Chapter 13 – Building for the Future — The 1960s

As the 1960s approached, the Illinois State Library was ranked among the largest state libraries in the nation. For the 1959-61 biennium, the projected library budget was $1,913,968. This included $270,000 for equipment, $190,000 for books and other reading materials, and over $1.4 million for personnel, including a staff of 125 employees. Postage alone totaled $15,000, with $20,000 for photographic supplies in the burgeoning audio-visual department.496

Collections were also growing. In 1960, the library reported a total collection of 1,097,939 “items,” 56,886 pictures, and 23,776 recordings, with a circulation of 1,490,536. Over 86,000 volumes were borrowed by the public libraries of the state, with state employees borrowing 42,000 nonfiction books and 49,000 novels. Unlike most state libraries, the Illinois State Library reported “items” rather than “volumes,” choosing to include documents and pamphlets among its total resources. With its total of 1.1 million items, it ranked behind only the New York State Library among the nation’s state libraries. Even taking its number of “volumes,” the Illinois State Library was among the largest state libraries in the country. Increasing focus was placed on the use of technology, and extension of statewide library service – the goal of the Library Services Act – remained a primary emphasis. The Library Services Act was only one of several federal projects that shaped the future direction of the library.497

The decade of the 1960s, however, opened with a severe disappointment from an old adversary – the Illinois State Museum. Still in dire need of space, the library had long pushed for an addition to the Archives Building. Although explicit proposals had been submitted by the library since 1943, they fell on deaf ears. The Illinois State Museum, also cramped in the Centennial Building, was eyeing the same property south of the State Archives Building. The museum had gained the support of Governor William Stratton for a new facility. Originally, the museum administration wanted a building costing $6 million to $10 million, but scaled down their ideas, proposing a new structure only half the size they needed.498

This planned building was to be constructed on the coveted site south of the Archives for a cost of $3 million. Stratton eventually consented, and on Jan. 5, 1961, ground was broken on the site for the new Illinois State Museum. Once again, the State Library had been left in second place by the museum. Even though the library gained space previously occupied by the museum in the Centennial Building, doubling the library’s stack space, it remained in less than ideal quarters.499

Despite this, the future of the State Library was bright, and the library enjoyed a place of prestige among leading state libraries of the nation. The Library Services Act provided more funding to promote free reading for all Illinoisans, and the library was seen as the center of state librarianship. Much credit is due Assistant State Librarian de Lafayette Reid, whose foresight and energy permeated many of these ventures. More than any supervisor before him, Reid traveled the state and beyond, making appearances and giving lectures on the value of the State Library and the programs it offered. He also served in countless administrative and ceremonial roles, including state executive director of National Library Week to promote reading and library usage. He also worked continually to strengthen the relationship of the library to the Illinois Library Association. In 1959, Reid urged passage of Senate Bill 535, which called for a representative of the ILA to sit on the Advisory Committee, explaining to the association that, “it was felt that closer liaison should be made between the Advisory Committee and the ILA.”500

A view of the State Library reading room in the Centennial Building in the late 1960s.

A view of the State Library reading room in the Centennial Building in the late 1960s.

Reid also embraced technology in library operations. Like most other libraries, the State Library had performed daily work either with a typewriter or by hand. By the late 1950s, new technology was changing the methods of library operation nationwide. On March 9, 1959, the State Library Catalog Department began using a Remington Electronic Synchro-Tape Typewriter, a contemporary tape-activated machine, to produce juvenile and adult fiction catalog cards, as well as some adult nonfiction cards. By January 1960, a total of 19,638 cards had been produced. A file of tapes of the cataloged titles was kept in a planned effort to make them available to public libraries around the state. Tape-activated typewriters also produced cards for the regional libraries at Carbondale, Savanna and DeKalb, as well as the failed Mascoutah project of the Library Services Act.501

A similar effort, the Centralized Catalog Card Project, was begun at the Southern Illinois Regional Library on Sept. 1, 1960. Library Services Act funds were used to fund the project, which used a tapeactivated typewriter to produce sets of catalog cards. Twenty-five rural libraries helped determine the production method and final form of the catalog cards. The project proved successful and soon the cards were offered at cost to all libraries in the 34 counties served by the regional library. In 1963, card-cataloging production also became available to the counties served by the Western Illinois Regional Library. On Dec. 28, 1960, a Teletype system, TWX, was installed, connecting the State Library and the Southern Illinois Regional Library to facilitate better communication between the two. Federal funds were used in the installation of the system. As a result, circulation processes became much faster and the Carbondale library was better able to access the State Library’s reference collection. Also, both libraries now enjoyed improved communication with other libraries across the nation using the Teletype system.502

In July 1962, the State Library also used new technology to improve its circulation methods. For the past 25 years, circulation records had involved two book cards; one card filed under due date, with the other filed by call number. While the library conceded that such a plan was simple for desk loans, over half of all loans were made by mail, which also required a handtyped packing list. These sheets listed all titles borrowed and collections mailed to borrowers, which sometimes numbered in the thousands. Typing out mailing labels for shipping cartons alone was a chore, with dozens of cartons needed for larger shipments.503

Therefore, the decision was made to switch to a punched card system. The entire collection – now numbering 1.3 million volumes – was listed on punch cards. The Driver’s License Division of the Secretary of State’s office used their personnel and machinery to produce the cards for each book, a task that was expected to take two years. Three cards were made for each book; each card showed the Dewey and Cutter numbers, as well as the location code, with author, title, and edition data on individual cards. Data on each book input could be printed on an IBM 407 Accounting Machine, which produced a printout sheet. The initial punch cards proved slightly too large to fit in the card pockets in the inside cover of each book, but otherwise there were few problems.504

After considerable experimentation, the final process was relatively simple. Each borrower was given a small card that was presented each time a book was borrowed. The library worker placed the borrower’s card and the book card in a data transmittal machine, which recorded all information from both cards on printed tape. The machine recorded the due date of the book. The book card was placed in the book, and the borrower’s card returned to the patron.505

At the end of each day, information from the tapes was inserted automatically into larger circulation control tapes, which monitored books on loan. When the book was returned, the information was automatically removed. Printouts of loaned books could be generated quickly, a great change from the old days of hand typing. Overdue lists could also be quickly printed. In fact, all library holdings could be printed out in as little as three hours. The new system was a tremendous improvement in efficiency, although it did not replace human effort. Rather, it freed up many hours for library workers to perform other needed tasks.506

In full operation on Dec. 1, 1966, the system was the first of its kind in the nation. The strengths and weaknesses of the final product were closely analyzed, allowing the system to act as a template for other library automation devices in the state over the next decade. Upon completion of the original system, Secretary of State Paul Powell issued the Number 1 card to Governor Otto Kerner. The system also allowed for the first-ever complete inventory of State Library holdings, which was finished in the summer of 1967.507