Renewal of the Library Services Act

The nationwide success of the Library Services Act induced Congress to extend the act for five additional years in 1961. In the first five years of the plan, Illinois had received $820,875, with much more federal monies received in the coming years. de Lafayette Reid reported that the Illinois State Library, “as the official agency for administering the Library Services Act in this state,” began the second five-year term in July.525

Another of the early projects of the renewal period was the creation of the Library Research Center, located in the Graduate School of Library Science of the University of Illinois. The center was established with a grant of $35,000. The center was charged with examining the many aspects of public library development. It was the first LSA project to create a body for basic research into recurrent library issues. As it matured, the LRC was described as “one way in which a branch of state government and a university can combine resources on certain research and service projects for their mutual advantage.” The Research Center operated until 1971, receiving grants to pay for research tasks requested by the State Library. Both oral and written reports were generated, and around 60 papers were eventually produced.526

From 1963 to 1969, the center produced 15 of the 16 documents that composed the Illinois Library Research Series published by the State Library. An array of library-related topics were analyzed in the creation of the series, including book selection and processing costs, library consultants, library development, finance and tax factors, statistics, centralized processing, and professional education. The Library Research Center was not limited to Illinois library needs. In 1962, Reid reported that the cooperation of seven other Midwestern state library agencies was being sought, one of the early examples of interstate library participation involving the Illinois State Library. However, none of the seven libraries could come up with the requested $5,000 in grants for the first two years of the center’s existence.527

In the same report, Reid outlined other “current projects being operated under the Library Services Act.” In addition to the Library Research Center (designated as Project Five), the Southern Illinois Regional Library (Project One) remained a high priority to the State Library. Among the enhancements intended for the Carbondale facility was a plan to extend supplemental bookmobile service to five counties in Southern Illinois. Project Two was the Western Illinois Film Cooperative (the Western Illinois Regional Library was listed as a project beginning in 1962-63), and Project Three, the Northern Illinois Regional Library, was patterned after its sister facility in southern Illinois. Reid noted that both regional libraries were being developed around state universities and hoped that similar ventures would follow at Western Illinois University (which did happen) and Eastern Illinois University (which did not).528

Project Four was the Fox River Valley Regional Library, which ultimately failed at the polls. Project Six was a venture for the newly established Rock River Valley District Library Project, which was created in the Ken-Rock Community Center south of Rockford. This project “contemplated” a contract with the Rockford Public Library for purchasing and processing books. Funding was intended for the interim period between the referendum and the time that tax revenues actually became available. This was a reflection of a new policy from the Library Services Act Selection Committee in response to two of the failed projects in the late 1950s. Based on those failures, it was determined that demonstrations would not be made without prior approval of a tax referendum. The Rock River project proved successful, and the district library merged with the Rockford Public Library in 1971.529

Project Seven of the Library Services Act was implemented with a one-of-a-kind vehicle reminiscent of bookmobile days. Titled the “Library Development Project” and called by Reid their “most ambitious project,” the plan commenced with the “Library Laboratory,” a white, 40-foot, bus-like vehicle delivered in November 1961 to serve as a mobile classroom for library science courses. Harold Rath, a former director of the Southern Illinois Regional Library, was director of the project, including the “laboratory.” Librarians, library trustees, and civic groups all received instruction and lecture in the Library Laboratory, which was able to seat up to 18 people. Books, periodicals, audiovisuals, and specialized materials to assist in book selection were all available in the vehicle. Another goal was to recruit those who expressed interest in library careers. The vehicle, described as “similar to a bookmobile,” was used primarily as a public-relations tool and toured state and county fairs as well as other community events. Its first display was held during the November 1961 institute at Allerton Park. The exhibition’s tour schedule “recognized the climatic differences between the northern and southern regions” of the state. During the summer, the exhibit proved popular with people looking for a cool respite, as the laboratory was the only air-conditioned exhibit on many fairgrounds. The Library Laboratory remained a proud accomplishment of the State Library until the program was phased out in 1965.530

The Library Development Project included many other components as well. One key portion of the plan had been introduced at a meeting of the Library Development Committee of the ILA on Feb. 21, 1962. ILA President Phyllis Maggeroli, a former employee of the State Library, is credited with the introduction and early promotion of the plan. Committee members gave immediate attention to ongoing problems left over from the first five years of the Library Services Act. Two areas were studied: “the public library situation in Illinois” and a plan for public library development. A total of $27,192.70 in Library Services Act funds were requested for the project, which created great enthusiasm among ILA members. The chairman of the Library Development Committee, William Bryan, was so excited by the proposal that he exclaimed, “We think we will find that we have by the tail the most beautiful bear in the world.”531

The yearlong study was directed by Robert Rohlf and completed in 1963. The following year a revised edition, A Plan for Public Library Development in Illinois, was published, although the results are commonly known as the Rohlf study. The revolutionary study stressed the need for a totally new approach to solving problems of public libraries in Illinois. Noting the limited success of earlier plans, Rohlf cited reasons for past failures, including the limited ability of many municipalities to levy taxes to fund library service. Other factors, listed in a 1967 review, included “changes in the educational system of the state, population shifts, and the increased pressure of public needs caused by an emerging age of automation, electronics, and computers.” The implication was that libraries had not always recognized these problems and now needed to do so.532

