The Library Services & Technology Act

Since its inception in 1964, the Library Services and Construction Act had made a sweeping impact on library service both in Illinois and nationwide. Created by the U.S. Department of Education, millions of federal dollars flowed into Illinois as a result, and thousands of public library users enjoyed upgrades in their service. Some of the most significant accomplishments in Illinois librarianship came as a result of LSCA funds, including Project PLUS, the Serials of Illinois Libraries Online (SILO) and its statewide delivery system. In addition, programs for children and trustees, continuing education, automation, research, and outreach projects were all funded with LSCA monies. Unlike many other states, which utilized federal funds for their own budgets, the State Library used federal money solely for library development, relying on state funds alone for operations costs.949

The success had not come without a fight. While librarians around the nation recognized the importance of LSCA, a succession of U.S. Presidents had not consistently shared that appreciation. The Nixon administration’s failed 1973 effort to abolish LSCA funding marked the first of five straight administrations aiming to trim the LSCA budget. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush supported turning over library programs to the states, with elimination of federal funding. But no President offered a sound alternative, and Congress reauthorized LSCA six times, including a 1990 measure in the House of Representatives that passed with only four negative votes.950

But the increasing role of multitype libraries clashed with LSCA policies, which focused mainly on public libraries. In addition, as technology grew, many libraries found it difficult to keep up with the ever-evolving electronic age. As a result, the Library Services and Technology Act was passed by Congress on Sept. 30, 1996. The new plan, funded by the Institute for Museums and Library Services, offered more flexibility than LSCA. All types of libraries were eligible for funding under LSTA, which emphasized technology in library services. Many Illinois libraries and their patrons benefitted from LSTA over the next few years as technology was implemented in many libraries, staff received training, and access to information rose sharply.951

With the birth of LSTA came the end of LSCA, which terminated on Oct. 1, 1997. The end of LSCA brought an outpouring of nostalgia from State Library staff, which fondly recalled the many achievements that had taken place under LSCA. Secretary of State George Ryan issued a 14-page press release honoring the history of LSCA, while Director Bridget Lamont paid homage in the lead article of the summer 1998 issue of Illinois Libraries.952

In the decade that followed, LSTA grant funding rose steadily. In fiscal year 2007, the Illinois State Library distributed over $3.3 million to 493 grant applicants. Grants were offered in six categories:

  • Bridging the Gap Between Community and Collection, to fill needs of a particular community and its available non-fiction materials.
  • Bring in a Trainer, to help libraries educate citizens and staff.
  • Demonstration of Public Library Service, a traditional tactic of the State Library, to promote the expansion or creation of public library boundaries.
  • Developing a Statewide Technology Toolkit, to “en hance library services using new technologies.”
  • Digital Imaging for Libraries, to allow libraries to create electronic versions of materials and collections.
  • Emerging Technologies and Methodologies, to promote research, development, and implementation of new methods and strategies of library service.953