de Lafayette Reid, who served as Assistant State Librarian (later Deputy State Librarian) from 1956 to 1968, is credited with many achievements in his 12 years in charge of the State Library. The most important was the formation and development of library systems, which revolutionized librarianship in the state of Illinois.

A man of genial nature and engaging personality, Reid’s untimely death on Oct. 1, 1970, was mourned through out the Illinois library community. Born in Alton, Illinois, on April 18, 1915, Reid attended the now-defunct Shurtleff College in Alton from 1932 to 1935 before spending 1936 to 1938 at the University of Missouri, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After a year as a reporter at the Democrat-Argus in Caruthersville, Missouri, he completed his B.S. in Library Science in the 1939-40 academic year at the University of Illinois. 1

Reid remained at the U of I after graduation, earning a position as an assistant in the Circulation Department from 1940 to 1941 and as an assistant in the Acquisitions Department the following year. He also pursued graduate work at the university until 1942, when he entered the military, spending three years as a pharmacist’s mate in the U.S. Naval Reserve Corps. He returned to Urbana-Champaign in 1945, and was appointed to the position of bibliographer in the Acquisitions Department. Reid also continued his graduate studies, earning an M.S. in Library Science in 1948. 2

In 1946, he began work as librarian in the university’s undergraduate division in the city of Galesburg. After three years there, he accepted a position as Assistant Director of the University of Kansas Libraries in Lawrence, Kansas. He remained in Kansas until 1951, when he was appointed Chief of Public Services at the Illinois State Library. It was the beginning of a long and successful career in Springfield. When Assistant State Librarian Helene Rogers fell ill in March 1954, Reid was appointed Acting Assistant Director. Although hindered by a lack of authority during an interim position that proved lengthy, Reid performed well, earning the gratitude of library staffers as a result. 3

On Sept. 25, 1956, Secretary of State Charles Carpentier permanently appointed Reid as Assistant State Librarian. Under Reid’s direction, the State Library transformed from a lending library to coordinating and overseeing the network of library systems. Many credit Reid’s vision and dedication for their smooth and successful transition. 4

Reid also cultivated a warm relationship with Illinois Library Association staff, which had long complained of a lack of synergy with the State Library. Part of the thaw in that relationship was due to Reid’s love of librarianship and his reaching out to work with other librarians. Indeed, Joe Kraus, a past president of the ILA, remembered that “Laf,” as he was fondly known, “enjoyed library conferences as much as any man I know. He relished the give and take of committee meetings, the long and sometimes tedious details of planning sessions, the excitement of bringing the talents of other librarians to notice in public meetings, and, above all the stimulation of talking with old friends and gaining new ones.” 5

Kraus also lauded Reid’s dedication to his job. “He did not spare himself,” recalled Kraus, “and considered himself to be a fortunate man to have had the opportunity to lend his imagination and energies to the remarkable development of library services in Illinois that occurred during his career.” In 1967, Reid was recognized by the ILA with a special certificate for “outstanding service to the library profession.” He considered it one of his greatest honors, and it hung prominently in his office. 6

Reid left the State Library in July 1968 to accept a faculty position in the Department of Library Science at Northern Illinois University. By 1970, he was preparing to earn his doctorate and accept an appointment as chair of the division. Reid also remained active in Illinois librarianship and served as President of the ILA in 1969-70. He also continued to contribute articles to Illinois Libraries. 7

The 55-year-old Reid was in Springfield to attend a banquet honoring Secretary of State Paul Powell on Oct. 1, 1970, when he suffered a fatal heart attack late that evening. He was survived by his wife of 34 years, Mildred, and two children, Sherill Jean and de Lafayette III. In honor of “Laf,” the ILA established the de Lafayette Reid Memorial Scholarship for prospective library science students in 1971.8

  1. Walton 691; Who Was Who 1969-73, 598.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Walton 691; Who Was Who 1969-73, 598; Schenk 19.
  4. Illinois Libraries Oct. 1956, 250; Illinois State Journal Sept. 26, 1956.
  5. Illinois Libraries Feb. 1971, 115.
  6. Illinois Libraries March 1968, 227, 230-231, Feb. 1971, 115.
  7. Illinois Libraries March 1969, 254, Dec. 1969, 855; Northern Star Oct. 5, 1970; Rockford Star Oct. 3, 1970.
  8. Rockford Star Oct. 3, 1970; Northern Star Oct. 5, 1970; Illinois Libraries Feb. 1971, 169, Feb. 1972, 170.