Philippine Librarians Association

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The Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (formerly known as the Philippine Library Association) is the only nationally accredited professional organization of librarians in the Philippines to date. At present, it serves as the umbrella organization for all library groups in the country.

The association was founded on October 22, 1923 by a group of six professional librarians who had studied library science in the United States under government scholarships. Its first set of officers were: vaunted scholar Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera as President; his assistant, Mr. Jose Zurbito, as Vice-President; Mr. Cirilo B. Perez, an assistant librarian of the Bureau of Science, as secretary; and Mrs. Rosa Abriol, librarian of the American Circulating Library of the Philippine Library Museum, as treasurer. On October 8, 1925, the association was officially registered as a non-stock, nonprofit corporation. On May 5, 1989, it was renamed Philippine Librarians Association, Inc., for purposes of accreditation with the Professional Regulation Commission. Then in 1990, RA 6966, the law professionalizing librarianship in the country, was passed. With that, PLAI became the only accredited organization of professional librarians in the Philippines. In December 2008, after its corporate life expired in late November, the association was re-incorporated with the Securities and Exchange Commission, under new Articles of Incorporation.tif and ByLaws.tif.

Since starting out with a membership of 28 Filipinos and 5 Americans, the association's ranks have grown to include about 1,000 professional licensed librarians. Of the 40 presidents who have led the association to date, all except one American have been Filipinos. As of November 2006, it has about 300 life members, but could have as many as 5000 members if Congress passes the law requiring automatic membership for librarians.



As provided for in its original Constitution, “the object of the Philippine Library Association shall be to promote library service and librarianship.” Among its stated objectives are:

  • To uphold the dignity and ethics of the library profession;
  • To maintain library service at high professional levels;
  • To enable librarians and their associations to discharge their public responsibility more effectively;
  • To encourage the creation of libraries throughout the country;
  • To foster and maintain among its members high ideals of integrity, learning, professional competence, public service and conduct;
  • To safeguard the professional interest of its members;
  • To cultivate among its members a spirit of cordiality and fellowship;
  • To provide a forum for the discussion of librarianship, library reform, and the relation of librarians to other professions and to the public, and to publish information relating thereto;
  • To encourage and foster a continuing program of library education and research and make reports and recommendations thereon; and
  • To encourage and cultivate library cooperation and establish professional contact with librarians and their association in other countries.


Regular membership

A regular member is a bonafide librarian who holds a certificate of registration issued by the Professional Regulation Commission. A Regular Member has the right to vote, to hold any elective office or appointive position. Life Time Members are regular members who were awarded lifetime membership during the years 2000 until 2007, as provided in the 2001 By-Laws. This category, however, was removed under the 2007 amended By-Laws.

Sustaining membership

Sustaining Members are firms, agencies, institutions or individuals interested in supporting the objectives and programs of the Association. Representatives of the sustaining members may serve in ad hoc committees up to the chairmanship level, but cannot vote nor be elected into office. They are entitled to all the official publications of the Association.

Honorary membership

Honorary Members shall be such persons as the Board may nominate and the Association ratify as such for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of librarianship in the country. An honorary member shall be exempt from payment of fees and dues. He/She cannot vote and be voted upon as officer of the Board and Council.


In his efforts to effectively carry out his plan of consolidating various divisions of the newly organized Philippine Library (later renamed the National Library), the library's director Dr. James A. Robertson called a round table conference of all Manila civil government library workers. Around 1914, he organized the Round Table Association which aimed at undertaking the "discussion of modern library methods, as adopted in the United States, and introduction of such reforms as were necessary to render the most efficient service to the government, especially to the legislators and other engaged in research work. With Dr. Robertson as an executive secretary, the association included prominent government officials in its membership. Among them were Secretary Frank V. Carpenter, Major George Acheron of the Bureau of Forestry, President Murray Bartlett of the University of the Philippines, and Director Conrado Benitez of the School of Commerce and Business Administration of the University of the Philippines. Dr. McCarthy's book entitled Wisconsin Idea served as their guidebook. Realizing the imperative need of trained Filipino librarians, Dr. Robertson, in 1914, succeeded in including library science courses in the curriculum of the College of Liberal Arts of the University of the Philippines. These courses were taught by American library workers who offered their services free of charge. After Dr. Robertson 's resignation in 1915, the successors to the position of Director were either Filipino scholars or trained librarians. Ms. Mary Polk, librarian of the Bureau of Science, continued and developed the library courses that were being offered in the University of the Philippines; she was later assisted by Filipino library science graduates from library schools in the United States.

