JESSE WHITE • Illinois Secretary of State

Dear Reader:

As Secretary of State and State Librarian, I am pleased to present this informative and historic account of the Illinois State Library. Years in the making, this project chronicles the State Library’s growth throughout its 174 years of existence. As the current Illinois State Librarian, it is an honor to be part of the library’s rich and storied heritage.



The official library of Illinois state government has evolved and undergone enormous change since its inception during the era of Lincoln and Douglas. What has remained constant over the years, however, is the tireless commitment of State Library staff in fulfilling the evolving information needs of our patrons. The State Library’s mission statement truly and concisely sums up its purpose: “To promote excellence in information access and innovative services for government, libraries and people.”

We are fortunate to be able to consistently enhance library services in Illinois through library development, grants and programs, with the support of the Illinois General Assembly as well as state and national library organizations. The State Library’s Literacy Office, Talking Book and Braille Service and Map Library are among the nation’s best.

The State Library also coordinates a network of more than 5,000 academic, public, special and school libraries that share our commitment to outstanding service. Together with our regional library systems, the State Library provides fast and efficient delivery of library materials to users, as well as important continuing education opportunities to ensure that librarians have the latest knowledge and skills with which to serve their patrons. We are proud of our past but are always looking toward the future in our efforts to keep citizens informed, entertained and enlightened.

One of our strongest partners in providing funding and programming for Illinois libraries and systems is the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. I thank the IMLS for providing a Library Services and Technology Act grant to fund this extensive history project. Thanks also to project author Tom Emery and his advisors for their enthusiasm, persistence and hard work in delving into our past and developing this comprehensive document.


Jesse White
Secretary of State

Project developed by:
Blackburn College