson, the Chapter was able to hold its dinners and meetings in the Public Library Staff House, a delightful arrangement. The surroundings were lovely, and the food delicious.

The first meeting, in September, was concerned with organization and the adoption of the Constitution. During the year, the Chapter visited the David Dunlap Observatory and the Canada Life Library, and did a tour of the Public Library. As speakers, we had Mr. R.M Fowler who was then much in the limelight in connection with the Rowell-Sirois Commission, and Mr. Kyte of Queen’s University, who spoke on cataloguing and appraising collections of English Country Houses.

When the first bulletin was issued in January, 1941, 29 members were listed, six of whom were inherited [from other parts of the country]. This left us with 23 local members. When the May, 1941 bulletin was issued at the end of our first season, eleven new members were listed which indicated a growing interest in the new Chapter.

In the May, 1941 bulletin, the editor said, “With the May meeting, we bring the activities of the organization year o f the Toronto Chapter to a conclusion. We feel it has been a good year – both a profitable and an entertaining one. The chapter is firmly established now, with a keen and rapidly growing membership. We have acquired a sound basis of experience on which to build another year’s programmes, and an increased confidence in the value and future of the organization.

I can report no world-shattering events during my term of office; a pleasant but relatively uneventful year.

Miss Edna M. Poole 1942-1943

One of the highlights was a visit to the Canadian Military Institute. Dr. J.H. Elliott, then the Honorary Librarian of the Institute, invited us to have dinner there as his guests (I think it was the first time that ladies had dined there) and it was a delightful occasion. Dr. Elliott told us something of the collection and we saw many interesting things. Another pleasant social event was tea in the beautiful library of the School of Hygiene. But the year was by no means a series of ‘pink teas’ – we had several serious meetings at which library matters were earnestly discussed and we had a “Question and Answer” evening. We also sponsored and set up a library in the R.C.A.F (W.D). This last was under the guiding hand of Miss Mary Silverthorn and continued as long as a library was needed.

The membership of the group was 42 and the average attendance 24.

[…] The real highlight of the year, however, was the meeting of February 22nd, 1944. We had invited Miss Cavanaugh, the President of the Association, to visit us and speak at that meeting and she had graciously accepted. As you may imagine our preparations were tremendous. Mrs. Sutton for the first time had persuaded her Company, the Confederation Life Association, to allow us to use their magnificent staff house; the dishes to be served at the dinner had been carefully chosen; attendance was the highest ever – it was actually 45 and Miss Gillies had purchased gardenias for the President’s corsage. The great day arrived; there was a bit of snow in the air all forenoon but I had no premonition of impending disaster. About 3p.m. a telegram came from Miss Cavanaugh. She was in Ottawa with all planed grounded – a simple message but how devastating.

Mr. George A. Johnston 1943-1944

[…] It was Miss Foreman who saved the day with her suggestion that I ask Mr. Wallace, the University of Toronto Chief Librarian, if he would speak. […] to my intense relief, he agreed, on about two hours notice, to speak to us on “Library English”. Those who were at the meeting will remember what a delightful address he gave us.

We started our year by changing the date of our meetings to the third Thursday. Changing dates is always a difficult thing to do – and this, I assure you, was no exception when it came to difficulties. […] During the 1944-45 year, we were very proud that we obtained Miss Bassam’s consent to give a short course in cataloguing to the members of our Chapter who had not attended Library School.

Miss Catherine Gillies 1944-1945

The gathering of the material for the Directory of Special Libraries in Toronto was completed and handed on to the new Executive for publication.

We had an average attendance of 36 at our meetings; and we closed our year with a membership of 64 – 15 of these being new members.

History was made at our April meeting when we had the first meeting out of the city. Mrs. Barber, a former member of the SLA who is now at MacDonald Hall, arranged a visit to the Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph, to which we traveled by special car .. C.N.R.

Marion Thompson 1945-1946

Extra-curricular activities or achievements for the year included the completion of the directory of Special Libraries in Toronto. A change was made in preparing the Bulletin. The editor had found it increasingly difficult to both collect and edit all the material so the Bulletin Committee was enlarged to consist of the editor and three assistants: one to represent banks and insurance; one for University and government libraries; and one for commercial and other libraries.

Old Man Bad Luck caught up with Miss K. Gillies who broke her ankle, Miss B. Bassam, who broke her arm, and Mrs. Packer, whose house burned down.

1946-47 was not only the seventh year of our Chapter’s existence; it was also the year when the Americans exploded some atomic bombs over Bikini and SLA national president exploded a bomb in our midst by actually paying us a visit.

Mrs. R. Jacobsen 1946-1947

To finish off the year, we stuck the succeeding Executive’s collective neck out by committing them to play host to the first Regional Conference of the Toronto, Montreal and Western New York Chapters.

This was a year of great events. It was the year that Britain’s long rule over India was formally ended and the country achieved independence; the Marshall plan was launched; and the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year. It was the year the Toronto, Western New York, and Montreal Chapters of SLA held their first Regional Conference in Toronto.

Miss Phyllis Foreman 1947-1948

[…] just 2 days before the conference the chairman of the committee, Miss Hutchinson, ‘phoned the Barclay Hotel to confirm the menu that had been planned for our banquet. It seemed that the Barclay Hotel had never heard of us – the Maitre d’, with whom we had made our arrangements, had left and left no word of the SLA. Fortunately the Barclay rose to the occasion and the dinner came off as planned. And then there was the man who returned his form stating that he planned to attend the Regional and in the space where the question was asked “would you be willing to share a room”, he noted, “yes with another male member”.

The first highlight of the year was the Washington Convention at which Canada and this Chapter were recognized by the fact that I was asked to give the speech of thanks to the banquet speaker, Mr. Howard Sargent, Under Secretary of State for Information in the United States. It was my greatest pleasure to be seated between Mr. H.W. Wilson, the oldest living member of SLA and Dr. Luther Evans, Librarian of the Library of Congress.

Mrs. R. Bull 1948-1949

In January this chapter was hostess to Miss Rose Vormelker, National President of SLA at dinner in the Confederation Staff House.

The first [highlight] is the regional conference held in Montreal, Sept.23 and 24, 1949, and in which our chapter participated with Western New York and Montreal chapters. Miss Rowena Phillips, our vice-president, represented the Toronto chapter on the programme. For myself, it was an experience meeting that fabulous figure Mayor Camillien House, and on behalf of the Toronto Chapter, signing the City Hall visitor’s book, with the famous gold pen.

Clara Miller 1949-1950

I represented the chapter at two advisory council meetings – in New York in November, and in Washington, D.C. in March. At both these meetings the proposed constitution changes were discussed at some length, and with much heat and fervor.

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2 Responses to “From the Archives: The Past President’s Report (1940-1950)”

  1. Chris says:

    My grandmother (great-aunt, biologically), Miss Pauline Hutchison, was the first president of the Toronto Chapter. I see that her name is misspelled in this transcription. I wonder what other information I might get my hands on about her time with the SLA?


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