Between 1920 and 1923, a group of six professional librarians returned to the Philippines from the United States where they received training in library science as government scholarship grantees. They were Gabriel A. Bernardo, Eulogio Rodriguez, Jose Munda, and Cirilo B. Perez, all from Wisconsin Library School; Isaac V. Lucero from Illinois University; and Isidoro Saniel from New York State Library School. All of them realized the need for an association for the interchange of ideas on the growing importance of popular libraries. They approached Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, then Director of the Philippine Library and Museum, and proposed a plan of establishing a library association.

On October 22, 1923, Director Tavera called a conference of all librarians and other persons interested in the organization of an association of libraries. This marked the birth of the Philippine Library Association. A committee was immediately appointed to draft the association's constitution and its by-laws. The draft of the constitution was presented in the next meeting where it was approved. During that same meeting the officers of the association were elected. Dr. Tavera, a statesman, scholar and bibliographer, was unanimously elected President; his assistant, Mr. Jose Zurbito, became Vice-President; Mr. Cirilo B. Perez, an assistant librarian of the Bureau of Science and Mrs. Rosa Abriol, librarian of the American Circulating Library of the Philippine Library Museum, were elected secretary and treasurer respectively.

Five Americans were among the thirty-three chartered members; the rest of the members were Filipino library staff members. The Association's membership was very limited. At that time, the existing libraries in Manila consisted only of the Philippine Library and Museum with its three Manila City branches, government office libraries, private libraries, and libraries of schools, colleges, and universities with meager unorganized collections shelved generally in closed book cases, housed in small rooms, not readily accessible to the reader, and with clerks taking charge of them.

Foreign relations

Cognizant of the great possibilities for the advancement of its cause abroad, the association has established relations with similar associations in other countries. Some of its members have participated in library conferences abroad, especially in other Southeast Asian countries.

At the Annual Conference of the American Library Association held in 1928 in West Barden, Indiana, the Philippine Library Association was represented by Mr. Cirilo B. Perez. At the World Bibliographic Congress held in Rome and Venice, Professor Gabriel A. Bernardo was the Association's representative. He succeeded in having the Association included as Charter Member of the International Federation of Library Associations. Professor Bernardo also represented the Association at the Third Annual Convention of the International Committee held in August 1930 in Stockholm and Upsala, Sweden; at the American Library Association Sixty Fifth Annual Conference held in Buffalo, New York in June 1946; at the Conference on International Cultural and Scientific Exchanges held in Princeton, New Jersey in November 1946; at the Assembly of Librarians of the Americas, Washington, D.C., from May 12 to June 7, 1947; and lastly, at the Sixty-sixth Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco from June 29 to July 7, 1947.

The association participated in several other library conferences held in various countries:

