New and Traditional Roles for the State Library

During these years, the State Library was busier than ever. Increased Library Services and Construction Act funding led to countless new programs around the state, and the library was occupied with the birth of OCLC, the influx of automation, and the development of statewide systems. In response to those issues – and their importance to Illinois libraries – the State Library began to decentralize management. As before, the Illinois State Library Advisory Committee remained at the top of the hierarchy. However, there were now three subcommittees composed of Advisory Committee members; one each for Library Services and Construction, Interlibrary Cooperation, and Library Systems.741

In addition, several other governing committees were established in the 1970s. The Illinois State Library Advisory Committee on Education and Training was formed in 1975 to “meet the training needs of the library community in Illinois.” That same year, the Illinois State Library Advisory Committee on Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was formed to advise the State Library on the creation and development of programs. Also in 1975, the Illinois State Library School Advisory Committee was formed to serve school libraries and media centers.742

Other advisory groups were also established. Directors of the four Reference and Research Centers, the Illinois State Library director, and an Illinois State Library Advisory Committee representative composed a subcommittee on Cooperative Collection Development. An Illinois State Library Automation Committee existed, as did an OCLC Steering Committee. There were also official task forces on Library Services to the Untaxed, Library Services to the Aging, and the State Library’s Scholarship Program. The increase in committees and task forces allowed more Illinois librarians to become involved in statewide library development. But this decentralization also contributed to an increase in bureaucracy that was sometimes criticized.743

While continuing as an administrative body, the library also strengthened its reference resources. As an aid to state government, state employees, and agencies, its most frequent users were legislative staffers, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Departments of Public Health, Law Enforcement, Conservation, and Public Aid. Its traditional relationships with the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Council remained close throughout the 1970s. But the library also expanded its service through ILLINET. Reference questions from the public remained much the same as they had for decades. Typical of these requests were:

  • Do you have information on the cannonball route used to move ammunition between Chicago and Quincy during the Civil War?
  • Can employers ask about marital status on employment applications?
  • How do you conduct a business meeting?
  • Was there a cholera epidemic around Peoria in 1899?.744

Questions continued to come by mail, telephone, and in person, but now, state employees with access to TWX machines were also able to submit requests using that technology. In the 1970s, the reference department grew in both human and technical resources, remaining integral to State Library operations. Starting in 1975, the State Library also funded a new position in each system. The Interlibrary Cooperation Consultant Project originated to help the systems improve their programs of interlibrary cooperation. Budget or staff shortages had sometimes hindered previous efforts at such cooperation. As a result, some systems resorted to a “priority plan” for the “gradual inclusion” of school, academic, or special libraries into system affiliation. With a specialized consultant on hand, systems had more opportunities for coordinating, planning, and identifying of strengths and individual library needs. Collected data was used to determine the most effective ways for each system to improve interlibrary cooperation.745

The two-year grant paid consultants $30,000 per year. Each approached their jobs differently, depending on needs, budget constraints, and long-range plans of each system. Some consultants formed advisory committees to discuss goals and increase selfgovernance within the systems. Others formed alliances with neighboring consultants for cooperative planning efforts. All consultants met with Illinois State Library Development Group members for further ideas on system development. The efforts of each consultant covered a sweeping range of activities. (See Appendix C).746

The Interlibrary Cooperation Consultant Project proved so successful that it was renewed annually for the rest of the decade. In 1981, a large-scale print evaluation by Texas Woman’s University found many benefits that resulted from the program. Among the positive changes were expanded communications, increased interlibrary loan, increased sharing of expertise, and increased client satisfaction. The evaluation’s opening statement was telling:

“Planners in other states look to Illinois as a pioneer operational testing ground for the multitype system concept which has been more fully and more extensively implemented [in Illinois] than elsewhere.”747

In only a few years, Illinois had become a national leader in interlibrary cooperation. From the implementation of the systems to the urge for multitype cooperation, the State Library was leading the way. And its influence on American librarianship would be felt for years to come.