The Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) was founded in the Fall of 1972 by a group of art librarians at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Chicago. The effort to create ARLIS/NA, led by Judith Hoffberg, had its roots in the original Art Libraries Society founded in the United Kingdom (ARLIS/UK) in 1969, the Institute for Art Librarians also held in 1969, and the informal art librarian meetings that took place at the College Art Association (CAA) meetings beginning in 1970. The goal of the charter members was to create a formal society independent of other library associations with the mission of "[serving] as a forum for not only those who bear the title of 'art librarian,' but for all those who bear the burden and responsibility of furthering art librarianship." The ARLIS/NA leadership also supported a strong regional chapter approach.
The constitution of ARLIS/NA, which accompanied the first ARLIS/NA newsletter in November 1972, established an executive board made up of four elected officers — chairman, vice-chairman (who is the chairman-elect), treasurer, and secretary — and the immediate past charman. The inaugural meeting of ARLIS/NA took place January 23, 1973 at Columbia University in New York. At this meeting the participants voted to formally affiliate with ARLIS/UK. ARLIS/UK reciprocated and formally affiliated with ARLIS/NA on April 6, 1973. Affiliations with other professional organizations followed, including the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in 1974, the College Art Association (CAA) in 1975, and ARLIS/Norge and ARLIS/Australia and New Zealand in 1988.
The governance of ARLIS/NA was restructured in 1976 to add four Regional Representatives (three from the United States and one from Canada) as voting members of the executive board. Another restructuring in 1989 created committees, divisions, and sections within the ARLIS/NA organizational framework. In 1990, a fifth Regional Representative was added to the executive board (an additional U.S. region), to create a total of 10 voting members of the executive board.
Judith A. Hoffberg founded the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA)in 1972. She was motivated by two events in 1969: 1) the week-long Institute for Training in Librarianship in Buffalo, New York, and 2) the formation of the Art Libraries Society (ARLIS) in Great Britain. Both events exposed the lack of unity and identity of art librarians and encouraged her to create a formal organization for the profession.
In 1972, the Charter Committee met during the American Library Association's Annual Meeting and drafted a constitution for ARLIS/NA. In the October 1972 issue of Worldwide: Art & Library Newsletter, Hoffberg announced the creation of ARLIS/NA: "Up to now, there is a large segment of art librarians and people who work in the art field (some without professional degrees) who have no organization, no means of communication, no identity in any society or group. ARLIS/NA will satisfy that need." She went on to promote affiliation of ARLIS/NA with ARLIS in Great Britain, promise a bi-monthly newsletter to members, and encourage readers to attend the organization's upcoming conference.
The first annual conference was held on January 23, 1973 at Columbia University. Approximately eighty people attended. The constitution was ratified, and ARLIS/NA officially became affilitated with ARLIS in Great Britain.
Today, ARLIS/NA has more than 1,000 members; numerous publications, including Art Documentation, ARLIS/NA Reviews, and Occasional Papers; chapters across North America; awards; and programs to further the professional development of those working in the art information field.