  • In 1955, the PLA represented the Philippines in the Seminar on the Development of Public Libraries in Asia held by the Unesco in Delhi, India, where the PLA President took an active part.
  • In 1957, the PLA sent delegates to attend two library affairs in Tokyo that took place on November 4-11: the Seminar on the International Exchange of Publications in the Indo-Pacific Area, and the organizational meeting of the Asian Federation of Library Associations.
  • In 1964, UNESCO sponsored in the Regional Seminar on the Development of National Libraries in Asia and the Pacific Area, held in Manila from February 3 to 15.
  • In 1967, the Conference of National Planning of Services in Asia was held in Colombo, Ceylon from December 10 to 19, under the sponsorship of UNESCO (attended by 13 Asian members).
  • From May 28 to 30, 1969, the Pacific Conference on Libraries and National Development was held in Seoul, Korea. In Puntjak, Indonesia, the Conference of South East Asia Research Materials adopted three resolutions on library education in the region.
  • In 1970, the Conference of South East Asian Libraries (CONSAL) took place in Singapore. Unlike the previous conferences, this last one was composed of a more compact group with closer cultural ties coming from a smaller geographical area. The Philippine Library Association sent four official delegates and two alternates to this conference.
  • In 1971, the association was represented as a member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), which held its conference in Liverpool, England.
  • In 1972, PLA Vice President Mrs. Candida C. Agcaoili attended the UNESCO Regional on National Book Development Councils in Asia.

Growth of Philippine libraries

Notwithstanding adverse conditions, Philippine libraries have forged ahead steadily in number, size, and usefulness from 1900 when the first public library was established and 1907 when the first public school library was founded. In 1968, there were in the Philippines a total of approximately 42,893 libraries distributed as follows: 1 National Library, 444 public libraries, 41,348 school libraries, 937 academic libraries, and 163 special libraries. The public libraries since then have increased to 642 although only a small number of these libraries are managed by professionally trained librarians.

Special libraries have grown rapidly in number, and both private and government institutions have endeavored to provide well-organized libraries. The Philippine economy until today has been largely agricultural. Thus, before World War II, a number of special libraries served agricultural schools, while the few colleges of business administration and commercial schools had special libraries covering special subjects and problems. After the war, the Philippines started rapid industrialization; as business and industrial organizations needed information beyond an individual's existing knowledge of sources for more information, they felt the need for organized libraries managed by trained librarians.

Library schools in the Philippines

Library science courses were first introduced in the curriculum of the University of the Philippines. The program was started by Dr. Robertson and Ms. Polk, assisted by four other American librarians, as early as 1914. Since then, there have been more than twenty universities and colleges offering library science courses either as a major or minor in undergraduate programs of study; four universities offer courses leading to Master of Arts in Library Science.

Only the University of the Philippines has established, in 1961, an independent academic unit for library instruction. Now known as the University of the Philippines Institute of Library and Information Science, the school started offering in 2002 a Bachelor's Degree in Library and Information Science. The program aims to prepare students for career opportunities in professional librarianship, research, training, publishing and book trade, public relations, consultancy, and information-related business. This program replaced the Bachelor's Degree in Library Science. The new curriculum integrated the University's Revised General Education Program and offers several specialization tracks, including archives and records management, health and medical librarianship, information systems, and law librarianship. Since 1962, the then Institute offered a Master in Library Science Program, the first in the country, and has since been updated to Master in Library and Information Science. Aside from the undergraduate and graduate programs, the school also offers a one year program in librarianship and conducts review courses and simulation exams for the Licensure Examination for librarians.

In other academic institutions of the Philippines, academic training in librarianship has been the responsibility of the undergraduate college, generally the College of Education.

Other library organizations

The Association of Special Libraries of the Philippines (ASLP), established in 1953, aimed at providing "special librarians with continuous stimulation towards levels of performance, and to further their professional growth." It publishes the ASLP Bulletin which serves as the medium for promoting the service of special libraries, and has issued a Directory of Special Libraries of the Philippines, with a description of the resources of libraries located in Manila, Quezon City, Los Baños, and Mindanao. This directory did not include all special libraries in the Philippines.

The following years saw the organization of a group of librarians of government public libraries, the Public Library Association of the Philippines (PLAP). This was followed by the Philippine Association of Teachers in Library Science (PATLS) which has contributed to the improvement of library science courses offered in various library schools all over the country affiliated with the Philippine Library Association. In 1972, the Philippine Association of Academic and Research Librarians (PAARL), then known as the Philippine Association of Academic and Research Libraries, was founded through a resolution during the conference of the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) held on September 18-19, 1972. Since 1973, the year when it was originally incorporated, it has provided leadership in the development and growth of academic and research library and information services in the country.

