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American Theological Library Association

ATLA(American Theological Library Association)

The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), professional association, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, United States. ATLA’s member libraries and librarians provide tens of millions of resources for scholarly research to tens of thousands of students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The association supports the membership with a wide range of services and products, including an annual conference, members-only publications and discounts, and professional development opportunities.

ATLA in Chicago



The mission of the American Theological Library Association is to foster the study of theology and religion by enhancing the development of theological and religious studies libraries and librarianship. Established in 1946, ATLA is governed by an elected board of directors and has over 800 individual, institutional, and affiliate members.

ATLA Building in Chicago


The first step toward the creation of ATLA came at the 1946 biennial meeting of the American Association of Theological Schools when presidents and deans in attendance asked the AATS executive committee to call a conference of theological librarians. In June 1947, fifty theological librarians, one president, and one dean met in Louisville, Kentucky, to organize a permanent association and plan the future agenda of the American Theological Library Association. The group identified six major areas to address and assigned responsibilities for them: 1. AATS Booklist, 2. Cataloging and Classification, 3. Periodical Exchange, 4. Periodical Indexing, 5. Publications, and 6. Training of Personnel.

Programs developed rapidly in the new Association, including the following milestones:

  • 1952: The Committee on Religious Periodical Indexing coordinated the efforts of twenty libraries to create the first volume of the Index to Religious Periodical Literature (later Religion Index One: RIO).
  • 1957: A Board of Index was established and a Board of Microtext was organized to pursue the preservation of library materials.
  • 1961-1966: The ATLA Library Development Program, funded by the Sealantic Fund, provided more than $1,300,000 in book and professional development funds to nearly ninety participating institutions.
  • 1976: The first volume of Religion Index Two: Multi-Author Works (RIT) was published, later supplemented by a Festschriften (1960–1969) volume prepared by Elmer and Betty O'Brien and RIT: Multi-Author Works, 1970-1975.
  • 1980-1984: The Lilly Foundation funded Project 2000, a study to reassess the role of libraries in theological education.
  • 1981: The ATLA Religion Database first became available online, providing an electronic version of the print indexes.
  • 1986: Book reviews were removed from the print RIO and expanded into a new product, the Index to Book Reviews in Religion (IBRR); RIO, RIT and IBRR were also available via the Religion Database.

More recent activities of ATLA include:

  • establishing relationships with theological library associations in Latin America, Europe, and Asia;
  • working with the Association of Theological Schools to revise accreditation standards for libraries;
  • developing the ATLASerials product, a full-text database of more than 140 journals, selected from the more than 500 titles indexed in the ATLA Religion Database;
  • coordinating the Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative (CDRI), which provides a shared database for digital resources created by member libraries;
  • establishing an online journal, Theological Librarianship.
  • acquisition of the Catholic Periodical and Literature Index (CPLI)


  • ATLA Newsletter (monthly)
  • Summary of Proceedings (annual)
  • Theology Cataloging Bulletin (quarterly)
  • Theological Librarianship (online open-access journal)

ATLA offers a prestigious product line of electronic resources to support the scholarly study of religion and theology, including the ATLA Religion Database, an online index of citations covering journal articles, book reviews, and essay collections in all fields of religion; ATLASerials , an online full-text collection of more than 240 major religion and theology journals going back to 1949; and ATLA Catholic Periodical and Literature Index, which provides indexing of periodicals, essay collections, church documents, papal documents, and electronic resources expressly addressing the practice and intellectual tradition of Roman Catholicism.

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