Upon reorganization of the State Library into three divisions in 1921, the position of superintendent of the Extension Division went to Anna May Price. It was a position with which she was quite familiar, having served as director of the Illinois Library Extension Commission since 1914.

In her new position as superintendent, Price enjoyed much more influence, and she used her powers wisely. As editor of Illinois Libraries, she used the publication to promote the causes of free library service for all Illinoisans. For many years, she urged state funding of local libraries, and her efforts strengthened the movement for public libraries across Illinois.

It is likely that Price’s interest in rural library service grew from her own educational and professional experience. Born in Danville, Illinois, on June 6, 1867, she graduated from Champaign High School before her family moved to Nebraska. She earned an A.B. degree from the University of Nebraska in 1898. At that time, Nebraska was still sparsely populated and largely rural in nature, and Price would have easily seen the need for rural libraries in her time there. She continued her education with a bachelor’s degree in library science in 1900 from the University of Illinois. There, she would have experienced the influence of head librarian Katharine Sharp, one of the earliest and most vocal supporters of free reading for Illinois residents. 1

Price then returned to the Plains, serving as librarian at the University of South Dakota from 1900 to 1905, and earned a master’s degree from that institution in 1904. Price left South Dakota to return to the University of Illinois, serving as professor of library economy from 1905 to 1912. 2

In 1914, Price began a 22-year career in library extension at the Illinois State Library and became a forceful voice in the spread of free reading within the state. Price earned the gratitude of librarians statewide, but her successful tenure came to an unceremonious end when she was dismissed on May 26, 1936. Her firing reportedly was a result of her protest of the hiring of Helene Rogers as Assistant State Librarian. 3

Nearing her 69th birthday, Price chose to retire and moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she spent the rest of her life. She remained remarkably active into old age, and her 100th birthday received special mention in the Lincoln Evening Journal. In her last years, Price spent much time reading and talking with friends on the telephone. She died in her sleep on June 8, 1968, two days after her 101st birthday. 4

  1. Smith 33; Anna May Price files, University of Illinois archives; “Librarian Enjoys Books at 100,” 5; Lincoln Journal June 8, 1968.
  2. Smith 33; Anna May Price files; “Librarian Enjoys Books at 100,” 5.
  3. Anna May Price files; Ralph E. McCoy memoirs, 2-3.
  4. Lincoln Evening Journal June 7, 1967; “Librarian Enjoys Books at 100,” 5.