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The International Relations Office, 1956-1972.


The second International Relations Office of the American Library Association was established in 1956 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Its directors advised the association, foundations, United States government, and individual librarians who were involved in programs of technical assistance and other international activities. The office closed in 1972 when its final Agency for International Development (AID) contract was terminated. This article discusses its establishment, its directors, its activities, and its demise.


The American Library Association (ALA) has had three International Relations Offices: the first existed from 1943 to 1949, the second from 1956 to 1972, and the third was founded in 1986 and is still with us. Each has had a distinctive character: the first was project oriented, primarily involved with book programs for European libraries and library development in Latin America; the second was the planning and advisory body the first had been intended to be; and the current office handles business that directly concerns the association or its members, such as representation in international organizations and exchanges of librarians (Kraske, 1995; Brewster, 1976; International Relations Office, 2005; Michael Dowling, personal communication, September 30, 2005). It is the second office, described in the ALA Archives as the "New" International Relations Office, that is the International Relations Office discussed in this article. It functioned in the period of the Cold War between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the rapid transformation of European colonies into independent states, and the widespread adoption of planning in these newly independent nations to promote economic and social development.

After World War II--in contrast to the isolationism that followed World War I--the United States was engaged internationally in every possible way: politically, militarily, economically, and culturally. The United States was a leader in the United Nations, the principal organizer of NATO, and with the Marshall Plan and Point Four, the originator of extensive programs of foreign aid. In a 1954 Gallup poll survey that asked people to characterize themselves as "isolationist" or "internationalist," 61 percent chose internationalist and only 17 identified themselves percent isolationist (Gallup, 1972). Optimism, self-confidence, and a "can-do" approach, characteristics long associated with Americans, were at an all-time high.

Private organizations and individuals supplemented official efforts. As an organization, the American Library Association had been committed to international participation since its inception; its charter was amended in 1942 to read "to promote library interests throughout the world" (Charter, 1907). (1) At the time the second International Relations Office (IRO) was founded in 1956, the International Relations Board, the section of the association responsible for its international activities, was working on a regular basis with government agencies like the Department of State, with foundations, with other associations, and with foreign libraries. The activities of the board encompassed the exchange of persons, overseas operations, United States government operations, international representation, and administrative functions for the association. The board administered two projects for foreign librarians under contract to the Department of State, a five-month visit to the United States for twelve university librarians from India, and a five-month visit to the United States of twelve public librarians from all parts of the world. It assisted American librarians seeking opportunities to study or positions abroad and foreign librarians who sought positions in the United States. It was deeply involved in two major projects: the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Japan Library School at Keio University and the Ford Foundation-funded library education program at the University of Ankara. Different government agencies regularly called upon the board for advice on library matters, often requesting lists of candidates for particular overseas assignments. The board "maintained a lively and influential interest" in the government's overseas information program and in 1953 arranged for three members of the ALA, including the then chairman of the board, Douglas W. Bryant, to testify before the Senate committee overseeing the program. It worked to represent the association in international organizations in the field of librarianship and bibliography, such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the International Federation for Documentation (FID), in the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and with groups like the Organization of American States (OAS, formerly the Pan-American Union). In addition, it was responsible for such matters as approving the translators, translations, and publication arrangements for foreign publication of ALA publications. (2)

The members of the board were volunteers and all of their work was done on a shoestring budget. Bryant began his summary of the activities of the board by pointing out that it needed adequate funding if it was to support the country's foreign relations. For the previous four years, that is, 1951-55, the board had "subsisted" on $2,500 made available from endowment capital. As he put it:
 This sum (together with the administrative portions of grants
 obtained by the board) has sustained the board for these years
 only because every cent has been made to count by living as
 frugally as possible, by leaving undone a number of things which
 in the best interests of the Association should have been done,
 and finally by levying altogether too heavily on the time and
 institutional budget of the Board's chairman and members. The
 board can never realize its full effectiveness without at least
 modest administrative assistance. (3)

By 1955 library leaders were beginning to talk about the need for some kind of central clearing house. (4)

