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American Theological Library Association Records

Call Number: RG 163

Scope and Contents

The Yale Divinity School Library was designated as the official repository of the ATLA's archives in 2000. This record group consists primarily of records that had been deposited over several years at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, the former repository for ATLA archives. The basic series structure and organization of the records reflects the order in which materials were received from Philadelphia, though many additional records have been integrated into the sequence. The ATLA was for many years a very decentralized organization and full records were not always transferred to the archives by its scattered officers and committee chairs.

The ATLA archives in this record group are complemented by two other collections at the Yale Divinity Library: the Raymond P. Morris Papers, (RG 80) and records of the ATLA Library Development Program (RG 81). Morris, Librarian of the Yale Divinity School Library from 1932-1972, was a founder of the ATLA and long-time president of the Board of Microtext. The ATLA Library Development Program provided funds to strengthen the book collections of ninety North American theological libraries between 1961 and 1966. The program was directed by Raymond Morris, and funded by the Sealantic Fund.

Series I, Organization of the ATLA, includes records related to the formation of the Association, legal documents, and membership records. Series II, Administrative Records, includes records of various officers of the ATLA, including the Executive Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, President of the Board of Directors, and Vice-President of the Board. The quantity of records available from these various officers varies. The records related to various ATLA committees found in Series III also vary considerably in quantity and substance. Among the most complete are the records of the Cataloging and Classification Committee, which became the Committee on Bibliographic Systems. There is considerable overlap between the committee records found in Series III and other series in the collection, including the Program files of Series XIV.

Series IV provides documentation of the Board of Index from 1957 to 1988, with earlier records related to periodical indexing proposals. The Board of Microtext is documented in Series V, with minutes, reports, correspondence, and other material dating from the 1950s thourgh the 1980s. The Board of Directors records on Series VI include minutes from 1972 through 1997, as well as other correspondence and reports. These records are supplemented by the files of the various Presidents of the Board of Directors found in Series II, Administrative Records. The Board of Preservation records of Series VII continue on chronologically from the Board of Microtext records of Series V. The Preservation Board was created in 1984 by merger of the Interim Board for the Preservation of Theological Monographs and Board of Microtext, and was responsible for running preservation microfilming programs for serials and monographs.

Series VIII documents the ATLA's relationships with various other organizations, including the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The annual conferences of the ATLA have long been a crucial part of its program. The proceedings of the conferences found in Series IX provide very detailed information about the activities and memberhip of the Association. The Publications of Series X include the ATLA News Bulletin, Bibliography Series, Monograph Series, and copies of the Religion Index. Series XI includes documentation of fellowship and scholarship programs coordinated by the ATLA as well as grant proposals for funding of ATLA activities. The Financial Records of Series XII are overview records - treasurer statements, tax reports, and the like. Series XIII, Oral Histories, is a new series, not represented in the series structure carried over from the Presbyterian Historical Society. It includes transcripts of interviews with several important leaders of the ATLA. Audio versions of some interviews are also available in Series XV, Audio-Visual Material. The records related to Programs in Series XIV also constitute a new series. The programs documented include library consulting, materials exchange, and monographs preservation. Series XV, Audio-Visual Materials, includes photographs, slides, and audio cassettes, many of them related to the annual conferences of the ATLA.


  • 1945-1997


Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by the American Theological Library Association


  1. I. Organization of ATLA
  2. II. Administrative Records
  3. III. Committees
  4. IV. Board of Index
  5. V. Board of Microtext
  6. VI. Board of Directors
  7. VII. Board of Preservation
  8. VIII. Related Organizations and Programs
  9. IX. Conferences
  10. X. Publications
  11. XI. Scholarships, Fellowships and Grants
  12. XII. Financial Records
  13. XIII. Oral History
  14. XIV. Programs
  15. XV. Audio-Visual Materials


63 Linear Feet (138 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


This record group includes organizational and administrative records, board and committee records, materials from annual conferences, and ATLA publications. The American Theological Library Association was founded in 1947 to strengthen ties among theological libraries, to support theological and religious librarianship, to improve theological libraries, and to interpret the role of libraries in theological education.