Conferences and conventions

The association has held no less than seven conventions from 1925-1938. After 1938, it held biennial conferences designed to "promote acquaintance and esprit de corps" as well as to afford an opportunity for an interchange of ideas about library service. These conferences also provided opportunities to listen to prominent, competent speakers. On these occasions, librarians from all over the country met to discuss current library plans, methods, problems, and difficulties encountered in the field. The round table discussions provided a forum for topics relating to libraries and librarianship as well as library problems to be read, questioned and argued. Papers covering library needs, problems, library training, administration and organization were presented and the association printed some of the proceedings.

During the conventions and biennial conferences, such prominent men as Vice-Governor General Hayden, President Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth, Vice-President Sergio Osmeña, Senator Geronima T. Pecson of the Philippine Senate, Dr. Camilo Osias, educator and senator, and Dr. Manuel L. Roxas, prominent scientist, addressed the librarians and furnished inspirational and encouraging messages. As guest of honor of the Fourth Convention, President Manuel L. Quezon said, "Permit me to assure you and all your colleagues that I am a firm believer of the benefits that accrue from the spread of libraries, especially those that are easily accessible to the masses of the people." At the opening of the sixth convention, guest speaker Vice President Sergio Osmeña pointed to the important role the librarian plays in modern society: "I wish to congratulate you for your choice of a noble profession and the spirit which has led to the organization of this convention. The librarians in the Philippines are quietly but effectively performing a work of the greatest importance. Their activities are rarely given wide publicity and thus their services are often not fully appreciated by the community in general."

The first biennial conference was held in 1939. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945), the association ceased to function. After the liberation, the second conference was held in January 1948. The theme of the conference was the "Rehabilitation of the Libraries in the Philippines".

Papers covering library needs, problems, library training, administration and organization characterized those read in succeeding conferences. The association was able to print the proceedings of the 1969 conference in Cebu City, the first one held outside Manila. In 1971, the biennial conference met in Davao City, the proceedings of which have likewise been published.

In the next two decades, PLAI consistently held annual conventions, seminars and conferences for the continuing education of its members. Shortly after the passage of the Philippine Librarianship Act in 1990, its application as the accredited professional organization for librarians was approved by the Professional Regulation Commission. Its annual conventions were well-attended events by librarians all over the country.

PLAI became a member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) in 1929, and joined the Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL) as a charter member in 1970. As an active member association, PLAI hosted CONSAL in 1973, 1987, and 2006, and the IFLA General Conference in 1980.

In March 2006, PLAI hosted for the third time the 13th CONSAL General Conference. Chaired by Fe Angela M. Verzosa, PLAI President in 2000, the conference program consisted of plenary sessions, parallel sessions and avant garde sessions on resource sharing, preservation conservation and copyright, library profession, library education and training and development. The three-day conference featured an excellent line-up of about 39 paper presenters/speakers, dominated by experts from the region. The topics and areas of discussion dealt mostly with regional issues and concerns in response to the conference banner theme “CONSAL at the Crossroads: Challenges for Greater Regional Cooperation.”

CONSAL XIII was unprecedented in terms of its attendance: 1,200 delegates joined the conference. The highlights of the Conference consisted of the opening ceremonies, bookfair and exhibits, gala night, CONSAL Outstanding Librarian Award presentation, cultural and library visits and closing ceremonies.

Regular programs and activities

Through the years, the annual activities of the association have become multifaceted. These consist of the following programs or projects:

a) Awarding of the Outstanding Professional Librarians Award given annually by the Professional Regulation Commission in June. PLAI handles the nomination process. Other awards granted every year include the following:

  • Hall of Fame Award as the highest award given to a member in recognition of his professional excellence, leadership and service;
  • Eulogio B. Rodriguez Professional Award given to a member in recognition of his remarkable professionalism or specific major contribution to Philippine librarianship;
  • Gabriel A. Bernardo Leadership Award given to the immediate past president for meritorious service;
  • Cirilio B. Perez Award in appreciation of a member’s overall leadership in organizing the previous year’s National Book Week celebration;
  • Severino I. Velasco Award given to the overall chairperson of the past year’s National Conference Committee of the association;
  • Service Award given in gratitude for the services given by any past officer, trustee or member for at least four years.

