A Change in Style with Bridget Lamont

While the State Library was riding a crest of success, there were some nagging issues. In the spring of 1984, it was revealed that a federal audit had raised questions on over $6 million of Library Services and Construction Act funds the State Library had spent. The audit, conducted by the U.S. Inspector General’s Chicago office, accused the state of failing to follow federal guidelines for LSCA distribution between July 1977 and December 1980. Much of the money was spent on Title I programs, including automation, but the audit claimed the expenditures were for “inappropriate projects” that did not concur with federal guidelines. A total of $2.6 million was disallowed immediately, including $730,000 spent by four libraries after deadlines for using the funds had expired. Another $3.6 million for other projects was also called into question. The state’s financial and administrative controls were deemed insignificant by the audit, which echoed the 1982 management survey that found such internal procedures to be lacking.829

State Library officials contested the audit, noting that all expenditures were approved in advance by the U.S. Education Department. Gesterfield testified at an Illinois State Library Advisory Committee meeting in March 1983 that the confusion resulted from the library’s belief that allotted funds only had to be encumbered, while the Inspector General was arguing that all funds had to actually be spent. They were not alone; officials of the Indiana and Hawaii state libraries were simultaneously appealing findings from their own audits. But Illinois State Library administrators were highly frustrated at the nature of the dispute, which dragged on for months and proved to be a public-relations problem for the library.830

Although the matter was resolved in the late 1980s when the contested amount was forgiven by presidential order, the strain of the investigation was the last straw for Kay Gesterfield. Her eight-year tenure as State Library Director came to an end with her retirement on April 15, 1983. Although she had little taste for the political dealings of her job, Gesterfield excelled in the social aspects, which endeared her to subordinates and the Illinois library community. Although unable to escape the long shadow cast by Alphonse Trezza, Gesterfield quietly provided stable leadership in a time of great growth and transition at the State Library.831

Gesterfield’s recently appointed deputy director, Bridget Lamont, was appointed on an interim basis while a search committee was appointed to find a permanent successor. However, the searchers did not have to go far. Lamont had demonstrated her capabilities through her good work in various State Library consulting positions and in library development before ascending to deputy director. All of this made her a prime candidate for the job of Director of the State Library. June 20, 1983 was Lamont’s first day in the position on a full-time basis. Her intense, business-first approach differed from Gesterfield’s managerial style, but Lamont’s politically astute focus and drive would push the library to new heights – and into a new home.832

Among Lamont’s first acts as Director was implementing the recommendations from the 1982 survey of Cresap, McCormick, and Paget. She also threw herself headfirst into the development of multitype networking. Many years later, Lamont recalled the State Library’s dedication to multitype networking in emphatic terms.833

“The commitment of the Illinois State Library staff to the concept and promotion of ILLINET as a multitype network permeated everything we did and how we did it. We had the resources of nearly 3,000 libraries, and it was all for one, and one for all.

“From delivery programs to interlibrary loan, from cooperative programs and continuing education, and from collection development to online access, everything was done with developing a multitype library network in mind. And we were fortunate to have great leadership in each of our top libraries. They were willing to use their position, clout, and ability to make everyone see that multitype was the way to go.”834

The goal of multitype networking evolved into plans to convert the library systems to multitype, made up of public, academic, school, and special libraries. Although all types of libraries were now a part of ILLINET, the systems themselves remained governed by public libraries. As Albert Halcli recalled in 1990, “the library systems had become multitype in all but name and governance.” In 1980, the ILA’s Committee on Multitype Organizations/Systems (COMLOS) issued a report calling for legal recognition of the systems as multitype and for representation of all types of libraries on system boards. The succinct charge from COMLOS was “Go forth and multitype.” On Sept. 17, 1983, Governor Thompson signed the Multitype Library System Bill into effect. Not only was the law intended to improve public library service, it was another step in the cooperation of all types of libraries to share resources. The conversion to multitype was voluntary, and could not take place until 51 percent of a system’s public libraries, serving at least 51 percent of the population, gave their approval. That appeared not to be a problem, as six systems, led by the Illinois Valley Library System, converted to multitype by 1985. In 1991, the Standards for the Services of Illinois Multitype Library Systems were approved by the Illinois State Library Advisory Committee as all 18 systems had made the conversion by the previous year.835