Library Organization

The early 1950s witnessed a change in management and organizational structure. In addition to the three divisions – General, Extension, and Archives – created in the 1921 reorganization, by the 1950s there were also “section heads” in Adult Education, Art, and the Music Box. The Secretary of State was still the State Librarian and atop the management hierarchy. The Illinois State Library Advisory Committee was next in command. In addition to seven librarians (one from each region and two from Chicago), the committee was expanded in the fall of 1947 to include one citizen from each of the six regions, creating a 13-member board. In 1951, that number increased to 17 with inclusion of three University of Illinois personnel: the Director of the Library School, the Dean of Extension Services, and a Professor of Rural Sociology. Each of the three became permanent members; all other Advisory Committee members served staggered, sixyear terms. Superintendent of Divisions Helene Rogers was the highest-ranking employee, with her administrative office broken down into four separate headings.406

The Archives Section, still directed by Margaret Cross Norton, had its own Catalog Unit and Reference Unit, as well as a Laboratory Unit for filming, preservation, and repair of documents and a Consultant Service Unit, for field visits. The Archives Section continued to be a centerpiece of the library. Norton’s report often appeared first in the Biennial Reports, and many visitors from other states and foreign countries continued to visit the Illinois Archives to study Norton’s methods. As a regular contributor, Norton’s articles on archival methods and holdings comprised substantial portions of each issue of Illinois Libraries. That the Archives Section – the least-used part of the library by the general public – was so well promoted is a testament to the respect for Norton and her leadership.407

The Extension Services Section, now directed by Laura C. Langston – the seventh chief over the previous 15 years – included the Collections Service Unit, the Consultant Service Unit, and the Library Service Demonstrations Unit. The Technical Services Section, added in September 1951 upon survey recommendation, included units for Acquisitions, Cataloging, Circulation Records, Processing, and Receiving and Shipping. The section was directed by longtime library staffer Clara S. Curran.408

The General Reference Services Section saw a management change with the retirement of its chief, Harriet Skogh, on March 16, 1951. It marked the end of a distinguished 37-year career at the State Library for Skogh. Her departure may have been hastened by a “very severe back injury” she had suffered that January 8 when she fell getting into a taxi and required hospitalization. Her section, which included Adult Education, Art, Music, Reference and Research, and Illinois Documents, was renamed the Public Services Section on Sept. 17, 1951, to create “a more inclusive term [that] seemed to better describe the many activities of the Section.” After Mary Egan served an interim period as section chief, the permanent position went to de Lafayette Reid, Jr. It was the beginning of a long run in top management at the State Library for the energetic Reid.409

Workers in all departments were still expected to handle a level of demand that continued to increase. In the reporting period ending in 1952, a total of 3,678,700 pieces of reading material and 319,326 pieces of audio-visual material were lent, a total that fell just shy of 4 million. That was a five-fold increase from the nearly three quarters of a million pieces that were loaned in the comparable period just a decade earlier.410

The library also continued to meet the diverse needs of Illinois residents. To assist visually-impaired readers, additions of large-print books were made, and a recommended reading list of such books appeared in the June 1952 edition of Illinois Libraries. The library also served as an adviser to the Illinois Pupils Reading Circle, reviewing children’s books and providing feedback on the most appropriate books for young readers. Another effort involved assisting the Boy Scouts of America in the examinations of scouts for reading requirements to earn merit badges. The library also maintained its excellent public relations efforts, especially with promotional exhibits set up across the state. The best known of these was the Illinois State Fair exhibit, which was viewed by thousands of fairgoers each August. As the 1940s progressed, many more exhibits were displayed – at county fairs, educational conferences, and library symposiums. Around 40 of these exhibits were seen statewide in 1941, a number that rose to over 190 by 1949.411

Field visits by State Library consultants also jumped dramatically by the early 1950s. Just over 150 of these visits were made in 1941, but dwindled to fewer than 50 visits later in the decade. The timing of the decrease in field visits is curious, as it coincides with the start of the demonstration program, which may have detracted from the importance of the visits. With the decline of the demonstration, visits again assumed an important role in the efforts to develop new public libraries. Not surprisingly, the number of consultant visits rose sharply by the end of the 1940s, and in 1950, 400 such visits were made.412

The library also continued to hold regional meetings around the state every spring, as it had since 1919. These meetings were conducted by State Library staffers for an audience of public and school librarians, library directors, and “friends of libraries.” These meetings were usually well attended and covered a variety of current library topics, sometimes accompanied by field trips. A 1950 meeting in Joliet included a state police escort to the Stateville prison, where the librarians were treated to a tour of the facility as well as a discussion on the importance of the prison library. In 1952, 15 regional meetings were held around the state, with an attendance of 930 and representation by 222 libraries. In addition, the State Library participated in summer-school programs at Illinois State University in Normal and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, presenting special exhibits and taking part in the annual Rural Life Conference at the University of Illinois.413

Assistant State Librarian Helene Rogers is surrounded by, from left, Forrest Spalding, Harold Brigham, and Charles Gosnell, the three surveyors of the controversial 1951 report.

Assistant State Librarian Helene Rogers is surrounded by, from left, Forrest Spalding, Harold Brigham, and Charles Gosnell, the three surveyors of the controversial 1951 report.

Another extension effort was the opening of four Regional Library Service Centers. These centers, dubbed “libraries for librarians,” were not open to the general public, but only to librarians, trustees, or other representatives of libraries in each area. Such a plan had proved successful in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and it was hoped that these regional centers would supplement library service in Illinois. On May 20, 1952, the first center was opened in DeKalb, with a second center in Savanna following in March 1953. Additional centers opened in Bloomington in May 1953 and in Mattoon that August. These four new centers joined similar facilities in Chicago and Kankakee, which were holdovers from the demonstration program. Each held at least 8,000 volumes of State Library stock in housing provided by local public libraries. Books were loaned to area public libraries for three months.414

The centers were open approximately two days per month, usually on the fourth Tuesday and Wednesday, when a State Library representative was available to provide consultation and advice on the problems of libraries in the area. Librarians were invited to come to the centers themselves to select books for borrowing. Use of these centers, however, did not prove popular. Another criticism was that the centers, in their efforts to help area librarians, only helped communities with existing library service and did little to spread libraries to unserved areas. In 1956, the Kankakee center was closed not only due to “resultant lack of use” but also “due to parking difficulties.” The
Mattoon, Chicago, and Bloomington centers were closed in 1958.415

After years of low success, State Library staffers were losing their optimism in effecting the creation of new public libraries. While there were 401 taxsupported libraries in Illinois by 1955 and over 100 created in the previous two decades, growth was still much slower than desired. Illinois was not alone in lagging library growth – over 35 million Americans remained without public library service in 1952. And the State Library realized that, without substantial funding from federal or state governments, little public library growth could be expected in the near future in Illinois.416