Enter Charles Burton Fahs. Fahs was a Japanese specialist who had been a professor of Oriental affairs at Claremont College in the 1930s. He had spent World War II as an intelligence analyst; in 1955 he was director of the humanities program of the Rockefeller Foundation. Fahs was the son of the librarian of the Missionary Research Library in New York and as a young professor at Claremont had been active in developing the library's Oriental holdings. He had a real interest in libraries. An entry in his 1953 diary of his trip to Mexico reported that when the group visited the new University City, "CBF was of course particularly interested in the library building." (5)

It was probably during the fall of 1955 that Fahs came up with the idea of an ALA office for overseas development. By 1955 the Rockefeller Foundation was providing support for a variety of library projects, either directly, as with the Japan Library School at Keio University, or, more indirectly, such as supporting a library as an essential component of one of its agricultural or medical projects, as well as a number of individual foreign librarians through the Rockefeller Fellows program. Fahs saw the office as essentially a one-man operation, its director a "top-level counsellor." (6) The idea was not particularly innovative--Rockefeller had provided major support for the 1943-49 International Relations Office of the ALA--but it was exactly what the situation called for. The association needed an officer to coordinate the increasing number of projects for which it had some degree of responsibility; ad hoc arrangements like the advisory committee for the University of Ankara Ford Foundation-supported library education program were multiplying, and the volunteer International Relations Board was already stretched. The foundations, not to mention the U.S. government, needed the kind of truly knowledgeable, professional advice that could only be developed by an individual who made a full-time, long-term commitment.

Discussions with librarians like Helen Wessells, the editor of Library Journal, and Douglas Bryant, chair of the International Relations Board, helped crystallize Fahs's ideas. In January 1956 he traveled to Chicago to talk to the leaders of the ALA at the midwinter meeting. Several meetings are reported in Fahs's diary; Fahs described his meeting with Keyes Metcalf, the retired librarian of Harvard; David Clift, the executive secretary of the ALA; and Ralph Shaw, its incoming president, in the following terms: "Everyone concerned confirms CBF's [that is Fahs's] supposition that the demand on the ALA for help in international library problems is likely to be substantial and to involve other agencies as well as the RF in questions of support. They have themselves felt that the greatest weakness in these projects was inadequate planning and they therefore feel that such an arrangement as was discussed would be most helpful." (7)

Events moved quickly in the spring of 1956. In a letter to William Dix, the chair of the International Relations Committee (the International Relations Board had become the International Relations Committee, a name change that brought little change in responsibility) on February 9, Clift described Fahs's vision as "an office which would study and investigate, particularly, library education needs in various parts of the world." Considerable travel would be involved. (8)

The proposal submitted by the ALA elaborated on this outline. The director would travel extensively and work closely with foreign university officials, government officials, and library leaders. Within the United States he would develop close working relationships with government agencies concerned with education abroad and the exchange of persons and would keep himself informed on foundation fields of interest and government programs. He would develop proposals for foundations; the office would serve as a center for information concerning exchanges and be a source of independent advice for foundations, government agencies, and library groups concerned with assistance to foreign librarians. (9) As the proposal recognized, "The selection of the right person as Director is obviously the key to the success of the project." Fahs had envisioned the director as someone very senior, perhaps at or near the age of retirement, a prestige figure, who could deal with government agencies and negotiate with foreign governments and universities. The proposal described him as "a man of stature, capable of commanding the respect" of the people with whom he would deal with broad experience that included contact with library education and some practice in university administration. He should, of course, be interested in international aspects of librarianship. (10)

The search for a director with the requisite personality, experience, knowledge, and prestige revealed some of the tacit assumptions that underlay the new undertaking. Fahs had originally thought of Metcalf, but in February Metcalf decided that he could not undertake the assignment and the search became the most pressing task of the International Relations Committee. (11) More than twenty individuals were considered, although interest quickly centered on a few; they came almost exclusively from university libraries because that was where foreign activity was concentrated. One individual was eliminated because he was "cold," another because he was somewhat acerbic. Flora Belle Ludington, who had preceded Bryant as chair of the International Relations Board, could not be considered seriously because she was a woman; David Cliff commented that it might be difficult for a woman to do the job and Fahs, while expressing "the highest regard for Miss Ludington's abilities," knew that "she would have two strikes against her--particularly in Asia and Latin America." (12) By mid-April the list was down to three: Douglas Bryant, assistant librarian of Harvard and with several years of experience in London with the United States Information Service (USIS) and five years as chair of the International Relations Board; David Cliff, executive secretary of the ALA and former assistant librarian at Yale; and Jack Dalton, eleventh librarian of the University of Virginia and former head of the Board of Education for Librarianship. Fahs had hoped to have a director named by the time the proposal went before the Rockefeller Foundation board in April, but it was not until June 27 that Jack Dalton had been offered and accepted the position. (13)

