Multitype cooperation is the hallmark of the Alphonse Trezza era at the State Library. In his six years as State Library Director (1969-75), Trezza recognized the value of all types of libraries, paving the way for the establishment of the Illinois Library and Information Network (ILLINET).
Trezza sought to include multitype libraries with the same force of will and determination that defined his managerial style. Remembered as the “Iron Duke” by the Springfield State Journal-Register, Trezza required all employees to address him as “Mr. Trezza.” But beneath his authoritarian exterior was a warm, engaging man who is fondly remembered by his former employees. 1
Born Dec. 27, 1920, Trezza’s devotion to libraries began at an early age. From 1940 to 1941, he worked as a page in the newspaper department at the Free Library of Philadelphia, one of the nation’s largest public libraries. From 1942 to 1945, he was a navigator in the U.S. Air Force, earning the rank of first lieutenant. Trezza returned from the war and resumed his work at the Free Library of Philadelphia, serving as library assistant in the Blind Department from 1945 to 1948. 2
In 1948, Trezza earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and the following year received a library certificate from Drexel University. In 1950, he received a master of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He continued his work at the Philadelphia Public Library as a library assistant in the Government Documents Department in 1948-49 before moving to Villanova University, where he served as assistant reference librarian and cataloger in 1949-50. 3
Despite his relative youth, Trezza became a respected leader in Philadelphia librarianship. From 1950 to 1956, he was head of the Circulation Department at Villanova while serving as an instructor in the Department of Library Science. He also lectured in the Graduate Department of Library Science at Drexel from 1951 to 1960. From 1956 to 1960, he also served as executive director of the Catholic Library Association and edited the association’s newsletter, Catholic Library World. His achievements helped him land the position of associate executive director of the American Library Association in 1960, a position he held for seven years. During that time, he was also executive secretary of the Library Administrative Division of the ALA. 4
By the late 1960s, Trezza had moved to Lombard, Illinois, and in 1967 was named associate executive director for Administrative Services of the ALA. He also became active in the passage of Robert Rohlf’s Plan for Public Library Development in Illinois. The Library Development Committee of the Illinois Library Association was given authority for distributing information and writing the legislation for the Rohlf Plan, with Trezza serving as committee chairman. In doing so, Trezza helped ensure the legislative success of the plan, which revolutionized Illinois librarianship. 5
In late 1969, Trezza was appointed Director of the State Library and established himself as a politically astute taskmaster. He abolished the patronage system of job hiring for the library and required all workers to rotate among departments, thereby providing military-style cross training. But he also endeared himself to his employees with his personal touch, often holding large staff parties at his Springfield home. 6
Visitors to the Trezza home in Springfield were treated to his extensive personal library, which numbered over 4,000 volumes. The size of the library dictated which homes the Trezzas could buy, as they were forced to decline several prospective houses due to their inability to “accommodate the books.” As Trezza’s wife laughed, “we buy our houses to fit our books.” The well-balanced collection included books on education, religion, history, social science, cooking, fiction, children’s books, encyclopedias, and various periodicals. The library, arranged by the Dewey Decimal System, was open to friends and neighbors, who could borrow books from the collection by simply signing them out. 7
Trezza left the State Library in 1975, accepting the position of executive director of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS). His national stature continued to grow with a subsequent appointment as director of the Intergovernmental Library Cooperation Project of the Federal Library Committee, Library of Congress and NCLIS from 1980 to 1982. An active force in the American Library Association, Trezza was elected to the ALA Council in 1971 and to the ALA Executive Board two years later. 8
During his many travels, Trezza maintained an interest in teaching and served as lecturer in summer sessions in library science, including stints on the graduate level at the University of Illinois (1973), Catholic University (1975-82), and Texas Woman’s University (1978). In 1982, he was named to the faculty of the School of Library and Information Studies at Florida State University. He remained at Florida State for 11 years, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1993. 9
Throughout his career, Trezza remained a strong voice in American librarianship. He contributed to over 20 books, authored dozens of articles on library science, and was in great demand as a speaker. In 2007, the American Library Association awarded Trezza an honorary lifetime membership, the highest honor bestowed by the ALA and the crowning achievement in a library career that spanned nearly seven decades. Following a lengthy illness, Trezza died at his home in Tallahassee, Florida on July 15, 2009, survived by his wife and two children. 10
Trezza instilled his love of librarianship in his family, with several following in his footsteps in library science. His sonin-law, Jim Johnston, was formerly the head librarian at Joliet (Illinois) Public Library. Johnston’s daughter (Trezza’s granddaughter), Julie Milavec, is the head librarian at Plainfield (Illinois) Public Library. Trezza’s legacy lives on not only in his family but also in the multitype library network and the warm devotion that his former employees still feel for “Mr. Trezza.” 11
- State Journal-Register May 17, 1980; Interview with Nancy Krah; Interview with Vicky Strohm.
- Professional Vita of Alphonse F. Trezza, 2; Illinois Libraries Dec. 1969, 856.
- Illinois Libraries Jan. 1967, 13-16; Professional Vita of Alphonse F. Trezza, 2; Chicago Tribune Oct. 19, 1969.
- Interview with Nancy Krah; Interview with Vicky Strohm; Interview with Arlyn Booth.
- State Journal-Register Feb. 12, 1971.
- Professional Vita of Alphonse Trezza, 2; Illinois Nodes Oct. 15, 1974, 1, June 20, 1975, 1.
- Professional Vita of Alphonse Trezza, 1.
- Interview with Jim Johnston; Interview with Julie Milavec.