The origin of APLESA dates back to 1986 when a suggestion was made for an interim committee to constitute an interest group of parliamentary librarians as an organ of the Standing Conference of Eastern and Southern Africa Librarians (SCECSAL). Particularly the committees was to comprise those who were able to attend SCECSAL conferences so that they could avail themselves and meet as a distinct group in order to share experiences and compare notes on parliamentary issues. This idea was given support by other regional parliamentary associations and hence, in August 1990 when it was introduced at the Satellite meeting of the IFLA section on Libraries and Research services for parliaments and at the main meetings of IFLA in Oslo and Stockholm respectively, a lot of encouragement to spearhead its formation was given by the following;
- Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Canada (APLIC)
- Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Australasia (APLA)
- Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Asia and the Pacific (APLAP)
Parliament of Zimbabwe did a lot of work between 1990 and 1993. Funds had to be sought for the consultation visits to parliaments of Kenya, and Namibia to be made. International Development Research Centre (IDRC) provided funds for the feasibility study that was carried out in March 1992 where the parliament of Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia were visited.
A steering committee was thereafter established to plan the establishment of the network of parliamentary librarians in eastern and southern Africa which later came to be known as APLESA. The committee members included:
- R.R Mwale of Zambia- Chairman
- P.A Ntomola of Tanzania Vice Chairman
- W.H.C Gurure- Co-ordinator
- B.B Liyawo of Malawi- Vice Co-ordinator.
APLESA was then established in Zimbabwe in a meeting that took place between 11th and 13th October, 1994 with the aim to serve as a forum for professional networking and resource sharing amongst parliamentary libraries in the sub-region.
During the inaugural meeting in Harare, elections were held to fill the vacant positions of the APLESA Executive. The following were elected;
- Ms Tembi Chalabase Mtine (Zambia)- Chairperson
- Mr. Ntoloma P.A (Tanzania)- Vice Chairperson
- Mr. Liyawo B.B (Malawi)- Secretary
- Ms Molebatsi (Botswana)- Vice Secretary
- Mr. Songoro (Kenya)- Committee Member
- Mr. Masawi (Zimbabwe) Committee Member.
Since then, APLESA Chairperson/ Presidents are as follows;
- Ms Tembi Mtine 1994/98
- Ms Ellen Ndeshi Namhila 1998/2000
- Mr. Raliile Donovan T 2000/02
- Ms. Butale Florence 2002/03
- Ms Mwakio Grace 2003/09
- Mr. Engitu Simon Joseph 2009/2013
- Ms. Kamau Esther 2013/17
- Mr. Cambiete Gerardo 2017 todate