Dalton served from 1956 to 1959, the years of the initial grant. An excellent fit for the position, his years of experience on the Board of Education for Librarianship had given him an edge over other candidates since library schools were singled out in the association's proposal as the foundation for improving librarianship in foreign countries. Of equal importance was his ability to establish rapport. Harry Clemons, his predecessor as the librarian of the University of Virginia, described him in the following terms: "Jack Dalton is a sympathetic and patient listener. Even people who have just met him or heard him speak have been eager to pour out to him their personal problems. The comprehension and concern he has manifested have led to the consumption of a staggering amount of his time. In these intimate interviews he does not preach--rather, he subtly injects a fresh and wholesome point of view." (14)

After the initial grant expired in 1959, the Rockefeller Foundation extended it for a period of two years. Dalton was succeeded by Raynard Swank, who like Dalton was a university librarian. A friend describes Swank as a likable man who had a real talent for sizing up the political realities of a situation. He wrote skillfully and could address sensitive issues in a diplomatic way. (15) Unlike Dalton, Swank did not resign his position as director of the Stanford libraries when he became the director of the IRO and served only two years, from 1959 to 1961. When a third Rockefeller grant was made, it was for five additional years, a period probably intended to give the director an incentive to remain longer. Lester Asheim, the dean of the Graduate Library School at Chicago, directed the office from 1961 to 1966. Asheim was a man noted for his intelligence, good sense, and ability to remain poised in difficult situations. (16)

After 1966 the office was less stable as funding became a major problem. The Rockefeller Foundation did not normally fund projects for longer than ten years: programs had ten years to prove their worth and become either self-supporting or obtain other sources of support. The Rockefeller Foundation made an exception for the IRO, giving it one additional year in 1967, but that was the end. As directors, Thomas R. Buckman (1966-1967) and Ralph T. Esterquest (1967-1968) were one-year appointments. The office did achieve some stability when it obtained a contract with the Agency for International Development (AID) in 1967, but the end of that contract in 1972 spelled the end of the office. David Donovan (1968-1972), assistant director of the office under Esterquest, was its last director; he was the first to have long-term project experience overseas, although most of the earlier directors had done some consulting in foreign countries before their selection.

During its years of operation the office grew from a director plus halftime secretary to, under Ralph Esterquest, a director, assistant director, AID project officer, assistant project officer, and several secretaries. Some of this staff expansion was achieved with money from the Council on Library Resources. The office also moved with some frequency. Dalton ran the office from his home in Charlottesville. During the Swank, Asheim, and Buckman years, it was in Chicago, quartered in or close to the ALA headquarters. During its last years it was located in Washington in order to be more accessible to AID, although the assistant director was in Chicago.

The announcement of Dalton's appointment described the function of the office and the duties of the director:
 The specific function of the new Office will be to study and
 investigate the state of library development and the need for
 library education in various countries. The Director will spend
 several months of each year in foreign travel and first-hand
 observation, working closely with university and government
 officials, and library leaders. He will draw upon the experience
 of American librarians with the library problems of foreign
 countries. Within the United States, close working arrangements will
 be maintained with government and private agencies concerned with
 education abroad, and the exchange of persons.

Swank's 1960 description of the office used slightly different language, describing its function as "primarily study, planning, and liaison." A position paper of Asheim's on its future in 1964 broke the functions down more elaborately, but the fundamental purpose did not alter. (17)

Intended to encourage American participation in the development of library services abroad, travel was at the heart of the office's activities. The director was expected to spend about four months a year on the road. In his first two years on the job Dalton visited Japan (twice), Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, India (twice), Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico (twice), Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, and England. (18) The itinerary for Lester Asheim's 1961-62 visit to Africa conveys something of what "travel" meant. In seventy-six days Asheim was in Paris, Accra, Lagos, Kano, Zaria, Kaduna, Leopoldville, Salisbury, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Lusaka, N'Dola, Dar-es-Salaam, Moshi, Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa, Khartoum, and Cairo. (19)

