Programs of the Library in the Late 1960s

Other Illinois library personnel programs were also highlighted in the mid-1960s. A cooperative effort between the State Library and the Illinois Library Association resulted in the “New Trustees” Conference held in October 1965. This project helped new library trustees form a “vision of the significance of personal and civil responsibility,” as well as to discuss common library problems. The conference was a resounding success. Many were so impressed that they repeatedly asked, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” Based on the success of the initial effort, a second conference for new trustees of public libraries was held at Allerton House near Monticello in 1966. This institute dealt with such trustee issues as budgets, buildings, intellectual freedom, and public relations.614

By 1967, growth of the trustees outreach had evolved into a Trustee Consultant Program. Using a four-pronged plan of “coordination, cooperation, communication, and publication,” the program had three purposes:

  • “Assist library directors and trustees of public libraries and of system libraries in the state of Illinois.”
  •  “Provide planned conferences and workshops of instruction for trustees and librarians of local and system libraries.”
  •  “Keep such persons informed on new trends, national and state services, and developments designed to improve public library services.”

The consultant, a part-time position filled by an “experienced trustee,” collected data on trustee needs and profiles through questionnaires, surveys, and in meetings with individual library boards, which were also held to determine specific library concerns. The program was funded in both 1967 and 1968 before the duties of the trustee consultant were taken over by employees of the State Library’s Library Development staff.615

The topic of centralized processing was among the great concerns in that era of librarianship. In 1960, the Centralized Catalog Card Project at the Southern Illinois Regional Library, followed four years later by the establishment of the Oak Park Processing Center, were the first ventures into centralized processing by the State Library. This cooperative catalog building was hardly a new phenomenon. In 1939-40, the Alabama Public Library Service had opened a center for centralized processing, followed by the Georgia Division of Library Services’ cataloging card service five years later. The Library Services Act, and its subsequent amendment for construction purposes, led to state-run processing centers in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, and West Virginia. LSCA funds in 1965 also financed a centralized processing center in Texas, while some states, including Delaware and Wyoming, contracted with other agencies for similar purposes. In 1966, the Missouri State Library, on the wishes of its member libraries, assumed control of the Library Services Center of Missouri. Clearly, centralized processing was a national trend, and the Illinois State Library seemed ready to expand its own experimental programs in this area.616

The Oak Park Processing Center had been a moderately successful enterprise for the State Library. While member librarians were not always in agreement with the methods used by the center, most believed it provided worthwhile services. Still, there were problems. Although 47,000 volumes were processed during its first year of operation, a large backlog frustrated member libraries waiting for their books. The cost of $1.20 per volume also fell far short of actual expenses, which were closer to $3.30 per volume. As a result, the center fell into financial distress, and the State Library offered additional funding to ease the strain. During 1966-67, the center was subsidized at the rate of $1.66 per book.617

In 1966, the State Library sponsored a study through the Library Research Center to determine the feasibility of a single, state-operated centralized processing center. Questionnaires were sent to many public libraries in the state, with generally favorable responses. This led to the opening of a statewide center to handle the acquisition, preparation, cataloging, and processing of book materials – the Illinois Library Materials Processing Center, which opened in 1969 with a grant from the Library Services and Construction Act. The gradual phase-out of the Oak Park center began the previous year, and the new center opened in Rockford on Aug. 4, 1969.618

Subscribers to the services of the center were charged fees, which were supplemented with annual federal subsidies. Although the services were open to all libraries, most subscribers were public libraries and systems headquarters. As with the systems, the processing center eliminated duplication of tasks and offered a lower cost to each library than if they processed themselves. A uniform method of classification and cataloging resulted, which in turn aided in interlibrary loan processing. With improved automation as a goal, more technically advanced equipment was implemented to enhance production. Still, the financial health of the Illinois Library Materials Processing Center waned. In October 1970, the center’s administration referred to its financial condition as “very critical” and pleaded for more book orders to process. The commitment to centralized processing was one more way in which the State Library responded not only to national trends, but also to the influx of technology changing the face of librarianship in the 1960s.619

