Beta Phi Mu was founded in 1948 at the University of Illinois by a group of leading librarians and library educators. The first initiation was held in the spring of 1949 at the University of Illinois. Since then more than 25,000 graduates of accredited library schools in the US and Canada plus international institutions have been initiated in 46 chapters. In 1968 Beta Phi Mu was formally admitted to the Association of College Honor Societies. The national office is currently headquartered at Florida State University.
The Omicron Chapter was started at Rutgers in 1970 by two Ph.D students, one of whom, Bill Summers, went on to become the Dean of the Library School at Florida State and Executive Director of Beta Phi Mu.
In recognition of the high value librarians place on service, Beta Phi Mu chose the motto Aliis inserviendo consumer, meaning “consumed in the service of others.”
The society’s insignia is the dolphin and anchor of the Venetian printer and typographer Aldus Manutius (1449 – 1515). Manutius was known for his beautiful editions of Greek and Latin classics as well as the works of Dante. The dolphin and anchor are the symbol of the ancient proverb “Festina lente” (Hurry up slowly), which may also be considered a suitable motto for librarians.