Library Flourishes with Dwindling Space

Clearly, the State Library greatly increased its extension efforts in the early 1960s, and by October 1963, there were a total of 459 tax-supported libraries in the state of Illinois. Of that total, 437 were city, town, township, or village libraries. While Warren and Putnam counties had the state’s only county libraries, there were 20 district libraries covering the state. Although the number of district libraries had grown, in part due to Library Services Act projects, it was still a low number in light of the decades of effort spent promoting such libraries. Although too many Illinoisans still had inadequate service, or none at all, there had been noticeable growth in all types of libraries statewide. While much improvement in library service is due to the Library Services Act, stable management at the State Library was also responsible. Six extension chiefs in 12 years preceded the 1948 hiring of Laura Langston, who remained in the position for 15 years, retiring on May 31, 1963. In her 15 years, Langston provided consistency and direction in this critical area.541

The year 1964 brought another reorganization of the State Library. That summer a Library Development Section was established, with Miller Boord as chief. This new section contained the departments of Adult Education, Branch Libraries, and Consultant Services, including the Consultant Office, which had been established in 1957. Although the name of the section was new, its purpose was familiar – to promote the extension of library services to areas with inadequate or no library service. The Library Laboratory continued traveling the state and now featured a part-time library professor supplied by the Graduate School of Library Science at the University of Illinois. The salary for this instructor, who taught elementary librarianship classes from the laboratory, was reimbursed by the State Library. In addition, the mobile publisher’s Book Exhibit displayed the “types of material available in a well-rounded book collection.” Turnover of State Library consulting positions was alarmingly high. During the biennium ending in 1964, for example, seven library consultants “left the state service…due to retirements or resignations” and “only two of these positions were filled.”542

The Library Development position was an in-house transfer for Boord, who had been Chief of the Library Services Section, a 1961 consolidation of the Art, Film, and Recordings units. On April 1, 1964, that section was renamed the Public Services Section. Circulation dropped in the biennium ending in 1964, due possibly to increased library service statewide. The State Library reported, “we are happy to note it…this means that the Illinois State Library is successful in its effort to stimulate the growth of public libraries in the State.” Even with the decline, there was still a shortage of “qualified personnel” in the Circulation Department, a problem shared by other units, including the Recordings Service.543

Meanwhile, reference work increased. A total of 41,768 reference questions were answered by State Library personnel between 1962 and 1964, an increase of nearly 9 percent from the previous biennium. In all, the library reported 602,270 books and bound periodicals on hand, 555,939 documents and pamphlets, 57,744 pictures, and 25,033 recordings. Microfilm holdings nearly tripled to 4,449, and 3,080 maps and 1,134 film products rounded out the collection. In all, the library held a total of 1,249,649 resources. That number was trimmed by “drastically weeding” out-of-state documents in 1964. The weeded documents were shipped to the Southern Illinois Regional Library on permanent loan.544

Space concerns were also alleviated. In September 1963, additional stack space was constructed in yet another “previously unoccupied storage area” in the “center of the Centennial Building.” Five levels of bookstacks were built, increasing the stack area by 17,700 square feet and book storage capacity by 35,000 linear feet. In this extensive remodeling, several walls were removed and a new concrete floor was poured. Florescent lights illuminated the new space, and central air conditioning was installed in the public service and stack areas. Another stack elevator and an intercommunication system were installed. The long-cramped Cataloging Unit was moved from a public hallway on the second floor to a new mezzanine area on the third floor formerly used by the State Department of Insurance. The mezzanine was also renovated to house the Acquisitions and Technical Processes units.545

The increased space was greatly welcomed and made clear that there had been much wasted space in the Centennial Building. For many years the State Library had been unable to build higher stacks, because the old iron bookcases could not support the weight. Sagging floors at the Centennial Building had been an issue since the late 1920s. The State Library was certainly not alone in its cry for space in the Centennial Building. In the library’s 1924 Biennial Report – the first one issued after moving into the building the previous July – the Illinois State Historical Library was already complaining of a lack of space. Likewise, the Illinois State Museum had been asking for more space for decades, and their new building was a response to that need.546

The 1964 Biennial Report noted that “the need to box many of the books because of the remodeling have made it difficult to maintain good service.” The new space, however, was by no means a permanent solution. But a new library facility remained far on the horizon.547