Bridget Lamont served as Director of the Illinois State Library for 16 years (1983-99). Only one person, Helene Rogers (1935-54), has held the post for longer. During Lamont’s tenure, the State Library reached unprecedented levels of national respect and gained a new home.
A native of Wilmette, Illinois, Lamont earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1970. She then received an Illinois State Library Scholarship to complete a Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science in 1972. Early in her career, Lamont worked at the public libraries of Wilmette, Evanston, and Champaign, as well as the library of the National College of Education in Evanston. She came to Springfield in 1972 but found no opportunities in her specialty, child and adolescent library science. However, Lamont was hired by the State Library as a professional assistant, a position in which she “worked as needed.” It was an inauspicious beginning to a storied 27-year career for Lamont at the State Library. 1
However, Lamont steadily rose through the ranks. For two years beginning in 1973, she edited Illinois Nodes, the newsletter of the State Library. From 1974 to 1979, she served as a consultant in interlibrary cooperation and children’s services before being appointed associate director of Library Development from 1979 to 1981. 2
In December 1981, Lamont was appointed deputy director and was named acting director upon Kay Gesterfield’s retirement in 1983. A search committee was subsequently appointed to locate a permanent director. Lamont’s commendable work record, vision, and politically astute nature made her a prime candidate for the position, and she took over as Director of the State Library on June 20, 1983. 3
Lamont and newly elected Secretary of State Jim Edgar proved a formidable team. Together, they pushed the State Library to new heights, including never-before-seen levels of service and funding both in the Illinois library community and among other state libraries. Lamont focused on fostering multitype cooperation and the continued implementation of technology. Literacy and preservation of documents were also key themes during Lamont’s tenure.
But construction of a new library building was arguably her major accomplishment. On June 20, 1990 – seven years to the day into her tenure as Director – the dedication of a new State Library building was held. Lamont’s influence in the building is evident in many design elements, such as the location of the main entrance and accessibility ramps.
She remained in her position under Edgar’s successor, George Ryan, overcoming budget woes and introducing other important programs, including satellite conferences, the Institutes for Small Public Library Management and School and Public Libraries, as well as additional automation applications. Among Lamont’s proudest achievements was the library staff’s successful organization of the 1991 Illinois White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services.
Lamont left the State Library in 1999 to accept an appointment by newly elected Governor George Ryan as director of Policy Development. She remained active in national library affairs and retained memberships in the American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association. Lamont, her husband, Tom, and family remained in Springfield. 4
- Illinois Nodes July 1983, 1; Illinois Insight Jan.-Feb. 1999, 3; Interview with Bridget Lamont.
- Illinois Nodes July 1983, 1.
- Interview with Bridget Lamont; Illinois Insight Jan.-Feb. 1999, 3.