Such travel was physically demanding and the socializing that was part of the job brought additional stresses, (20) but there were compensations, like Asheim's visit to Victoria Falls. It also had personal costs. Swank described the life as "too much for a married man for more than a few years, however exciting and rewarding," and it is not coincidental that Asheim, an unmarried man, spent rather more time traveling than either Dalton or Swank, both of whom were married. (21)

Sometimes a visit was exploratory; at other times the director would devote a major part of his time developing a project or advising on an already existing one. Occasionally, the purpose was to investigate a problem. At all times the director represented American librarianship. In a 1964 letter to Douglas Bryant, Swank described the impression that Dalton, as "Mr. American Library," had made in Japan. (22)

Face-to-face contact and lengthy conversations with the individuals who were in charge of programs, with those who did the real work, and with interested observers brought an unparalleled level of understanding. Asheim's four-day stay in Colombo in 1964 produced twelve single-spaced diary pages. One conversation was with Dick Heggie, the Asia Foundation representative about, among other things, the House of Representatives Library. The Asia Foundation had tried to convince the authorities that it should be a real library, but there was no reference service worthy of the name at the moment. Later, at a luncheon with a Ceylonese library official, he found out from his host's son, a practicing advocate, that the library did indeed have "reference" service, but probing revealed that "reference service" meant that if you have the number of the book you want, a peon will get it for you. The Asia Foundation wanted to send a man to the United States for observation and perhaps training, but this was "sticky-wicket politically--not neutral enough." Asheim suggested that the IRO might be able to identify legislative reference libraries for the man to visit in countries such as Nigeria. These non-U.S, libraries could then be added to his itinerary in the hope of taking some of the curse off the proposed trip. (23)

Jack Dalton's diary of his visit to Ankara in May 1958 supplements the bland official reports of a Rockefeller Foundation grant to Jella Lepman of the International Youth Library for a tour to promote children's literature in developing countries. He reports on a conversation with Lewis Stieg, the director of the library education program at the University of Ankara, and Anne Davis, the USIS librarian in Ankara:
 Talk turned fairly quickly to the Jella Lepman visit and I sat back
 and liste[ne]d for a long half hour or more. Davis teed off on this
 one. Mrs. L. says in her confidential report that one of the people
 she "contacted" here was Ann Davis whom she describes as a
 children's librarian. Ann was out of the country at the time of the
 visit. Stieg took over immediately, since he was here, and described
 how unhappy Mrs. L. was with her hotel, his efforts to find
 American food for her, her companion's flunkey role and one or
 two incidents with customs and visitations, her insistence to
 the key man in the Ministry that Turkey was Asian, that unhappy
 result and her insistence next day with a group of Turkish
 ladies that their man was wrong and the subsequent unhappiness
 in that group. A tale of appointments made at her request and
 broken at her pleasure and unhappiness behind. Dangling of
 Rockefeller money until they were afraid not to get together
 and not even turning up where it was important that she should,
 shortening her visit here with subsequent time lost fiddling
 with reservations, and on and on. A very embarrassing visitation
 all around, I gather. Davis found herself facing the story on
 her return, but not surprised apparently because of earlier
 dealings dating back to Germany in the middle forties. A miserable
 tale all around. They insist that the report, Mrs. L's
 confidential report on her journey, is a tissue of
 misrepresentation and bad reporting so far as this part of the
 story is concerned. (24)

Particularly helpful in understanding the troubled Ankara project is Dalton's account of a visit with the dean who administered the school.
 In the late afternoon with Stieg to visit the Dean of the Faculty
 of Letters who gave with much double-talk and promised undying
 loyalty to all our enterprises. Hmm? I asked him to tell me the
 difference between an Institute and a Dep't and his reply was
 that the only difference was that the word Institute was more
 popular these days and money could be more easily secured for
 one. The Only? I asked. Yep, sez he. All my other informants
 tell me that an Institute can be wiped out any minute on a
 single vote of the faculty, whereas a dep't is permanent! No
 member of the Institute meets with the general faculty; a
 departmental chairman would be a member of that body. The
 isolation at this post is fearful. (25)

