LibraryU and Synergy

While library users had increasing amounts of information available at their fingertips, library employees were also provided with continuing education at their keyboards through LibraryU, a program introduced by the Lewis and Clark, River Bend, Shawnee, and Suburban Library Systems. LibraryU was based on the idea of “librarians teaching librarians,” as library workers themselves created free online course modules not only for library employees but for library patrons as well. Training on how to develop these online courses began in the spring of 2000, and the LibraryU website launched that September.992

In 2003, the program was revamped into LibraryU Reloaded, an enhanced version funded by a $201,750 Public Library Training Grant from the Gates Foundation U.S. Library Program. LibraryU Reloaded greatly expanded the scope and accessibility of its predecessor by allowing users to access training on their home or work computers, at one of the six Gates Training Labs, the State Library Training Lab, or at one of the 531 Illinois public libraries participating in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation State Partnership Program. Although the program emphasized public libraries, employees of academic, special, and school libraries also had access to the training courses. Eventually, all Illinois residents were to gain universal access to Webbased training as well. In all, 32 course modules were added when LibraryU Reloaded was formally relaunched in January 2005, serving over 5,000 users by the summer of 2006.993

Another successful training program was Synergy, which reached out to librarians statewide with an intense format of continuing education. Introduced in 2002, Synergy seminars emphasized “personal and professional development,” community leadership, and the future of librarianship. The program, an evolution of the Illinois State Library Leadership Training Program, was considered “the statewide library community’s proactive movement to recruit and nurture future Illinois library leaders.” Topics covered by Synergy included:

  • Self-assessment.
  • Discovery and development of personal values.
  • Identification of local, state, and global environments.
  • Developing skills and tools for personal and professional leadership.
  • Creation of “cohort” groups.
  • Creation of mentoring relationships.
  • Development of a “vision of and beyond” librarianship.994

Participation was highly selective, as only 30 multitype librarians were invited to Synergy seminars, which were held three times a year in three-day sessions. Synergy became an annual event, with dozens of the state’s leading librarians benefitting from the intensive discussions.995

Several years later, former Director Jean Wilkins reflected on the success of Synergy, which she considered one of her proudest accomplishments. “That was a great program for us,” said Wilkins. “The Illinois Library Association supported it, and has been very pleased with it as well. I still hear from past participants, and it has really helped a lot of people. I’m delighted with the results we achieved from Synergy.”996

Wilkins also took great pride in the Mortensen Center project, which brought countless international visitors to the State Library. In 2001, Wilkins was part of an exchange group that toured Russia, a two-week ex-cursion that  also included personnel from the Illinois State Museum and Springfield’s Lincoln Library. “The Mortensen Center project was just wonderful,” recalled Wilkins. “Our trip to Russia was a great experience, and we had so many visitors come through the State Library. We all learned so much from the project, and it became a source of pride for all of us at the Illinois State Library.”997