History of WESS

A Brief History

Librarians with an interest in Western Europe first met informally beginning in 1973, forming a discussion group, WELS (Western European Language Specialists), within ACRL in 1975 and met officially at the ALA midwinter conference on January 21, 1975. The first issue of the WELS Newsletter appeared in 1975, continuing on an irregular basis until volume III, no. 1 in January, 1980 after which time it has appeared more regularly as the WESS Newsletter, semi-annually to the present.

After five years as a discussion group, WELS applied to ACRL for section status, and the new Western European Specialists Section was officially approved on June 27, 1979. Membership in WESS has remained relatively steady, having grown from 560 in 1980 to 724 in 1997 and back to around 600 in 2009. The number of personal members has grown steadily while organizational membership has declined.

According to its bylaws, first adopted in 1980 (see: C&RL News, November, 1979, pp. 322-23) and revised in 1985 (see: C&RL News, March, 1985, pp. 116-18), WESS “represents librarians and others in the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) who specialize or are otherwise professionally involved in the acquisition, organization, and use of information sources originating in or relating to Western European countries.”WESS often organized programs at ALA annual conferences from 1980 on. In 1983, WESS members were heavily involved in the Symposium on Western European Studies and North American Libraries, sponsored by the University of Minnesota. In 1988, WESS organized its first full-scale international conference, held in Florence on Shared Resources, Shared Responsibilities: Libraries and Western European Studies in North America and Europe. Selected papers from both conferences have been published by Haworth Press in its journal, Collection Management (vol. 6, no.1/2, 1984) and as separate monographs. In 2004, an international conference was held in Paris on Migrations in Society, Culture and the Library. Proceedings were published by ALA.

See also:

WESS Officers (a historical list)

















  • WESS Officers 1974-2005 [lost on Dartmouth server]
    NOTE: WESS was officially WELS – Western European Language Specialists – from 1974-1980.

WESS Conferences

Bylaws, History and Procedure