Still a Legislative Aid

While the State Library remained active in statewide library service development, it also expanded its role as an aid to state government. As the systems took on an increased role in statewide library service, the State Library refocused on its position in state government. Re-evaluation of its services began in early 1966, based on Standards for Library Functions at the State Level, as well as a report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Legislative Reference of the National Legislative Conference. The research director of the Legislative Council (a group consisting of selected members of both the Illinois House and Senate) was also involved, and the needs, service, staff, and housing of the council were examined. As a result, a new department, the Legislative Research Unit, was created within the State Library. This was the first time the library offered specialized services to state government. The express purposes of the new unit, according to Illinois Libraries, were:

  • To provide intensive and confidential reference service to legislative service agencies, to staff members of legislative service agencies, and to legislative commission staff and public members in person, by telephone, and by mail.
  • Answering or referring to the appropriate place reference questions received from the public by legislative service agencies.628

Other duties of the new Legislative Research Unit (LRU) were the compilation of abstracts, creation of special files, indexes, and bibliographies, attendance at hearings and other special meetings, staying current of legislative activities, trends, and problems, and anticipating research needs of the legislature. An early example was the involvement of the LRU in the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention. Two regular staff members were temporarily assigned to the “Con-Con,” and a key bibliography, The Constitution of Illinois: A Selective Bibliography, was created by the unit. The 171-page bibliography analyzed the constitutions of the state, and its related history, from 1818-1970. Another hallmark publication was the Index to the Transcripts of the Proceedings of the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention, a subject index produced solely by assistant legislative research librarian Mary Redmond. The two-part subject index allowed users to select from the debates of the convention, which spanned 28,000 typewritten pages.629

As the 1960s drew to a close, two events affected the future of the State Library. One was a change in the federal funding distribution. For much of the decade, the library had used federal and state funding for a variety of purposes. However, in 1968, the library adopted a policy of using federal funds only for library development. State funds, in turn, were used for State Library operations. Many of the programs sponsored by the library in 1968 and 1969 reflect this change in federal funds use.630

The year 1968 also saw an administrative change at the State Library. In July, de Lafayette Reid resigned as Deputy State Librarian after 12 years in charge of the library. During his tenure, the State Library underwent landmark changes, including development of library systems, and had redefined its role as the center of Illinois librarianship. Reid also worked successfully to improve relations with the Illinois Library Association and libraries around the state. The State Library experienced substantial growth and increased efficiency in its operations. Beloved in the Illinois library community, Reid, who accepted a position as associate professor in the Library School of Northern Illinois University, served as vice president of the ILA in 1968-69 and president the following year. His sudden death in 1970 at age 55 left many colleagues in mourning for their popular former leader.631

For over a year, James F. Beasley served in an acting capacity as Deputy State Librarian until a permanent replacement, Alphonse F. Trezza, was named on Oct. 16, 1969. Trezza was no stranger to Illinois librarians, having been active in the promotion and development of library systems as chairman of the Legislative Library Development Committee of the ILA, a position he had held since 1963. He was executive secretary of the American Library Association from 1960 to 1968 and associate executive director for Administrative Services of the ALA in 1968-69.632

Trezza’s entrance came with a new title – Director of the Illinois State Library – and at an important time in the library’s history. de Lafayette Reid had overseen the birth and development of library systems. Now it was up to Trezza to take the library into a new era of interlibrary cooperation in the state. The 1960s had been a decade of accomplishment and optimism for the State Library, but even greater things lay ahead in the 1970s.633