Other Declarations in Meeting the Challenge

“Building on strength” was the basis for a grant of 10 cents per capita for each system to purchase “nonduplicate, adult nonfiction materials to be freely used through reciprocal borrowing and interlibrary loans.” Main entry catalog cards for each book purchased were to be submitted to the State Library to determine the subjects of new titles ordered, the strength of the new titles, and how many duplicate titles existed statewide. Area grants for the systems were increased from $15 per square mile to $18 in 1972, with per capita grants rising from 40 to 50 cents.706

The State Library also promised to seek annual appropriations for “the residents of state institutions who have the same right to library service as other residents of the state.” The same was said for the state’s 111,140 visually and physically handicapped residents. The Department of Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Chicago Public Library was to be strengthened. Development of “subregionalization” of service to the systems – such as the Bur Oak and Shawnee systems projects of 1969 – was planned, with a goal of 30 percent of eligible users as active borrowers within five years. By November 1971, 12 of the 18 library systems held sub-depositories, with five more systems planning for addition.707

Increased and better utilization of system manpower was also key, with one staff member serving each 1,500 persons as the minimum desired standard. The State Library encouraged programs while increasing library training and better-prepared library staff. Public relations campaigns and outreach programs increased. Continuing education received more focus, which along with research to provide accurate data on library problems, were answers to “new ways of meeting challenges of service.” Implementation of Public Library Standards was encouraged, since “almost no library in the state meets all of the standards set by the Illinois Library Association.” Improved access to State Library service was planned in 1972 with a “statewide library card” for borrowers.708

An older model computer used by library systems personnel with a punch card.

An older model computer used by library systems personnel with a punch card.

Meeting the Challenge also sought to “make library service universally available and universally supported.” Project PLUS (Promoting Larger Units of Service) was developed by the State Library in 1972 to encourage the creation of public library districts, an old topic in Springfield. But Project PLUS also offered a fresh prospective with needed financial aid. Under Project PLUS, the state provided funds equal to income from 12 cents tax rate against the assessed valuation of any municipality without library service. In turn, the library system was to provide library materials at the rate of 50 cents per capita for the population of the area to be served, not presently taxed for library service. However, in order to receive these funds, any municipality involved had to agree to a hold a referendum to form a district library within nine months of  the beginning of the project. If the referendum was successful, a grant for the same amount was available for the second year. This renewal was to enable newly formed districts to levy and collect taxes to support the library. If the referendum failed, the project closed at the end of the first year.709

To qualify for Project PLUS, the minimum assessed valuation was $45 million with a minimum population of 10,000. A total of $500,000 was set aside for Project PLUS upon its establishment. Grants were to be awarded only to areas where tax-supported libraries did not exist, although existing libraries were encouraged to participate in an effort to consolidate with unserved areas or annex unserved territories.710

Construction grants were subject to Title II of the Library Services and Construction Act, with top priority given to libraries that served as system headquarters,    followed by a system member library serving a population of more than 10,000. Central or branch libraries in urban renewal projects were next in priority, followed by system member libraries serving less than 10,000 in population. Each construction project was to have “a qualified, registered architect and a library building consultant.” Each building was to meet specific requirements, including disabled access and safety from flood losses.711

Many Illinois municipalities took part in Project PLUS, and the program was highly successful. In its first seven years, 35 demonstration projects in Illinois were begun under Project PLUS and were located in seven of the 18 systems. From 1972 to 1993, 110 of 152 Project PLUS referenda were approved, a success rate of 72 percent. After decades of trying, the State Library had finally succeeded in widespread growth of library service through public library districts. In 1980, Illinois Libraries aptly reported that, “every Project PLUS success reduces the total number of persons in the state who do not have access to library service.”712

The State Library also set goals for itself in Meeting the Challenge. Atop the list was continued development as a government informational center. Based on increasing demand, a collection of 722,000 volumes was planned by 1975, which meant acquisition of at least 30,000 volumes per year. An updated State Library Acquisition Policy was reprinted in Illinois Libraries in March 1971. Selection of materials addressed demand, value, and format, with consideration for:

  • Major reference works, encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and bibliographies.
  • “Outstanding, indexed periodicals which give general coverage to the subject.”
  • General treatises.
  • Collected writings of major authors in the area.
  • “A highly selective, discriminating collection of modern writings.”713

“Selective collection” included religion, literature, and language, and differentiated from a “collection intermediate in depth” in the fields of law, medicine, art, and music. In addition, selection of out-of-state documents was to be made on the “same principles followed in the book selection.” A new building was again urgently requested by State Library administration. The staff of 152 was severely cramped in the Centennial Building, and more workers could not be hired for lack of space. Development of the State Library as a Research and Reference Center was another objective of Meeting the Challenge.714

The State Library candidly admitted that it was “unlikely that all of the implications” of Meeting the Challenge could be reached in five years. Meeting the Challenge was updated each year for over a decade (while retaining the same five-year long-range plans), but maintained most of the subject matter presented in 1972. The State Library, seeking appropriations to pay for the plan, had positioned itself as a “liaison” to the General Assembly on behalf of Illinois libraries. And Meeting the Challenge was expressly dedicated “to the people of Illinois.”715