Biographical / Historical

1947 Jun
First national conference of seminary librarians held at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary with fifty librarians in attendance. A permanent organization was created by adopting a name, tentative constitution, and a slate of officers with an executive committee.
Committee on Religious Periodical Indexing appointed
Periodical exchange program initiated
Committee on Microphotography appointed
Joint Committee of ATLA and American Association of Theological School drafted revised accreditation standards
Committee on Cataloging and Classification appointed
Committee on Religious Periodical Indexing coordinated a cooperative effort of twenty libraries to do indexing. First volume of Index to Religious Periodical Literature edited by Stillson Judah
ATLA newsletter created; Donn Michael Farris served as editor for thirty-nine years
ATLA received grant from Sealantic Fund to support microtext and indexing programs
Board of Microtext organized, with Raymond P. Morris as chair (retired in 1972), assisted by his wife Jean as volunteer office staff. Six serials were filmed in 1958. By 1965 over 150,000 linear feet of microfilm had been produced, utilizing the facilities at the University of Chicago Department of Photoduplication.
Index Board organized, with Jannette Newhall as chair and Lucy W. Markley as editor (1957-1959).
Grants received from Lilly Foundation to improve education qualifications of theological librarians.
Calvin Schmitt appointed chair of Index Board (retired in 1979) and G. Fay Dickerson employed as full-time indexer and office manager. Members of Index Board had editorial oversight of Index until 1965 when Dickerson was appointed editor (retired in 1983)
Grants received from Sealantic Fund to support the Library Development Program, a program designed to strengthen the book collections of libraries.
Committee on Reprinting organized to coordinate reprint of scarce titles
First report of Committee on Statistical Records issued
Ecumenical Periodical Exchange begun, which included fifteen Roman Catholic and twenty-one ATLA libraries
Grant received from Sealantic Fund to improve professional and academic qualifications of head librarians
Committee on Publication appointed
Catholic seminary librarians had joined ATLA and ATLA Index representatives met with Catholic Periodical and Literature Index representatives to explore possible cooperation
New constitution adopted in 1970, which had a provision for relationship to other organizations, an expansion of membership beyond AATS institutions to include accredited institutions with post-graduate theological programs, creation of the office of Executive Director, provision for chapters of the Association, and clarification of committee structure.
Committee on Archives appointed to care for ATLA records; archives sent to Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia; oral history program conducted
Revised By-Laws adopted
Board of Microtext reorganized following retirement of Raymond P. Morris and appointment of Charles Willard as chair. By 1974 there were more than 250 periodicals and 400 monographs in the microtext program
Committee on Publication reorganized as a standing committee and launched two scholarly series in religion and theology - a monographic series and a bibliographic series - published by Scarecrow Press with ATLA as the sponsoring body. Kenneth E. Rowe appointed as editor of both series
Reader Services Committee appointed, which operated an Instruction Clearinghouse
Committee on Standards of Accreditation appointed
Certificate of Incorporation and revised bylaws approved, with President Peter VandenBerge (1972-1973) as catalyst
Second reorganization proposed by President John D. Baker-Batsel (1973-1974) with full-time staff, central office, and unified publications and communications program
Ad Hoc Committee on Serials Control appointed to run pilot project on developing a union list of periodicals held by ATLA libraries; funding not found to develop permanent program but concept was referred to Bibliographic Systems Committee
First volume of Religion Index Two: Multi-Author Work (RIT) issued.
Periodicals Exchange Committee became the Library Materials Exchange Committee and program administered by office of Executive Secretary after 1980
Subscriptions to Religion Index One (RIO), previously the IRPL, exceeded the 1,000 mark
Ad Hoc Committee on the Preservation of Theological Materials appointed to investigate cooperative possibilities for storage and preservation of theological materials. Based on investigations of Andrew Scrimgeour and Charles Willard, Committee recommended program to film more than 250,000 volumes of theological materials know to be in advanced states of deterioration
Board of Directors initiated an increase in dues and brought the Boards of Microtext and Periodical Indexing into closer alliance
President Simeon Daly (1978-1981) initiated efforts to improve communications in the Association and to improve program elements of the annual conference. Task forces proposed a number of organizational changes: production of the annual Proceedings was entrusted to editor; Recording Secretary appointed to record minutes for Board of Directors and Association; office of Executive Secretary restructured along the lines of an executive director; Program Committee created to plan annual conference
Activities of Committee on Cataloging and Classification transferred to Committee on Bibliographic Systems
Volume on Festschriften (1960-1969) issued, a project prepared by Elmer and Betty O'Brien
Lilly Foundation funded Project 2000, a study to reassess the role of libraries in theological education, headed by Stephen Peterson
Retrospective project, RIT: Multi-Author Works, 1970-1975, partially supported by NEH grant published
Aggressive program of microfilming added over 100 additional serials to the program
Interim Board for the Preservation of Theological Monographs appointed
Preservation Board created by merger of Interim Board for the Preservation of Theological Monographs and Board of Microtext: responsible for running preservation microfilming programs for serials and monographs
Ad Hoc Committee on Financial Management appointed to recommend improved financial program and organizational management for ATLA ; New York firm of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. (PMM) hired as consultants
Indexing program restructured to provide for an Executive Director, an editor, and two assistant editors. Albert Hurd appointed as Executive Director of indexing program
Robert Markham hired as full-time Director of Programs for Preservation Board
Retrospective upgrading of first four volumes of IRPL published under title Religion Index One: Periodicals, Volumes 1-4 (1949-1959)
PMM recommendations approved by Board of Directors; Financial Management Committee appointed; Controller employed; unified accounting system created
New product, Index to Book Reviews in Religion (IBRR) developed
Preservation program received nine grants totaling more the $1.5 million, but program ran deficit due to recession in late 1980s and reduced subscription support from participating libraries
Index Board and Preservation Board voted to work together under a Joint Executive Committee and with one Executive Director
Religion Index Two: Multi-Author Works, 1976-1980, a cumulated and augmented edition, issued; index databases available online via Wilsonline system; Research in Ministry (RIM) continued in publication; Methodist Reviews Index published on contract from United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry; thesaurus of index descriptors issued.
Reorganization of ATLA so that Index Board and Preservation Board were placed directly under Board of Directors
Pew Charitable Trust grant for three-year International Christian Literature Documentation Project
Ten-year project begun to film denominationally specific materials
Albert Hurd appointed chief executive officer of ATLA. This restructuring made Executive Director responsible for all staff appointments, with the Board of Directors now construed as a policy making body that vested management of the Association in the Executive Director and his/her staff.
John Bollier appointed first Director of Development
Three-year ATS Quality and Accreditation Project launched
Guide to the American Theological Library Association Records
Compiled by Caroline Kuebler and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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