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Records concerning the Medical Library Association IV

Identifier: CPP 13/002-04

Scope and Contents

This collection of records concerning the Medical Library Association is part of the records of the Office of the Librarian of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The collection, which spans 1951 to 1980, consists ofrecords from Elliott Morse's activities in committees and as president of the MLA and from the meetings and activities of the Philadelphia Regional Group of the MLA.

I. Subject Files (1967-1974) Over half of the collection consists of Morse's MLA files, which he arranged alphabetically by subject. His subject headings can be seen in the right margin of most of these papers. Many of the subject headings are taken from committee titles. Substantial subjects include certification, continuing education, federal relations, and publications of the MLA. Subjects dealing with the workings of the MLA include bylaws, the convention (MLA annual meetings), goals and structure, membership, and nominating. The contents of the files include correspondence, reports, and meeting notes.

II. Board of Directors (1971) This series consists of a binder of papers from the May 30-31, 1971 MLA Board of Directors Meeting. Morse presented a report on the Ad Hoc Committee on Goals and Structure of the MLA at the meeting, but no materials associated with that report appear in the binder.

III. Committee Information (1968) This folder contains materials generally applicable to all MLA committees: the "Committee Calendar," explaining the MLA budgeting process, and a "Check List of Procedures for Committee Chairmen."

IV. Member Directory (1974-1975)

V. Annual Reports (1978) This series consists of a paperbound volume containing annual reports of all MLA committees for 1977/1978. Morse's name does not appear in any of the committee listings; he did, however, take notes in this volume during the 1978 annual meeting.

VII. Philadelphia Regional Group (1951-1980) Morse was directly involved in the founding of the Philadelphia Regional Group of the MLA in 1951. Subseries of this series include founding documents, bylaws revisions, correspondence and meeting materials for 1951-1969. The largest sub series consists of a chronological arrangement of files belonging to officers of the group, such as chairs John Timour, Carol Fenichel, Helen St. Clair, and JoAnn King, and vice-chair Beatrice Davis.


  • 1951-1981


Historical Medical Library history

The Office of the Librarian of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was established in 1854. Before 1851, the chairman of the Library Committee was responsible for the administration of the Library, and from 1851 to 1854, the Secretary of the College acted as librarian. In 1863, the Librarian became an officer of the College, and the by-laws of this year established his official duties: the "preservation, arrangement and cataloguing of the books belonging to the Library of the College". This position was part-time; the Librarian was required to be present in the Library for an hour before each meeting and an additional hour each week.

A major change in the Library's administration occurred in 1882. At this time, two new positions, "Honorary Librarian" and "Assistant Librarian" were created. The Honorary Librarian served as an "ex officio" member of the Library Committee and was responsible for the Library's funds and employees. The Assistant Librarian, who worked full-time and did not have to be a Fellow of the College, was responsible for the daily administration of the Library. His other duties included acting as secretary of the Library Committee and keeping records of all books purchased or donated to the Library. In the 1914 by-laws, the title of Assistant Librarian was changed to Librarian. Also in 1914, the Librarian became the "Superintendent of the College building". This responsibility was omitted from the 1925 by-laws, and by 1935, the by-laws were again amended to state that the Librarian "shall keep a record of all acquisitions of the Library, with the names of the donors".

A new position, Curator of the Historical Collections of the Library, was added to the staff in 1953. In 1982, the title of"Librarian" was changed to "Director of the Library." In 1990, the responsibilities of the Director of the Library were divided between the Director of the Library for Public Services and the Director of the Library for Historical Services.

In 1997, governance voted to officially make the Library an historical library, deemphasizing modem reference and transferring most of those activities to the Consumer Health Information Center, established in 1995. The Director of the Library was in charge of the historical collections, with Public Services in charge of modem reference. In July 2001 the Director's position became that of College Librarian, with the added title of Director of the Francis C. Wood Institute for the History of Medicine. While the Library continued to acquire and save consumer health material and some other current material, the College Librarian's principle duty was the preservation, promotion, and enhancement of the historical collection.

Elliott How Morse biography

The collection covers the tenure of Elliott How Morse (1916-1992) as Librarian (1953-1981) at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. A few documents from the years when Morse served as Administrative Assistant Librarian and Administrative Associate Librarian (1949- 1953) are also in the collection.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 9, 1916, Morse grew up around Narberth, Pennsylvania, and attended Lower Merion High School and Haverford College, where he majored in German and was awarded his B.A. in 1938. The guidance ofHaverford's president led Morse to pursue a bachelor's degree in library science at the Drexel Institute of Technology, which he completed in 1939. After a working in a series ofreference positions at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, culminating in service as head of reference at the University of Pennsylvania, Morse accepted the position of Administrative Assistant Librarian at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1949.

In 1953, Morse was appointed Librarian and his predecessor, Walton Brooks McDaniel, II, became Curator of the Historical Collections. Throughout his twenty-eight years as Librarian, Morse developed the contemporary library at the College, helped shaped the profession of medical librarianship both in the mid-Atlantic region and the United States, and worked at developing regional cooperation among libraries. At the College of Physicians, he worked to raise money from area medical schools, commercial and non-profit organizations interested in using the Library's resources, and various levels of government through grant applications to support the Library's services. From 1956 onward, he oversaw the Medical Documentation Service, which evaluated, indexed, and abstracted journal articles for clients.

In the mid-Atlantic region, he was one of the founding members of the Philadelphia Regional Group of the Medical Library Association (MLA) in 1951, served as the group's first vicechairman, and assisted in drafting the group's bylaws. He served as its second chairman. He began to serve on the Board of Directors of the Union Library Catalog of Pennsylvania in 1971 and served as its president in 1973/1974. He also led the formalization of the existing mechanisms of cooperation among the area's medical libraries and marshaled their support for an application by the College of Physicians to become one of the National Library of Medicine's regional medical libraries. The application was successful, resulting in the formation of the Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service (MERMLS) in 1968. MERMLS continued in operation for fourteen years. The associated regional reference service lost its federal support in 1977 but was replaced by the College Library Information Service (CLIS), which was supported financially by hospital libraries. Finally, on the national level, he served on the Board of Directors of the MLA and was that association's president in 1969/1970. Just before Morse's retirement, the Library of the College joined OCLC with the intent of making the College's holdings more widely accessible.

Morse retired from the Library of the College of Physicians at the end of 1981. In his honor, his portrait was painted and presented to the College, making Morse the first staff member of the College whose portrait was added to the College collection. He was named Librarian Emeritus and made an Honorary Associate Fellow of the College. He died on December 19, 1992. In addition to the papers of Elliott H. Morse, the following sources were consulted in the preparation of this biographical sketch:

Bell, Whitfield J., Jr. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia: A Bicentennial History.

Canton, Mass.: Science History Publications, 1987, 271-276.

Fulton, June H. "Elliott How Morse, 1916-1992." Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 81 (4): 464-469 (October 1993).


1.4 Linear feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Records concerning the Medical Library Association IV
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States