Examination of the 1963-64 annual report of the office provides a comprehensive picture of its operations at maturity. Asheim divided the report into three categories: travel, office activity, and information activity. He estimated that he spent five months in travel outside the United States: one trip to South Asia and the Middle East, another to Rome and to Indonesia, a brief visit to Montreal, and a month in Africa. This travel was related primarily to development projects--Canada may not have been a developing country but it was developing a library school at the University of Montreal--and secondarily to international organizations like IFLA. The office activity included administering book acquisitions for both the University of Algiers and the University of the Philippines; helping with numerous searches for librarians for projects abroad, such as a cataloging librarian for the University of East Africa and a visiting professor for the University of the Philippines library school; assisting the Universities of Brasilia and Delhi; providing help to American libraries wanting to appoint foreign librarians for a limited term search; facilitating exchanges; supplementing the training of two groups of Peace Corps volunteers; acting as a clearing house for ALA international activities and foreign visitors; and holding discussions about the office's future with the IRO, the executive secretary of the ALA, and the ALA International Relations Committee. It also provided major administrative support for an international field survey of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), a project designed to provide the information necessary to address the well-founded complaints of many foreign librarians that American and Western European bias limited the utility of the DDC in other countries. Under information activities, Asheim listed his speeches to the Friends of American Writers in October, to the students and faculty of Kent State University in November, to the Chicago Library Club in November, to the ALA Staff Association in May, and to the International Relations Round Table in June. He also participated in a symposium on the library of the future that was sponsored by the Wilson Library Bulletin, assisted in several sessions of a workshop on comparative librarianship at Columbia University in June 1964, and wrote an article for Library Journals November 15, 1964, issue on international relations. (26)

From the abundance of well-documented activity, some shifts in emphasis of the office's activities can be detected, most of which reflected the changing priorities of the foundations and the U.S. government. The first shift was geographic. In Dalton's years most attention went to Asian countries; Swank's period was balanced among Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, as had originally been intended when the office was established; and under Asheim Africa and Latin America were of particular importance. Another shift was in the character of the projects with which they worked. The Rockefeller Foundation's University Development Program (UDP) is typical of the later period, when, instead of a series of independent projects, aid was focused on a single university in a very limited number of countries in an effort to raise the entire level of the university and of higher education in that country; the University of the Philippines was one of the UDP universities. This approach meant that library projects were less likely to be stand-alone projects. Finally, there is the major shift that came with the cessation of Rockefeller Foundation support. At that point, the office moved to a combination of ALA and AID funding.

Evaluation of the accomplishments of the IRO is difficult. As Asheim wrote in his annual report for 1961-62, "It is in the nature of the work of the IRO that much of its activity has delayed results, or intangible ones which are difficult to identify." Some equivalent of the word "long-range" recurs frequently. For example, in his description of the IRO Swank emphasized that the IRO was a long-term endeavor: "a great deal of time is needed to develop communications and understanding, to define programs, and to formulate projects in some parts of the world." (27)

What could be counted was. An example of this is the long list of projects and potential projects with which the office was involved that was appended to the report of its first five years. A total of sixty-five projects were mentioned, ranging from the reorganization of libraries to library education to cataloging of historical collections in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. India alone had eight library-related aid projects, including such diverse activities as support for the University of Delhi library school; consulting by Archie McNeal, director of libraries at the University of Miami, and Keyes Metcalf, retired Harvard librarian and expert on library buildings; workshops presented by Laurence Kipp, librarian of Harvard's Baker Business Library, and his wife Rae Cecilia Kipp; three different tours of the United States by different groups; a field seminar in the United States for state and district librarians; a rural or district public library demonstration; and the compilation of a union list of scientific periodicals. In addition, there were projects that extended beyond the boundaries of a single country, like the field survey of the Dewey Decimal Classification, a new library school at the University of Hawaii for training of Asian as well as American librarians, an investigation of the difficulty of obtaining microfilms from the United States, and a seminar for Latin American and North American library directors. The USIS library program remained a subject of special interest. (28)

