The Importance of Interlibrary Cooperation

Cooperation continued as a main theme of State Library activities for the next several years. On May 1, 1971, the systems adopted an Interlibrary Loan Code encouraging and establishing rules for interlibrary lending. The May 1972 edition of Illinois Libraries contained State Library Director Alphonse Trezza’s somewhat pleading essay for renewed commitment to interlibrary cooperation. Trezza conceded that, “unselfish cooperation is difficult” and “is fraught with problems.” He further acknowledged that, “true cooperation is unselfish cooperation” and “is never equal.”716

Clearly, some Illinois libraries were having difficulty embracing this spirit of “unselfish cooperation.” Some system libraries, fearing a loss of autonomy, used the needs of their “primary clientele” as an “excuse” for failing to promote cooperation. “Primary clientele syndrome,” said Trezza, kept libraries serving their regular patrons with less regard for the special-needs users.717

Many libraries also chafed under the 1972 reciprocal borrowing requirement, under which libraries borrowed books from each other at no cost. Some librarians believed they would be “inundated” by requests. Others claimed “a responsibility to their taxpayers” first, not outside users. Trezza declared it to be the “most troublesome problem” in systems development. A handful of libraries actually lost system services by their refusal to engage in reciprocal borrowing before the systems’ adoption of a Reciprocal Borrowing Covenant in 1981 that laid out the requirements for such borrowing.718

Other factors holding back systems development included the age-old fear of interference by the State Library or other library bodies. While 90 percent of tax-supported libraries covering 94 percent of the population were included in systems, 22 had yet to join a system. By September 1973, that number had dropped to 16. Cooperation was not as easy as it sounded. Other barriers to cooperation included fear of loss of local autonomy, satisfaction with the status quo, differing governance structures, and lack of money, staff, or technology needed for effective cooperation. Sometimes, librarians did not understand the availability of resources available for cooperation, while poor training of library staffers was also a contributing factor. In other cases, librarians simply did not understand what the spirit of cooperation was all about. Improved communication was one key to better cooperation. The teletype communication system, a form of modern technology in place since 1970, connected all 18 systems and greatly reduced human  effort and paperwork.719

But Trezza aptly noted that the “two most serious barriers” to system development were: “Fear and funding – in that order. First, there is the fear of possible loss of local autonomy as the price for system membership or participation. Then there is the reluctance to really take part in a reciprocal arrangement. The ‘haves’ persist in their contention, with some validity, that they will not receive mutual benefits by participation and that their resources will be overused…to the point of affecting service to their primary constituencies. The ‘have nots’ are concerned that their reliance on the ‘haves’ is an admission of ineffectiveness and inefficiency. Users from both groups want to retain resources in their institutions and are reluctant to share them for fear they will have to wait because “others” are using their resources.”720

To cure the problem, Trezza stressed a need to educate librarians, trustees, and government officials on the “philosophy of cooperation…true unbridled and unselfish cooperation.” In the end, Trezza believed that patrons “are not interested in the problems created by artificial barriers. All they desire is effective and prompt service.”721

Still, the benefits of system membership were obvious. In 1979, Robert McClarren, the original director of the North Suburban Library System, and former North Suburban system president Seymour Nordenberg listed eight “positive expectations” to becoming system members:

  • Area-wide access to library materials.
  • Supplement of services existing in member libraries.
  • Economics in operations through shared and quantity purchasing of materials and services.
  • Increased efficiency and satisfaction in providing access to resources available in other libraries.
  • Immediate availability of advice and information on library matters.
  • Identification and study of problems within the system and enhanced planning and development to meet those problems.
  • Stimulus of peer pressures from other librarians for improvement of facilities, resources, programming, and professional responsiveness and participation.
  • Opportunity for collective political action.722

The State Library continued to administer the Library Services and Construction Act, which was renewed by Congress in 1971. The appropriations over the next five years were higher than ever. Each state received $200,000 under Title I (library services), $100,000 under Title II (construction), and $40,000 under Title III (interlibrary cooperation). A total appropriation of $112 million for Title I was made for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1972, increasing each year until reaching over $137 million for 1976. Appropriations for Title II were scheduled to climb from $80 million to $97 million over the same period. The $15 million appropriation for Title III in 1972 reached $18.2 million in 1976.723

However, in 1973 the administration of Richard Nixon attempted to cut all LSCA funding, much to the anger of librarians and citizens nationwide. In one celebrated demonstration, the American Library Association designated May 8, 1973, as “Dim The Lights” day for libraries across America to dim their lights to raise awareness of the specter of severe cuts and possible library closures. A poster advertising “Dim the Lights” day carried the admonishment, “Who’d want to turn out the lights in the library?” The outcry led to the reestablishment of the LSCA funds (although the Title II funding for new library construction would be suspended in 1974 and not reinstated for a decade). Public library development had, without question, broad public support at last, and the State Library remained a leader in library development.724

The State Library’s greatest hindrance was its physical quarters. In 1973, the library used some of its LSCA funds for a feasibility study of new quarters. Despite reduced collection size, the space problem was only worsening. Still, in spite of continued pleading, there seemed little hope for a new building in the near future.725

While the library struggled in its surroundings, its publications continued to excel. In May 1972, a new publication, Illinois Nodes, was established as a professional periodical. News and events of the library and its personnel were included in another publication, Illinois Top Shelf, which improved internal communication, often in tongue-in-cheek style. In January 1972, Illinois Libraries underwent a facelift, increasing to conventional magazine size, with a new format of subheadings and article breaks. This marked a radical departure from the digest-sized format since its inception in 1919. The move was made to create a more attractive appearance and was a vivid departure from the old format. However, content was still top-notch. In 1973, Illinois Libraries won the prestigious H.W. Wilson Library Periodical Award, marking it among the best of the nation’s state library publications. The editorial staff of Illinois Libraries was also deluged with requests from library schools around the nation, which frequently used the publication as a teaching aid.726

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Illinois Libraries was edited by Irma Bostian, with able help from assistant Nancy Krah. In honor of her fine work on behalf of the library community, in 1986 Bostian was awarded the prestigious Librarian’s Citation by the Illinois Library Association.727