b) Publication of library literature such as a regular quarterly newsletter, annual directories of members, bulletins, professional journals, proceedings, and the like.

c) Every year, the association grants scholarships as financial assistance to members for their graduate thesis work in the amount of P 5,000 each. In the year 2000, the association also awarded the amount of P 10,000 for the best thesis or graduate research work, and another P 10,000 was set aside for the best librarian’s research work.

d) PLAI commits its support to international librarianship as member in regional and international organizations of librarians such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL), through active participation in their conferences or conventions and regular subscription of their publications.

e) Advocacy in promoting the interests of professional librarians and the association through lobbying, mass demonstration, walks-for-cause, fund drives, and the like has strengthened the esprit de corp among PLAI members.

f) Outreach programs such as storytelling activities for orphaned children, book showers for barangay libraries or public information centers, librarians’ visits to prisons to provide prisoners with reading materials, and other activities intended to promote reading habits and foster the establishment of libraries throughout the country are regularly undertaken, particularly during the annual celebration of National Book Week.

g) Participation in the annual Philippine Book Fair and other book fairs, both local, regional, and international.

h) Holding of an annual Fellowship Luncheon, anniversary celebrations, etc.

Major accomplishments

The association may not have a long record of accomplishments, but the few which it can count justify its existence during its first century. The awakening of national consciousness on the urgent need of establishing public libraries all over the Philippines and the recognition of the library profession may be attributed largely to the efforts of the association.

Among its outstanding accomplishments are:

  • The drafting and sponsorship of the original Philippine copyright law.
  • The proclamation by Governor General Frank Murphy designating June 18 to 24, 1934, and the same period in the succeeding years, as National Book Week. The date was subsequently changed to November 23-30 each year by President Manuel L. Quezon, upon petition of the association.
  • The inclusion of the following provision under Act 80 which created the Office of Adult Education: "To cooperate with Philippine Library Association for the establishment of public libraries which can better serve the educational needs of adults."
  • The hosting of international/regional library conventions and conferences such as those of the Congress of Southeast Asian Libraries (CONSAL) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Manila. CONSAL, hosted by a Southeast Asian country every three years, was held in Manila in 1973, 1987, and 2006. IFLA held its first general conference in a developing country in 1980, when it was hosted by the Philippines.
  • The successful lobbying in both houses of Congress for the passage of the "Pecson Act" (The Municipal Libraries Act or RA 411) in 1949, providing for the establishment, operation, and maintenance of municipal libraries throughout the Philippines and appropriating funds for these purposes. As a result of the passage of the act, many public libraries were organized. By December 1971, there were 462 libraries, 33 provincial libraries, 19 city libraries, 313 municipal libraries, 63 barrio (district) libraries, and 34 deposit stations.
  • The provision of a permanent headquarters office on the third floor of the National Library building. The Philippine Library Association for nearly forty-seven years had no headquarters office with no paid personnel until the National Library provided free furnished quarters in the early 1970s. However, the Association still cannot afford to have paid staff.
  • The enactment of the Law on Philippine Librarianship (RA 6966) in 1990 which provides for the professionalization of Filipino librarians, the creation of the Board for Librarians to regulate the practice of the profession and to provide guidelines for the licensure examinations for librarians, and the implementation of the Librarians' Code of Ethics. Subsequently, PLAI was instrumental in the passage of RA 924, an act modernizing the practice of librarianship in the Philippines thereby repeasling Republic Act No. 6966, which was approved in December 2003.
  • The passage of Proclamation No. 849 on November 20, 1991 declaring November of each year as the Library and Information Services Month.