The most far-reaching recommendation by Rohlf was the call for the establishment of a statewide, cooperative library network. Rohlf envisioned a network of several library systems, grouped by region, working in harmony with pooled resources, including collections, automation, human effort, and processing, to ensure the highest quality of library service possible. This idea was greater in scope than anything previously proposed by the State Library. Approval of such an idea required more cooperation between librarians across the state than ever before seen.533

For many years, that cooperation had been sorely lacking, but the relationship between the State Library and other libraries continued to warm. Rohlf’s recommendations were well-conceived, and could be achieved by cooperation. In 1965, the State Library, library associations, library trustees, and librarians from all types of libraries joined to lobby for the passage of a bill in the General Assembly enabling creation of these systems. The Network of Public Library Systems Act was passed and signed into law by Governor Otto Kerner on Aug. 17, 1965. As a result, Illinois residents soon experienced great improvement in the quality of their library service. It is little wonder that Illinois Libraries in June 1980 declared the Library Development Project “the soundest investment made by the Selection Committee of the Illinois State Library in the Library Services Act period.”534

While the Library Development Project – sometimes known by the dull title of Project Seven – overshadowed all others, Project Eight was also a groundbreaking measure. Project Eight was the Illinois State Library Scholarship Program, created on July 1, 1961, to “support the training of librarians for work in rural areas.” The scholarship program addressed a glaring nationwide shortage of trained librarians. Illinois was not alone in its efforts; between 1956 and 1964, some 350 scholarships were awarded in 22 states to meet the library manpower shortage. Although library work was highly sought after among educated women in the early 20th century, demand began to lag as salaries stagnated and other employment opportunities became available. Ever-increasing personnel requirements for library work contributed to the problem. In 1958, Miriam Johnson, then president of the Illinois Library Association, asserted that the shortage was “the most pressing problem facing the profession.” Rural libraries were hit especially hard, as they often lacked the financial means to attract well-qualified library employees from a shrinking pool.535

The scholarship program was implemented to encourage the professional development of “welltrained personnel in sufficient numbers to meet the service needs of Illinois libraries, library systems, and the Illinois State Library.” In 1962, de Lafayette Reid reported that, “scholarships are available to qualified applicants to permit attendance at library schools accredited by the American Library Association.” Each recipient pledged to remain employed in a rural library for two years after receiving a library degree. Scholarships were available only to full-time students until 1976, when part-time students were allowed. A total of 231 scholarships were given through the program over the next 18 years. In addition to serving rural needs, scholarship recipients also rose to prominent positions at the State Library, as well as other top library positions around the state. One of the earliest recipients was George F. Heise, who was employed at the Southern Illinois Regional Library before entering library school. Awarded a Library Services Act scholarship in 1961, he graduated from George Peabody College for Teachers in June 1962 and was appointed regional librarian at the Western Illinois Regional Library the following month.536

Library training was also the focus of the Library Services and Instructional Television Project of 1961, funded by the Library Services Act. The study, a joint effort by two University of Illinois bodies – the Graduate School of Library Science and the Institute of Communication Research – examined the relationship between instructional television and school and public library services. The project was initiated by the introduction of instructional television into Illinois schools. This Midwest Program of Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI), which was still relatively new, brought up questions, including whether libraries were equipped to handle demands placed on them as a result of instructional television. How, if at all, library usage would be affected in the future by instructional television was also considered, as was production planning of instructional television in relation to library resources.537

In view of these questions, the project had three objectives to improve coordination between libraries and instructional television. First, a “checklist of books suitable as an instrument to evaluate high school library holdings” was prepared. Second, that checklist was used to rate the holdings of central Illinois high schools that received MPATI. Finally, bibliographies with titles suggested by instructional television were created and compared with standard acquisition sources. The bibliographies were also given to the new regional libraries to help fill interlibrary loan requests from public libraries.538

Principles and policies concerning book selection was another focus of the Public Library Institute, held May 1-2, 1962, at Western Illinois University in Macomb. The institute welcomed librarians from small, rural libraries in Western Illinois and offered education on book selection principles. Model book selection policies were available, and participants learned how to create their own selection policies. Other sessions dealt with acquiring free or inexpensive library materials and book mending.539

Several other ventures were conducted in 1963. A mobile exhibit, The Traveling Exhibit of Children’s Books, continued the 1957 effort to promote children’s books for public library collections. The exhibit was placed on a bookmobile and circulated to public, school, and college libraries upon request. The only requirements for host libraries were a parking spot, a 110-volt electrical outlet, and an attendant for the vehicle during visiting hours. The following year, another bookmobile effort, the Traveling Book Exhibit Project, was an experimental venture to help rural librarians in book selection. In October 1963, the State Library added another in-house publication to its offerings. Public Library Abstracts, which had been in print since January 1960, was a collection of statistical data about American public libraries. All source materials used in the preparation of essays for the Public Library Abstracts were found at the library of  the University of Illinois Library School. Editorial duties were still handled by the university even after the State Library assumed control of publication. The following year, the Publication Unit was absorbed into the Technical Services Section.540