The Library Development Group

Elsewhere, the relatively new Library Development Group was “to create or define opportunities, with the State Library community, which permits other library agencies to provide superior services to their clientele.” The ultimate goal was the development of plans for “realistic and effective library service.” Statewide long-range objectives for Illinois libraries were:

  • Continued improvement of public library laws.
  • Increased support for local libraries.
  • Improved methods of joint planning between types of libraries.
  • Consideration of the service responsibility of each type of library.
  • Development of a means to mandate local library service and to provide larger units of service on a local level.
  • Definition of standards for all types of libraries and for cooperative programs which are realistic.
  • Development of adequate support for library systems.680

The purpose of the Library Development Group was complex and its audience large. In addition to the 504 public libraries of the state, there were 5,823 school libraries, 144 academic libraries, and 400 special libraries composing the state’s 18 library systems. Associate Director James Beasley noted that developing systems support was “particularly important,” as “systems are probably the agency which can provide access to the majority of Illinois citizens between local resources and major statewide and national resources.” Clearly, dependence on the new systems was already significant.681

A staff shortage in the Library Development Group posed a serious problem in the spring of 1971. “The shortage of staff,” wrote Beasley, “affected seriously the State Library’s ability to coordinate library systems and to provide basic information which would aid libraries in planning programs at a local and system level.” Many key State Library management positions were vacant at the time of the Illinois Libraries story with the inference that poor planning was again dragging down the goals of the State Library.682

However, Beasley reported a change in the group’s emphasis with the impending renewal of the Library Services and Construction Act that July. This included the needs of the disadvantaged, the development of metropolitan libraries, and research and evaluation of library staff and operations. Library cooperation was given more emphasis under the library’s administration of the LSCA update.683

In addition to Titles I and II of the original Library Services Act, directives were added with the 1966 and 1971 Congressional updates. Title III addressed inter- library cooperation. Enhanced library service to institutions was covered in Title IV-A, while Title IV-B dealt with library service to the blind and physically disabled. LSCA-funded programs at the State Library in the late 1960s and 1970s aimed at these new goals. By fiscal year 1970, the State Library was able to sponsor 15 projects. A total of $880,766 was allocated these projects, which included:

  • Research and data collection for the State Library
  • Career recruitment
  • Library Research Center
  • Illinois Library Materials Processing Center in Rockford
  • Education and training
  • Target Community Project in Chicago
  • “Score with Books” in Peoria
  • Reference and research system
  • East St. Louis service study
  • Scholarships
  • Development of the systems
  • Afro-American collection of the Chicago Public Library
  • “Operation Read” in Rock Island
  • ILA Task Analysis
  • Douglass Center Project in Champaign.684
An old computer used by library systems personnel.

An old computer used by library systems personnel.

Several fiscal year 1970 projects concerned the disadvantaged. While consultant Fannie Jones conceded that, while the mention of the word “disadvantaged” usually envisioned “minority groups, chiefly blacks, crowded together in deteriorating urban ghettoes, culturally and economically impoverished,” the term actually included residents in many other categories. These included the blind and physically disabled, elderly, institutionalized, migrants, Native Americans, and the illiterate. Jones joined those lamenting the lack of staff for disadvantaged projects and urged the State Library to “expand its professional staff, give stronger leadership, and initiate a  greater range of programs.”685

Programs for the culturally deprived received “high priority” from State Library administration in the early 1970s. As a result, outreach programs were established in the inner-city areas of Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, Peoria, Rockford, and East St. Louis. (See Appendix A). The library administration suggested four reasons for funding such programs:

  • A legal obligation through administering LSCA appropriations.
  • A commitment to improving services to all residents of the state of Illinois.
  • A philosophical goal of enabling people, no matter what their economic or cultural status, to realize their potential as creative and productive citizens.
  • To serve as a resource center and information agency to provide free access to knowledge for all state residents.686

Service to state institutions and the physically and visually disabled was also enhanced, although such programs were badly underfunded. Around $38,000 was appropriated each year from 1968 to 1971 for these needs. James Beasley, in the Illinois Libraries review, declared that, “the blind appear to be the only part of the clientele who are consistently identified and for which there is a continuing concern and financial commitment at all levels of government.” In Illinois, 12,000 blind and 150,000 “persons with lesser visual handicaps” were covered by Title IV-B funding, along with 200,000 physically disabled persons. The State Library was able to offer fewer programs for the disabled, as federal funding lagged. As a result, no far-reaching plan to serve disabled patrons existed at the State Library in 1971.687

In July 1970, Dr. Barbara Slanker was hired as the new consultant for Research and Statistics. While the position was ill-defined in its first year of existence, Slanker was available to work with the State Library, the systems, and public libraries statewide. She developed instructional programs and workshops stressing the importance of statistics collection and research to Illinois libraries.688

Data from the 1969-70 system annual reports showed commendable growth. Many systems served a population in the hundreds of thousands. A total of 3,124,131 registered borrowers were covered by the systems, which held a collective total of 15,520,846 books and 3,165,913 “nonbooks.” Even smaller systems like the Starved Rock Library System in north central Illinois had 268,834 books in its collection, while the Cumberland Trail Library System in eastern Illinois held 225,379. Total systems circulation was 42,762,715 items. Nine of the 18 systems had circulations of at least 1million, and eight others circulated at least a half-million items annually. Total systems income in 1969-70 was $30,522,344, with seven systems reporting income of at least $1 million.689

While the library worker shortage had eased somewhat over the previous decade, Library Career Consultant Cosette Kies’ humorously written article, “The State Library’s Role in Recruitment to the Profession; or, my fight against the warm body syndrome,” recalled the “near hysteria” of the library manpower shortage of just a few years earlier. The April-May 1971 article reported that the shortage was easing, but competition, coupled with budgetary cutbacks, left fewer library jobs available. (Kies’ article is in comparison to a mock obituary in the Nov. 1, 1970, issue of Library Journal, which declared that the manpower shortage had “died.”) While the State Library was still committed to training prospective librarians, avenues such as the Library Careers Centers had drastically scaled back their services.690

Recruiting remained a problematic issue, and a federally funded 1972 project looked at recruitment of minorities into library service. The Illinois Minorities Manpower Project was conducted by the American Library Association and partially supported by federal monies. The project was organized and guided by an advisory board composed of representatives of minority groups, librarians, library educators, and the State Library manpower consultant. The purpose of the program was to ease the under-representation of minorities in library administration and important public service positions. Completion of a course of study for a master’s degree in library science was required, as was participation in an internship program at selected libraries in the Chicago suburbs. The Illinois Minorities Manpower Project was evaluated by two out-of-state surveyors in a study completed in February 1975. In an eloquent statement, the surveyors wrote that, “the significance of this project lies not in its degree of success, but in the fact that it was undertaken at all.”691