Professional training for librarians, long a staple of State Library programs, continued in the mid-1990s. On June 19, 1991, Secretary of State George Ryan created a Rural Library Panel, which continued the rural library emphasis of the mid-1980s. One panel recommendation was to “develop new means of delivering library education to staff members in rural libraries.” To encourage this, the State Library and Western Illinois University created a partnership to sponsor the Small Public Library Management Institute (SPLMI), introduced in June 1994 for directors of smaller public libraries and newly appointed library directors. The institutes were funded by a Library Services and Construction Act grant.940
The goals of the SPLMI were to:
- Enhance administrative skills.
- Develop leadership skills.
- Provide opportunities for networking.
- Build confidence and self-esteem.
- Introduce automation, technology, and online searching techniques.941
The SPLMI offered directors the opportunity to develop or build on their administrative and leadership skills in a format that highlighted networking, teambuilding, and informal discussion. Topics such as library law, policies, budgeting, safety and security, relationships with library boards, grant writing, automation, and community involvement were emphasized. The institutes proved successful, and eventually over 100 applications for attendance were received by the State Library annually. Due to the “intensity” of the weeklong institutes, however, attendance was limited to 50, with previous attendees being ineligible to attend.942
In 1997, the State Library conducted a survey on the value of the SPLMI and found “strong evidence” that the institutes had “made an impact on library service” with “knowledge, understanding, confidence, and networking opportunities.” The end result was “better and stronger” Illinois libraries. One 1999 participant called the institute “a wonderful experience. I can’t think of a better use of grant money. The influence from SPLMI will be felt all over the state.”943
In 1995, a similar program, the Institute for School and Public Librarians, was introduced. Basic skills and knowledge for librarians were emphasized, including reference issues, collection development, technology, and working with people. Attendees were generally new to the library field or had less than five years’ experience, in addition to librarians with a broad variety of library duties. Few of the attendees held advanced degrees in library science. The institutes, which grew into annual presentations, were another example of the continuing leadership of the State Library in providing training for employees of Illinois libraries.944