Interlibrary Cooperation and Automation

Interlibrary cooperation and restrictions on circulation were dominant themes at the State Library in 1970, but it was automation that would become its major issue. Circulation had been computerized in 1966, with other departments gradually following suit. In 1970, an automated purchasing system was introduced through Baker and Taylor, one of the primary wholesalers in the book market. The Baker and Taylor Automated Buying Program (BATAB) helped streamline State Library operations. The new system meant better ordering processes, including regular, computer-generated book order history reports. Also in 1970, the library’s traditional combined catalog, listing author, title, and subject headings, was discontinued. In its place came a catalog divided into pre-1970 and post-1970 holdings. Another change came with the abandonment of the Cutter Sanborn numbers for cataloging. This second line under the Dewey Decimal Classifications was now simplified with a system of alphabetical “cutters” adopted in its place.649

Federally funded programs of the era reflected an emphasis on library cooperation and automation technologies. In February 1970, federal funds sponsored an institute in Chicago, “It’s Time to Get Ready: What Illinois Special Libraries Need to Know about Interlibrary Cooperation in Illinois.” This focused on the needs of special libraries, such as correctional facilities, hospitals, and other institutions. The institute, held in six consecutive evenings, was a joint effort of the State Library and the Illinois Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. Benefits and barriers to special libraries in interlibrary cooperation were discussed, resulting in recommendations for special library personnel and management. It offered ways to learn about library resources within the state and directives to help special librarians become involved in planning for statewide cooperation.650

Special libraries and their personnel received even more emphasis as the decade progressed. Special librarians helped with planning that led to the creation of the Illinois Regional Library Council. The Illinois Chapter of the Special Library Association formed a committee to exchange information about interlibrary cooperation. Special librarians also became more involved in committees appointed by the State Librarian.651

Formation of the Illinois Regional Council was initiated by the Illinois Library Association and the subject of a 1971 federally funded project. The concept of a council to promote library cooperation had its origins in a paper by Orin Nolting of the Public Service Administration. The council, formed on July 12, 1971, and composed of Chicagoland libraries, became a planning and coordinating agency. Its dual objectives were to administer ongoing multitype library cooperation in the Chicago area and to improve access to information in the council area. Member libraries included public, academic, and special libraries in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. Dues were supplemented by federal monies.652

The Illinois Regional Council evaluated library collection strengths, promoted effective use of area library resources, and created efficient methods of information transfer and library materials delivery. The council also provided the opportunity for member librarians to exchange concerns, ideas, and opinions. This successful program was known for its innovations, including the Information Passport Program, commonly known as Infopass, which went into effect on Jan. 10, 1973. Infopass allowed library users to access previously inaccessible materials. The council also spawned similar collective organizations, such as the Illinois Valley Library System, a group of libraries in the Peoria area that engaged in cooperative efforts (see Appendix A).653

While many projects looked at library operations, interlibrary cooperation and user need were the focus of a 1970 SERD study. The project, “An Assessment and a Plan of Action for Interlibrary Cooperation in the State of Illinois,” reviewed existing cooperative activities and their future development potential. Factors including professional attitudes, problems with legal jurisdictions, policies, and practices were examined, and recommendations were made to enhance interlibrary cooperation.654

In addition, the State Library funded projects to implement automation. The first study in automation for the State Library came in 1970 and was intended to determine the cost effectiveness and service value of the existing automated circulation system. The “Illinois State Library Data Processing Study,” prepared by Becker and Hayes, Inc., recommended changing to a less expensive system. As a result, the circulation system, after much investigation, was switched to an automated system produced by Computer Library Systems, Inc. (CLSI). This was only one way in which State Library staffers were involved in the recommendation and implementation of improved technology. A 1970 staff study led to the funding of a test project for BATAB. In 1972-73, Becker and Hayes were again commissioned to examine the State Library’s switch to a system of machine-readable files. Their recommendations led, ultimately, to an affiliation with the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC) in 1974, which would be of great benefit to Illinois library users.655

Certainly, the late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of great transition at the State Library. A network of library systems had been introduced and implemented, and direct service to Illinois residents discontinued. The role of the State Library as a legislative aid was reaffirmed, and the focus of the library changed from a facilitator of free library service to coordination and oversight.