The true accomplishments of the IRO were diffuse, imprecise, and general, but so were its goals. The office did indeed study and investigate the state of library development and the need for library education in various parts of the world. Its directors did develop close relationships with government agencies and foundations concerned with these matters. They did work to develop appropriate proposals. And the office did serve as a center of information. But proving that these things had been done and that they had been of value was often next to impossible. The Rockefeller Foundation archives contain a brief note from Elissa Keiser, administrative assistant to Ralph Davidson, the deputy director for the humanities and social sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation, to Kenneth Thompson, vice-president of the foundation, concerning a conversation she had had with Davidson: "He feels that the International Relations Office has not been terribly successful and that probably the extension is not deserved." Dorothy Parker, another Rockefeller Foundation officer, who handled many of the library-related projects, wrote on Keiser's note, "The IRO program has had both successes and failures." (29) Asheim's comment on his 1965 tour of the Middle East may be insightful, but it is not the kind of "proof" that appeals to budget officers: "More than ever before, I was able to make use of the background and the experience that I have been gathering in these four years of travel for the Int Rel Ofc. The value of continuity in the Office was impressed upon me more forcefully than it has been on any of my other trips--perhaps because I now have more experience than I have had before." (30)

Did the IRO have any relationship to U.S. foreign policy? Yes, it did have a direct official relationship in its work with State Department programs like the tours and exchanges of librarians and through the MD contract. But was it an instrument of U.S. foreign policy? Perhaps, but only in an amorphous sense, as a part of the massive foreign aid and technical assistance that the United States government and many private organizations gave to developing countries in those years.

One fundamental fact about the IRO, however, needs to be kept in mind when evaluating any of its activities and accomplishments: a lack of power. The director of the IRO was an advisor, a counselor, a facilitator; he did not have the power to command nor could he control. At most, he could influence the foundations and government agencies that did control the flow of money and that turned to him for advice. He could also advise the recipients of their largesse about how to make their proposals more appealing.

The last years of the IRO were overshadowed by fiscal uncertainty. The fundamental problem was that the funding agencies preferred more concrete accomplishments than the IRO could produce since it was an information collecting and disseminating organization rather than an administrative unit. The IRO helped others with their projects; it did not have projects of its own. (31) Nor did the ALA command sufficient resources to support the office adequately on its own. In a detailed memorandum to the International Relations Committee, Asheim reviewed the IRO and explored its prospects for the future. He began with a statement on the aims and objectives of the office:
 The International Relations Office, under the policy guidance and
 advice of the International Relations Committee, acts for the
 American Library Association in matters within the field of
 international relations. Its aim is to offer the assistance of
 the Association in the promotion of good library service and
 education for librarianship around the world, with particular
 attention to the developing countries. The stress is not on the
 promotion of American librarianship and its methods in other
 countries, but rather on evaluating the goals that those countries
 have themselves set for their libraries, to see in what ways
 American libraries and librarians can be helpful. To promote
 these ends, its duties are divided between exploration and
 investigation of librarianship abroad, and establishment of
 close working relationships with librarians, educators,
 foundations and other agencies in the United States and
 elsewhere. Its functions are primarily study and planning on the
 one hand; stimulation and liaison on the other. It seeks to
 combine the professional expertise represented by the American
 Library Association and the special knowledge of foreign
 librarianship gathered in the course of foreign travels with
 the resources of American or international agencies so that
 they may together make the most fruitful contribution to the
 advancement of library services abroad.

Asheim then summarized the questions for discussion with the International Relations Committee as follows:

* Were the objectives in the statement an acceptable set of objectives for the IRO in the future?

* Were the activities of the IRO the most suitable ones to pursue to meet its objectives?

* Did the services fulfill the objectives?

* And if the answer was "no" to any of these, what alternatives or changes were advisable? (32)

Asheim's 1964-65 annual report addressed the same issue. In it, however, he was more direct, discussing the implications of changes. In his description of what the IRO would be if it had to adopt a pay-as-you-go policy, he emphasized that the office's ability to give professional assistance and counsel to other agencies, institutions, and individuals, U.S. and foreign, would be severely curtailed and travel would be restricted to projects for which a funding agency was willing to pay. If it was eliminated completely, not only would there be no assistance and advice forthcoming, all other areas of activity would also be unserved. (33)

An agenda from early 1965 of the International Relations Committee has a note in Dalton's handwriting: "1965 equiv of Burton Fahs 1956???" (34) but there was no Charles Burton Fahs of 1965 and Asheim's prediction that "IRO assistance will in most cases have to be based to a great extent upon anticipated income and not solely on the urgency of the need" (35) came to pass when the Rockefeller Foundation terminated its funding. From 1967 until its close, the office was supported by a combination of ALA funds and an Agency for International Development contract. The records of these last years show very limited travel and far less breadth in activities. The IRO continued to facilitate exchanges of librarians and acted as an information center, but most of its activity was tied to AID projects.

