The Canadian Health Libraries Association or Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Canada was founded in 1976. It represents the views of Canadian health sciences librarians to governments, the health community and fellow librarians.
The genesis of the CHLA/ABSC can be traced to the Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association which was held in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975. The Canadian Group of the MLA met there (it was its second meeting, having been founded the year before) on June 2 and established an “Ad hoc committee to study the organisational status of Canadian health librarians.”
The formation of this Ad-hoc committee arose at this meeting (it was not specifically on the pre-circulated agenda), as it was clear that the proliferation of Canadian health library groups was not in the best interests of Canadian health sciences librarians. It was important then, as now, that Canadian health librarians spoke with one authoritative voice but there were at the time three “national” groups (four if one counted the )French speaking) Section de la santé of ASTED).
These other groups were the Special Resource Committee on Medical School Libraries of the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (ACMC). This grouped then, as now, the Directors of Canadian medical schools under the aegis of the ACMC. The ACMC group had been officially formed in 1967 and first met in 1968 but was actually the successor to the Canadian Library Association’s Committee on Medical Science Libraries that had been founded in 1961.
The second group which was active in 1975 was the Health Sciences Section of CASLIS (the Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services) – itself a sub-group of the Canadian Library Association. This was a spin-off of and partial successor to the Committee on Medical School Libraries noted above. The third group was the Canadian Group of the Medical Library Association. This group had been formed in 1974 as a way to formalise the links between Canadian members of the MLA and the MLA.administration.
At the meeting of the Canadian Group in 1975 it was proposed that an ad-hoc committee be established to look at the situation and propose improvements. The Canadian Group of MLA chaired by Dick Fredericksen, then the Health Sciences Librarian at Memorial University, voted overwhelmingly to establish a committee with a rather broad mandate: “To survey local health science library groups across the country; to discover the gaps existing; to locate key personnel.”
David S. Crawford from McGill University was appointed to chair this group and authorised to select its membership.
The members selected were Dick Fredericksen, Sheila Swanson (then Librarian of the Toronto Academy of Medicine and the chair of the CASLIS Group), Ann Nevill (then Head of the Health Sciences Resource Centre at CISTI), Martha Stone (then Head of the library at the Department of National Health and Welfare), Dorothy Sirois (then Librarian at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and a link with ASTED’s Section de la santé). Subsequently, in October 1975, Alan MacDonald, who had been much involved in the creation of the Canadian Association of Law Librarians and had recently been appointed Health Sciences Librarian at Dalhousie University, joined the ad-hoc committee as a second representative from CASLIS. In February 1976, Philippe Lemay, recently appointed to head the HSRC, replaced Ann Nevill.
In June 1976 the MLA Canadian Section (meeting in Minneapolis, MN) and the CASLIS Section, meeting in Halifax both accepted the report of this Ad-hoc Committee. The MLA Canadian Group accepted it (34 voted in favour, one against) with one amendment; this was to remove the capitalisation from the proposed name “in case a better name is suggested”!
The ad hoc committee continued their discussions over the summer of 1976 and accepted further suggestions and comments from the community. It met for the last time on 4th October 1976 and agreed that there was enough support to form a Canadian health libraries association. No better name had been suggested and the agenda for this meeting notes, “It seems we are left with Canadian Health Libraries Association, the addition of ‘Sciences’ was not well received at the CASLIS meeting.”
Subsequently the Canadian Group of the MLA and the Health Sciences Section of CASLIS have both disbanded and the CHLA / ABSC works closely with the Committee on Medical School Libraries of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) - the successor to the ACMC.
There is an article by David S. Crawford (CHLA's first President), reprinted from the Association's journal, Bibliotheca Medica Canadiana, describing the formation of the Association.