From the SEAALL Attic by Hazel Johnson
The origin of the Southeastern Chapter was established in 1937 during a meeting of ten North Carolina law librarians who agreed to meet several times a year to overcome what they perceived was professional isolation. In 1938, the name of the group was changed to the Carolina Law Library Association reflecting the inclusion of law librarians from South Carolina. AALL created procedures for the establishment of chapters in 1939 and the Carolinas group petitioned to become an AALL Chapter. After another small name change to reflect its association with AALL, the Carolinas Chapter was born as AALL's first chapter. After World War II, law schools began to grow with the admission of returning veterans. This also engendered a growth in the number and size of law libraries. Reflecting a need to network, in 1953, a group of law librarians throughout the southeast met in conjunction with the newly organized South Eastern Conference of Law Teachers. The law librarians again petitioned AALL to recognize the larger group as an AALL chapter and the Carolinas Chapter became the Southeastern Chapter in 1954.
SEAALL has grown from a group of ten North Carolina law librarians who worked within 35 miles of each other to a membership of more than 500 law librarians from eleven southeastern states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, a geographical area encompassing thousands of miles. During the years, the membership has also diversified in terms of the types of employment held by librarians. The original group of ten in 1937 included nine academic law librarians and one state court librarian. Today's membership reflects expansion of law librarians into corporations, law firms, county law libraries, the federal courts, state and federal agencies and as independent contractors and consultants.
A continuing mission for SEAALL has always been to provide educational opportunities for its members. The earliest meetings of the chapter featured programs on the organization of a law library, bindery routines and materials selection. In the early seventies, the first SEAALL institutes were held on classification and cataloging and law library administration. Most recently, the annual meeting in Tallahassee featured a one-day institute and seventeen educational programs. SEAALL and SWALL held what may have been the first joint meeting of AALL Chapters in New Orleans in 1976. And, of course, SEAALL held what may be one of the most unusual of chapter meetings, on a cruise between Miami and the Bahamas in 1989.
Over the years, SEAALL has served as a training ground for AALL leadership. William Roalfe of Duke University served as AALL President-Elect and President from 1934 to 1936 prior to the official existence of the North Carolina Law Libraries group. With the exception of 12 scattered years, SEAALL members have held positions as officers or members of the Executive Board since 1937. SEAALL members serving as AALL President have included Lucille Elliott (University of North Carolina) 1953-54, Dillard Gardner (North Carolina Supreme Court) 1956-57, Frances Farmer (University of Virginia) 1959-60, Kate Wallach (Louisiana State University) 1966-67, Mary Oliver (University of North Carolina) 1972-73, Leah Chanin (Mercer University) 1982-83, Lolly Gasaway (University of North Carolina) 1986-87, Dick Danner (Duke University) 1989-90, Kay Todd (Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, Atlanta) 1993-94, Carol Billings (Law Library of Louisiana) 1994-95 and of course, Jim Heller (William & Mary) 1998-99. Life member Erwin Surrency (retired from University of Georgia) also served as AALL President, but during the time was director of the Temple University Law Library.
Author's Note: This article borrows extensively from my section on SEAALL in Gasaway and Chiorazzi, ed. Law Librarianship: Historical Perspectives, Rothman, 1996. An extensive history of the Carolinas Chapter can be found in the article, "History of the Carolina-Southeastern Chapter, 1937-1955," 49 Law Library Journal 180 (1955) by Sarah Leverette and Lucille Elliott. This occasional series of articles will explore various other aspects of SEAALL history.
FROM: Hazel Johnson, "From the SEAALL Attic," 22:4 Southeastern Law Librarian 6 (Summer/Fall 1997). Hazel Johnson is a Law Library Services Consultant