In the end, a combination of factors brought about the demise of the IRO. Perhaps most important was a simple but massive shift in outlook. The truth was that by 1970 the country, which included librarians, was less international in outlook and more concerned with the domestic scene; civil rights and Vietnam consistently ranked highest among concerns (Gallup, 1972). The big foundations like Rockefeller and Ford, which had been so prominent in support of foreign libraries, were altering their priorities and approaches. The Committee on Program Evaluation and Support (COPES) recommended that ALA close the IRO to make available more funds to programs to aid the disadvantaged of the United States. By the late 1960s funding from AID was increasingly problematic, and while the IRO got considerable praise, the agency could not renew the contract and the American Library Association would not support it. In September 1972 the International Relations Office closed.


American Library Association, Columbia University, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. International Relations Committee Collection. Cited as IRCC.

American Library Association Archives, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Archives. International Relations, New Office. Cited as ALA.

International Relations Office, American Library Association, RG1.2, Projects, Series 200R. Cited as RF-IRO.

Lester Eugene Asheim Papers. Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cited as Lester Asheim Papers.

Overseas Library Development. American Library Association, RG1.2, Projects, Series 200R, Box 271, Folder 2600, American Library Association, Overseas Library Development (OLD), 1955-1958. Cited as RF-OLD.

Rockefeller Archives Center, Rockefeller Foundation Officers' Diaries, Charles B. Fahs, 1946-1961 (microfilm reel 5). Cited as Charles B. Fahs, Diary.

University of Virginia, Special Collections Library. Librarians' Papers, RG 12/1/1.671, Box: Clemons, 5. Cited as UVLP.


Brewster, B.J. (1976). American overseas technical assistance, 1940-1970. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Charter. (1907). Bulletin of the American Library Association, (2), 2.

Gallup, G. H. (1972). The Gallup Poll: Public opinion 1935-1971. New York, Random House. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from

International Relations Office. (2005). Retrieved September 30, 2005, from

Kraske, G. E. (1995). Missionaries of the book: The American library profession and the origins of United States cultural diplomacy. Westport, CN: Greenwood.


(1.) Jack Dalton, "Report to Membership, January 31, 1957," IRCC, Box 7, Folder: IRC Correspondence, 1957.

(2.) Douglas W. Bryant, Chairman 1952-1955, "The Activities of the International Relations Board, 1952-1956," IRCC, Box 6, Folder: IRB Reports 1942-1957.

(3.) Douglas W. Bryant, Chairman 1952-1955, "Report to Membership, January 31, 1957," IRCC, Box 7, Folder: IRC Correspondence, 1957.

(4.) Paul Wasserman to Douglas W. Bryant, 1955, IRCC, Box 2, Folder: IRB Correspondence 1955.

(5.) Charles B. Fahs, "Trip to Mexico, October 8, 1953," Rockefeller Archives Center, Rockefeller Foundation Officers' Diaries, Charles B. Fahs, 1946-1961 (microfilm reel 5).

(6.) Charles B. Fatts, Diary, January 29, 1956, Meeting with David H. Clift and John S. Richards.

(7.) Ibid.

(8.) David H. Cliff to William S. Dix, February 9, 1956, IRRC, Box 5, Folder: IRB Project and Overseas Library Development.

(9.) "A Proposal for an ALA Office for Overseas Library Development," March 1, 1956, IRCC, Box 5, Folder: IRB Projects and Overseas Library Development.

(10.) David H. Clift to William S. Dix, February 9, 1956, and "A Proposal for an ALA Office for Overseas Library Development."

(11.) Charles B. Fahs, Diary, February 7, 1956.

(12.) The list of potential candidates for director that Ludington submitted contained no women, although her list of thirty-one special consultants did include eight women. IRCC, Box 9, Folder: IRC-International Relations Office, 1961/62.

(13.) Charles B. Fahs, Diary, February 7, 1956, and April 2, 1956, telephone call with Mr. Dix; William S. Dix to Charles B. Fahs, June 27, 1956, RF-OLD.

