Chemical Information Bulletin, Volume 32, Number 1, Spring 1980 Page: 4
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THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE
LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES
The White House Conference on Library and Information Services
was held in Washington, D.C. on November 15-19,
1979...twenty-two years after the first suggestion that such a conference
be held! The conference was called so that delegates (and
alternates) could provide advice about policies governing public access
to, and distribution of, information in the United States. During
the two years prior to the national conference, conferences had
been held in each of the states and territories to formulate resolutions
concerning five main themes: Library and information services
for (a) meeting personal needs, (b) enhancing lifelong learning,
(c) improving organizations and the professions, (d) effectively
governing our society, and (e) increasing international understanding
It should be noted that associations and societies were able to
participate in the overall proceedings, prior to the WHC at two
meetings sponsored by the American Society for Information
Science (ASIS) and during the WHC either as delegates-at-large or
as "official" observers. The writer acted as an official observer for
two societies...the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Society
for Technical Communication (STC).
Some background information appears appropriate. The WHC
was authorized by Public Law 93-568 and signed December 31,
1974, by President Ford after extensive hearings in Congress. The
purpose of the Conference, as stated by the law, was to improve the
nation's libraries and information centers and their use by the
public. On May 4, 1977, President Carter signed an appropriations
bill which set aside $3.5 million for the planning and conduct of the
WHC under the guidance of the National Commission on Libraries
and Information Science. The pre-WHC conferences mentioned
above permitted about 100,000 persons to be involved in discussions,
to debate issues, and to select approximately 900 delegates
and alternates to represent them at the national meeting. They
adopted more than 3,000 resolutions concerned with improvement
of library and information services. The law that authorized the
WHC also specifies that the Commission must submit to the President
the findings and recommendations of the Conference within
120 days of its close. The law also requires the President to send
his recommendations to the Congress within 90 days after he
receives the final report.
After the opening banquet on November 15, the participants in
the Conference began their deliberations. Delegates were assigned
to working groups, based upon some formula that took into consideration
the number of people interested in each of the five
themes. There were 34 workshops altogether...with four devoted to
the theme "improving organizations and the professions." About 20
people were assigned to each workshop. They met three times in
order to offer 5-8 resolutions per work group. Then "theme" sessions
were held, at which a spokesman from each work group offered
his group's resolutions for consideration and vote. A general
session was held on the last day of the Conference so that all
delegates could vote on the resolutions to be forwarded to the Commission.
Resolutions passed by each of the theme sessions were
reviewed by a resolutions committee prior to the general session in
order to modify and coalesce similar resolutions. As can be imagined,
the consideration of each resolution by about 650
delegates, prior to voting on each, required considerable restraint
and patience by the presiding officer...as well as an excellent grasp
of parliamentary procedures.
Seventeen resolutions were offered to the delegates for approval.
Fifteen passed and two failed. Some of the resolutions only required
a short paragraph, but a few required several pages. Thus,
only the thrust of those that passed are listed below (no order of importance
1. Support of the First Amendment. Libraries should promote and
make available information services on public issues; federal
funding of incentive grants to libraries to act as information and
referral centers; public awareness effort to promote library
2. Study and implementation of a National Information Policy.
Policy should: guarantee equal and full access to publicly
funded library and information services; ensure cooperation of
government agencies in making services available; protect
privacy; reaffirm right of libraries to choose/control local actions/purchases.
4 CHEMICAL INFORMATION BULLETIN
3. Implementation or expansion of literacy programs at community
level by the Department of Education.
4. Right of equal access to all publicly held information (addresses
removal of barriers, training of personnel to cope with
special handicap situations, federal funding to accomplish
5. Access-related issues of special constituencies (people with
developmental, hearing, learning, mental, physical and visual
disabilities, and mental handicaps): access to jobs, information
facilities, materials, etc.
6. Lifelong learning (to help everybody take advantage of opportunities
7. Networking planning and development (at national, regional,
and local levels). Includes multi-library and information networks,
profit and not-for-profit libraries from the public and
private sectors, and plans for a National Periodicals System
and plans for a National Lending Library for print and non-print
8. Cooperation of school and public library services.
9. Library of Congress and national planning (Congressional
designation of LC to provide the leadership in national planning).
10. Technology. Includes: direction by federal government to its
agencies to encourage creation of materials in computerprocessible
form; adoption of standards addressed toward
hardware and software compatibility, computer and communications
network protocols, and machine-readable information;
encouragement and funding of new technology development.
11. Federal international communication and accountability
(elimination of duplicative efforts by many departments/agencies
engaged in the international exchange of information).
12. International information exchange (federal funding of a program
to assist and encourage international exchange of information,
including the implementation of international networking).
13. Assistant Secretary for Library and Information Services (to
direct an office of Library and Information Services within the
Department of Education). This resolution was presented at a
Congressional hearing held at the site of the WHC on November
14. National Library Act (support for enactment of a national library
act based, in general, upon S.1124). It should be noted that a
great deal of attention was paid to this potential resolution by a
number of organizations present at the WHC (meaning lobbying
for its passage).
15. Public awareness (development and implementation of public
awareness programs connected with libraries and their services).
16. Federal resources for library and information services (concerned
with federal funding at levels no lower than at present
and with funding for new programs).
17. State and local funding for library and information services (a
plea for reordering of state and local priorities to provide more
funding, so that federal funding will not be decreased or lost).
NOTE: The complete (slightly marked-up) resolutions are available,
if a need exists for their transfer to readers of this report.
REACTION TO THE RESOLUTIONS (SUGGESTIONS, OBJECTIONS,
ENDORSEMENTS) BY ORGANIZATIONS OR PERSONS MUST BE
FORWARDED TO THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON LIBRARIES
AND INFORMATION SCIENCE IN TIME FOR ITS REPORT TO THE
Some general observations about the Conference are noted below:
* A daily newspaper (entirely about the Conference) was published
for the use of delegates, alternates, and observers.
* Audio tape cassettes of sessions were available within a few
hours of their conclusions (a very popular medium).
* President Carter spoke at one of the general sessions, resulting
in real people-jams at the doors (close and slow security
* A plethora of useful materials were provided in advance of, and
at, the Conference.
* An information center was operated at the WHC for the benefit
of all delegates, with special attention being paid to the needs
of handicapped people.
* Each delegate was able to tape a 90-second report for the "folks
back home." These reports were then sent to hometown radio
* Many of the potentially disruptive problems of the Conference
were solved quickly because the WHC staff used walkie-talkies
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American Chemical Society. Division of Chemical Information. Chemical Information Bulletin, Volume 32, Number 1, Spring 1980, periodical, Spring 1980; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5687/m1/4/: accessed September 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .