ASLIB – the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux – was founded in 1924 with the aim of co‐ordinating the activities of specialist information services in the UK. This article seeks to present a new history of the first quarter‐century of the Association.
This is a historical study based substantially on two collections of primary documents: ASLIB's own records, held at Aslib Headquarters, London; and the papers of Edith Ditmas, held at the National Library of Wales.
The paper explores the origins of ASLIB, and its roots in the “science lobby” of the time; it then traces the development of ASLIB as both a “national intelligence service” for science, commerce and industry, and as a quasi‐professional association with international significance. It concludes that the first of these two functions was the Association's fundamental raison d'être.
The research is limited to study of ASLIB in the period 1924‐1950 and an obvious continuation would be a history of “corporate” ASLIB (1950‐1997). More generally, the paper reveals that the history of UK documentation and information science in the twentieth century is underexplored: there is scope for future research focused on key pioneers and ideas, as well as institutions such as ASLIB.
As far as is known, this is the first historical study of ASLIB to be based on contemporary records: it should therefore be of value to both historians of information and library science and practitioners interested in their professional heritage.
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