(14.) Harry Clemons to Richard H. Logsdon, September 22, 1959, UVLP Librarians' Papers, RG 12/1/1.671.

(15.) E-mail communication from Michael Buckland to Margaret Dalton, October 22, 2005.

(16.) E-mail communication from Abraham Bookstein to Margaret Dalton, October 25, 2005; conversation of W. Boyd Rayward with Margaret Dalton, October 27, 2005.

(17.) Announcement of appointment of Jack Dalton as Director, 1956, IRCC, Box 9, Folder: IRC Historical Materials, Reports and Studies, 1956-60 (ALA); "ALA International Relations Office," IRCC, Box 9, Folder: IRC Historical Materials, Reports and Studies, 1956-60 (ALA); Lester Asheim and Joseph Shubert to the International Relations Committee, Future of the IRO, April 28, 1965, IRCC, Box 7, Folder: IRC Agenda of Meetings, Memorandum (ALA).

(18.) In his report Dalton pointed out that the European stops had been arranged for conferences with UNESCO, the director of the International Youth Library with which ALA had worked, and for meetings of IFLA, the organization through which much of previous ALA international activity had been carried out.

(19.) Notes on the International Relations Office, 1956-1958, IRRC, Box 10, Folder IRC-International Relations (ALA); Itinerary in Africa Prepared for Dr. Lester Asheim, RF-IRO, Folder: 2604.

(20.) Raynard C. Swank to Jack Dalton, April 12, 1960, IRRC, Box 9, Folder: IRC-International Relations Office, Correspondence, 1958-61; Jack Dalton to Harry Clemons, March 22, 1957, UVLP.

(21.) Ray [Swank] to Jack [Dalton], October 24, 1960, IRCC, Box 9, Folder: IRC International Relations Office.

(22.) Raynard C. Swank to Douglas W. Bryant, January 4, 1965, IRCC, Box 8, Folder: IRC Correspondence, 1965.

(23.) Lester Asheim, January 27, 1964, January 29, 1964, Diary of Asian Trip, December 1963-March 1964, Lester Eugene Asheim Papers.

(24.) Travel Diary: April 21, 1958-May 14, Sunday, May 4, IRRC, Box 10, Folder: IRC-IRO Director, Diary, Correspondence, 1957-59.

(25.) Travel Diary: April 21, 1958-May 14, May 5, IRRC, Box 10, Folder: IRC-IRO Director, Diary, Correspondence, 1957-59.

(26.) International Relations Office, 1963-64 Annual Report, ALA, 7/2/6, Subject Files, Folder: IRO Yearly Reports, 1964-66.

(27.) A Report for the Period October 1, 1961, to September 30, 1962, RF-IRO, Folder 2604, American Library Association, International Relations Office; "ALA International Relations Office," IRCC, Box 9, Folder: IRC Historical Materials, Reports and Studies, 195660.

(28.) International relations Office, Report, October 1956-March 1961, IRCC, Box 10, IRC-IRO, American Library Association.

(29.) Elissa Keiser to JEB [Joseph E. Black], KWT [Kenneth W. Thompson], 12/28/66, IRO.

(30.) Lester Asheim to J. A. Quinn, December 17, 1965, ALA, Series 7/2/6, Box 1, Folder: Ford Foundation--Correspondence, 1961-66.

(31.) Swank thought that it should.

(32.) Memorandum, April 28, 1964, IRCC, Box 7, Folder: International Relations Committee, Agenda of Meetings.

(33.) "Annual Report," RF-IRO, Folder 2606, 1954-1965.

(34.) "Some Questions for General Discussion," IRCC, Box 8, IRC Correspondence, 1965.

(35.) "Annual Report," RF-IRO, Folder 2606, 1954-1965.

Margaret Steig Dalton has an M.S. in library service from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley. While finishing her dissertation, she worked as a reference librarian at Harvard. She has taught for the last thirty plus years at Columbia University and at the University of Alabama, where she has been since 1983. Her research has been in scholarly communication, principally among historians, and in cultural history. Her most recent book, Catholicism, Popular Culture, and the Arts in Germany, 1880-1933, was published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
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Author:Dalton, Margaret Stieg
Publication:Library Trends
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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