PLAI presidents, 1923-2008

  • 1923-1925 Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera
  • 1925 (March-October) Prof. Lois Stewart Osborn
  • 1925-1927 Don Epifanio de los Santos
  • 1927-1931 Don Feliciano A. Basa Jr.
  • 1931-1933 Prof. Gabriel A. Bernardo
  • 1933 (May-August) Mr. Cirilo B. Perez (Acting Pres)
  • 1934-1935 Prof. Gabriel A. Bernardo
  • 1935-1937 Dr. Eulogio B. Rodriguez
  • 1937-1939 Mr. Cirilo B. Perez
  • 1939 (May 19 to 28) Hon. Teodoro M. Kalaw (Actg. Pres.)
  • 1939 to 1948 Prof. Luis Montilla
  • 1949 to 1956 Mr. Severino I. Velasco
  • 1957 to 1961 Prof. Gabriel A. Bernardo
  • 1962 to 1963 Ms. Isabel Sunio
  • 1963 to 1965 Atty. Eduardo Malones
  • 1965 to 1967 Mrs. Consuelo Damasco
  • 1967 to 1969 Mr. Quintin M. Eala
  • 1969 to 1971 Mrs. Estela M. Figueroa
  • 1971 to 1973 Mr. Jose J. Ferrer
  • 1973 to 1976 Prof. Candida Agcaoili
  • 1976 to 1977 Mr. Rufo Q. Buenviaje
  • 1977 to 1978 Prof. Rosa Vallejo
  • 1978 to 1979 Mr. Juvenal Y. Catajoy
  • 1979 to 1980 Mrs. Filomena M. Tann
  • 1980 to 1981 Dr. Serafin D. Quiason
  • 1981 to 1982 Ms. Pilar R. Perez
  • 1982 to 1983 Atty. Conrado D. David
  • 1983 to 1984 Mrs. Angelica A. Cabañero
  • 1984 to 1985 Fr. Paul M. de Vera O.S.B.
  • 1985 to 1986 Mrs. Esperanza Alban Sta. Cruz
  • 1986 to 1987 Mrs. Prudenciana C. Cruz
  • 1987 to 1988 Mrs. Corazon M. Nera
  • 1988 to 1989 Mrs. Loreto M. Serina
  • 1990 to 1991 Mrs. Salvacion M. Arlante
  • 1992 to 1993 Mrs. Salvacion M. Arlante
  • 1993 to 1994 Atty. Antonio M. Santos
  • 1995 to 1996 Ms. Belen M. Vibar
  • 1996 to 1997 Atty. Antonio M. Santos
  • 1997 to 1998 Mrs. Lourdes T. David
  • 1998 to 1999 Mr. Rodolfo Y. Tarlit
  • 1999 to 2000 Mrs. Milagros Ong
  • 1999 to 2000 Ms. Fe Angela M. Verzosa
  • 2001 Ms. Teresita C. Moran
  • 2003 Ms. Fe Abeleda-Robles
  • 2004-2008 Mrs. Susima L. Gonzales


  • Philippine Librarians Association by Fe Angela Manansala-Verzosa
  • Philippine Library Association Inc. Conference [Proceedings] on Philippine Libraries and Librarianship in the Second Millennium: a Centennial Celebration, [held at] SGV Conference Hall, ACCEED Conference Center, Asian Institute of Management, Legaspi Village, Makati City, May 13-15, 1998.
  • Philippine Library Association Inc. Diamond Anniversary Issue. 16(1-2), Jan-Jun 1984.
  • Philippine Library Association Inc. PLAI Directory of Members, 1999-2000, comp. and ed. by Fe Angela M. Verzosa. Manila: PLAI, 2000
  • Philippine Library Association Inc. PLAI in the Next Millernnium: 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary [Dinner Souvenir Program],[held on] 05 November 1998, The Manila, Hotel, Roxas Boulevard, Manila.
  • Saniel, Isidoro. "Half a Century of the Philippine Library Association." [1973?] In PLAI Directory of Members, 1999-2000, comp. and ed. by Fe Angela M. Verzosa. Manila: PLAI, 2000.

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