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 the 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, the librarian of the Bureau of Science, continued and developed the library courses that were being offered at 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.