Educate & Automate

While Live & Learn was a resounding success, another program introduced by Secretary Ryan in the spring of 1996 also generated more millions in revenue for Illinois libraries. “Educate & Automate” directed an additional $19.4 million to the Secretary, who divided the money into three components. Nearly $14.5 million went for state-of-the-art technology in the office to trim costs, improve security of records, and offer enhanced services. About $4 million was appropriated to advance technology in Illinois libraries, paying for upgraded equipment and the cost of online technology. The plan also sought to make rare Illinois library connections available at any keyboard. In addition, $1 million was used to expand literacy in a three-pronged effort that included adult literacy programs, child-at-risk programs and public libraries to build the learning skills of both parents and children with “shared learning experiences.” To pay for “Educate & Automate,” Ryan implemented small increases in business-related fees of his office. The plan was signed into law on June 28, 1996, and within a few years, hundreds of Illinois libraries took advantage of the increased funding to offer improved technology to their patrons.926

Secretary Ryan took a more personal approach with Family Reading Night, an annual event that encouraged families to spend time reading together. The plan encouraged families to turn off their television set, find a favorite book or newspaper, and read either quietly or aloud. Over 8,000 information packets were distributed to schools, libraries, and literacy programs to promote the first Family Reading Night on Nov. 19, 1992. The Literacy Council of Southern Illinois sponsored a poster contest for children in 28 counties in anticipation of the event. A Naperville school library designed a promotional bookmark, while the Champaign News-Gazette introduced a new column, “The Children’s Reading Corner.” Quincy libraries, schools, and businesses also joined in a widespread promotional effort. In Springfield, one school took up a collection of books and magazines to be given to at-risk children and their parents. Family Reading Night became an annual event, and its overwhelming success is another of Secretary of State George Ryan’s lasting contributions to literacy in Illinois.927