Librarians from Masonic libraries had no doubt met informally in small groups previous to 1928, but it was during that year that the first documented meeting of librarians from Masonic libraries took place. In May 1928, the first Conference of Masonic Librarians was held at the Iowa Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of Iowa, in Cedar Rapids (see photo above). The conference was realized through the efforts of Robert I. Clegg and J. Hugo Tatsch, two prominent early twentieth-century figures in Masonic librarianship. Twenty-eight people attended the conference. Although the minutes were not printed, an abstract of the meeting makes clear that some of the topics discussed were of a very practical nature. William L. Boyden presented a paper entitled “The Operation of a Masonic Library,” in which he drew on his thirty-four years of experience as librarian for the Supreme Council 33° Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction in Washington, DC. Other papers delivered at this first conference addressed “the problems of the smaller library,” focusing on the Los Angeles Masonic Library; library classification which was “informally discussed... in a separate room by those familiar with the technical operation of a library”; Masonic “traveling libraries”; and a talk on “Masonic Journalism” delivered by James A. Fetterly, whose “remarks were interspersed with amusing and witty comments.”
Exactly eighty years later, in 2008, a group of people devoted to Masonic libraries and museums again met at the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum in Cedar Rapids. Founded in 1995, the Masonic Library and Museum Association (MLMA) held its 2008 annual meeting in Iowa (see photo at right). The mission of MLMA is “to assist and support, through education, facilitation of communication, coordination of effort, and other means, those individuals charged with the collection, management, and preservation of the Masonic heritage.” Its members range from museum and library professionals who do this work for a living, to dedicated members of the fraternity who work voluntarily and have all different levels of experience. Membership in the MLMA is open to any person who expresses an interest in Masonic libraries or museums. Institutional membership is open to any Masonic body considered “regular” by most Grand Lodges in the United States.
The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is a proud member of this organization. Museum & Library staff attend the MLMA’s annual meeting and in 2006 co-hosted the meeting with the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts at the museum. Recent meetings were held at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania (2007), the Grand Lodge of Iowa's Iowa Masonic Library and Museum (2008), and the Grand Lodge of California's Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry (2009). This year’s meeting will be held October 21-23 in Alexandria, VA and Washington, DC, co-hosted by the George Washington Masonic Memorial, the Grand Lodge of Virginia Library, Museum & Historical Foundation, and The Library and Museum of the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction.
Top: Photo of attendees of Conference of Masonic Librarians from Grand Lodge Bulletin, Volume 29, No. 5 (May 1928). Cedar Rapids: Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1928), p. 566.
Bottom: Photo of attendees of Masonic Library and Museum Association's annual meeting at the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum, Grand Lodge of Iowa, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo used by permission of MLMA)