Another trend was a building boom of new library facilities in the state. Due in large part to the Library Services and Construction Act, many communities were now able to erect new library buildings, and as a result, hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans now enjoyed modern library facilities. Between 1965 and 1974, grants for 62 Illinois library construction projects were approved. These included 49 public libraries outside of Chicago, seven branches of the Chicago Public Library, and six systems headquarters. The grants affected 22 of Illinois’ 102 counties and 14 of the 18 systems. Twenty of the new public library buildings served communities of less than 10,000 people. The average grant represented 25 percent of the total building cost.620

The path to this boom began with the signing of House Bill 214 on Feb. 25, 1965. That bill authorized the State Librarian to accept federal funds for public library construction. A formal plan for disbursement of construction grants was submitted to the Library Services Branch of the Office of Education and approved on April 6, 1965. The Illinois State Library, with assistance from the State Library Advisory Committee and a Subcommittee on Library Construction, devised priorities for spending the funds. Separate buildings for systems headquarters were given top priority, followed by public libraries serving as systems headquarters. Libraries to serve the “disadvantaged” came next, followed by a system-member library that served a population of 25,000 or more. Such libraries serving populations of less than 25,000 were given less priority. In another sign of changing times, legal requirements on the environment, disabled access, and minimum building standards were all addressed.621

The State Library’s commitment to this building program was evidenced by the 1966 hiring of a building consultant to the State Library staff to offer advice and direction to librarians and trustees. On May 25-26, 1967, the State Library sponsored a federally funded Library Buildings Workshop in Rosemont, Illinois. The workshop discussed basic techniques and planning methods for improving library facilities. A secondary motive was to contribute to library planning, construction, and maintenance. Such topics as local cooperation, service needs, program statements, timing of projects, and necessary referendums were also covered. The State Library’s library building consultant position was abolished in 1968, although a building consultant was still a requirement for all applications. Federal construction funding was terminated in 1973, but the building program, and the money it provided, had been a major boost to Illinois libraries.622

Another federally funded workshop was held in Chicago on April 27-28, 1967, to address the needs of adult library users. The Adult Services Workshop was initiated and planned by State Library personnel in cooperation with the Public Library Section of the ILA, and was aimed at adult services librarians and public library administrators. Speakers included specialists from the American Library Association, the U.S. Office of Education, and major libraries from around the nation. Illinois public library trustees, systems directors, and librarians comprised discussion panels at the institute. The workshop covered special administrative needs, social concerns, and library programming in relation to adult services.623

The Chicago area was also the site of the Target Community Project, which used federal money for programs in four “no-library” suburbs southwest of Chicago. Projects in the towns of Robbins, Sauk Village, Crestwood, and East Chicago Heights, were intended to create “community-oriented plans to attract the culturally deprived in ‘no-library’ towns.” The name of the project came from a term used by the Office of Economic Opportunity for low-income communities and began in 1967.624

The State Library Career Caravan was a traveling exhibit promoting careers in library science.

The State Library Career Caravan was a traveling exhibit promoting careers in library science.

In Robbins, a storefront “neighborhood library” served as a center for activities that included tutoring, reading and study clubs, children’s classes on African-American history, and adult sewing clubs. In Sauk Village, a program was created to provide instruction in reading proficiency for preschool-age children with no local kindergarten. A donated house served as the Sauk Village project center. A former one-room schoolhouse in Crestwood was used for that community’s project, with a one-person staff and volunteer advisory committee. Supplementary bookmobile service enhanced the program in Crestwood.625

In East Chicago Heights, service began with nonwhite welfare residents and spread to communitywide services. Programs included an African-American heritage series for youth and displays of original art. The project, located in a community building, also administered two elementary school libraries. The Target Community Project was completed in 1970 and helped spur successful demonstration projects in future years.626

Two subsequent federally funded programs enhanced the Target Community Project. Operation Bootstrap was begun in Robbins in 1974, with Operation Read beginning the following year in East Chicago Heights. Both projects were initiated by the Suburban Library System and were intended to extend the taxable area of each community to fund the establishment of a public library. A system consultant helped convince local industry to annex taxing areas to achieve this goal, which was reached with the establishment of district libraries in Robbins in 1975 and in East Chicago Heights two years later. By the end of the 1970s, all four municipalities in the Target Community Project had established district libraries.627

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw an explosion of federally funded programs at the State Library. The increase was due to the great amount of funding appropriated by Congress in the 1966 and 1971 Library Services and Construction Act updates. (See Appendix A)