The records of the SBL consist of the very early organic papers of the society, 1880-1920, kept in one book by the early secretaries and collated and bound apparently by Henry J. Cadbury, secretary 1916-1933. With this exception few of the original records of the Society have survived; the papers almost totally have been created since 1960. From about 1920 to the 1950s few records are found in the Archives, probably due to the fact that the secretary of the organization was elected by the membership, and officers and offices often changed; the office had no permanent location for the preservation of papers until the organizational structure of the Society was changed after World War II. The records in the archives cover in varying depth the period 1950 to 1964; after 1965 the holdings are, for the most part, complete.
The organic papers consist of the By laws, 1880; Minutes of meetings, 1880-1920; the Constitution and Bylaws as amended, 1880-1971; lists of officers; Procedures and forms; and a history of SBL written by Ernest W. Saunders. The main body of administrative records is the papers of the Executive Secretary/Executive Director, consisting of minutes, council minutes, executive committee reports, correspondence, and membership lists. The treasurers' records include reports, budgets, ledgers, vouchers, income tax records, and audit reports. Important functions of the Society are the annual meetings of its members and its publication program. The annual meeting is held once a year in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion. Extensive records of this activity, from planning to accounting and reviews, are included in the Annual Meeting Series. The publication program includes several journals and a large number of books and monographic series. Extensive records for this arm of the Society may be found in the Research and Publications Committee Series. The history of the SBL up to its centennial in 1980 has been actively collected in the materials assembled by Earnest W. Saunders and his book Searching the Scriptures.