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Honor Societies

Beta Phi Mu

Beta Phi Mu is an international honor society that recognizes academic excellence and distinguished achievement in the field of library studies and information science. The society also sponsors and supports professional and scholarly projects, research, and publications related to librarianship, information science, and library studies.


Every year Beta Phi Mu awards several grants, scholarships, and fellowships to students of library and information science. The Sarah Rebecca Reed Scholarship of $1,500 and the Blanche E. Woolls Scholarship of $1,000 are awarded to students who are just beginning graduate studies in information science. The $1,000 Harold Lancour Scholarship for Foreign Study is awarded to a professional librarian or library student who wishes to study a foreign library or program, attend a foreign library school, or do research on library science in a foreign country. The $750 Frank B. Sessa Scholarship for Continuing Professional Education is given to a member of Beta Phi Mu who wants to augment his or her professional skills through additional study. The $1,500 Beta Phi Mu Doctoral Dissertation Scholarship and the $3,000 Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship are awarded to doctoral students in library and information science who are working on their dissertations. The Society usually awards several dissertation fellowships each year. Individual Beta Phi Mu chapters may also award scholarship, grants, and awards to their own members.

In 1998, in recognition of the society's fiftieth anniversary, Beta Phi Mu inaugurated an annual Distinguished Lecture Series. Each year an outstanding professional member of Beta Phi Mu is invited to present a lecture on a topic of interest to members of the library and information science field. The lecture is usually given during the annual national conference of the American Library Association.

Beta Phi Mu publishes a semiannual national newsletter, which is sent to all members. Some chapters also publish their own newsletters. In 1990, the society began publishing a series of monographs about the history of libraries and library science in America. Profits from monograph sales fund the Beta Phi Mu Distinguished Lecture Series. From 1952 to 1989 the society also published a series of chapbooks intended to provide exemplary examples of graphic artistry, typography, and book binding.


Beta Phi Mu is governed by an executive board consisting of a president, vice president, immediate past president, two directors-at-large, and six directors. Board officers are elected annually by mail ballot. Directors are selected by an assembly of representatives from each chapter. The executive board meets twice a year, usually in conjunction with the American Library Association's midwinter meeting and annual conference. An appointed executive director and treasurer carry out the administrative duties of the society. The president and board appoint members to both ad hoc and standing committees.

Membership. There are three categories of Beta Phi Mu membership: membership-at-large, membership with chapter affiliation, and honorary membership. Membership requirements include a scholastic average no lower than 3.75 and completion of all requirements leading to a master's degree from a library and information sciences school accredited by the American Library Association. Candidates for membership must also be recommended by the faculty of the school attended. Graduates from schools outside the United States and Canada may be accepted for membership upon the approval of the society's executive board.

The membership initiation fee is the primary source of funding for Beta Phi Mu activities. Members do not pay annual dues to the national society, but individual chapters may levy dues. Revenue is also derived from private donations, from the sale of the society's monograph series, and from the sale of society pins and other products.


Beta Phi Mu was founded in 1948 at an informal gathering of librarians and library school faculty at the University of Illinois. Twelve students from the University of Illinois Library School were invited to consider founding an honor society, with the faculty serving as sponsors. These students became the charter members of Beta Phi Mu, with Rolland Steven serving as the first Beta Phi Mu president and Harold Lancour as the first executive secretary. The founders chose the motto Aliis inserviendo consumer (Latin for "consumed in the service of others") as the Beta Phi Mu motto to express the professional librarian's ethic of dedicated service. The following year, thirty-four members of the graduating class of the University of Illinois Library School were initiated into the society. In 1969 Beta Phi Mu became a member of American Association of College Honor Societies. Beta Phi Mu became an affiliate of the American Library Association in 1997. By 2001 Beta Phi Mu had forty-three active chapters in the United States and Canada.




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