ILLINET Online

Automation remained a top priority as well. One key automation project that facilitated faster interlibrary loan service was the Library Circulation System, an online system of inventory control. LCS enabled users to check on shelf locations, copy numbers, and availability. The LCS was still in its infancy when it was introduced at the University of Illinois in 1978. Developed in Ohio and purchased from OCLC, the LCS system quickly gained favor in the Illinois library community. Data from OCLC was used to create many of the records in LCS. Both systems served useful purposes. OCLC offered detailed cataloging records, while LCS provided a quick check of inventory and availability.836

In 1979, federal funds were awarded to the University of Illinois for purchase of an LCS terminal to increase the capacity of the university’s automated circulation system and link the university library collections at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago Circle, and the Medical Center. That same year, the Illinois Board of Higher Education helped in the formation of a network of 14 libraries to share resources using the LCS system, and the State Library acquired an LCS terminal to participate in the new network. In 1980, the University of Illinois received another federal grant to convert LCS into a full online record catalog. The university also expanded the LCS network into academic libraries and eventually 40 such libraries joined, creating a consortium known as the Illinois Library Computer System Organization (ILCSO). The systems gained access to LCS in 1983. By the mid-1980s, the LCS system evolved into ILLINET Online (IO), which offered a statewide, computerized union catalog for most Illinois public, academic, and special libraries. In 1991, the State Library implemented IO.837

ILLINET Online offered the benefits of an online circulation system and an online union catalog. The circulation system included short, descriptive data (author, title, call number, shelf status) on 18 million books, periodicals, videos, and film held by the academic libraries of the LCS system. The online catalog, known as the Full Bibliographic Record, was comprised of complete descriptive information on the 5 million books, periodicals, videos, and film from more than 800 academic, public, special, and school libraries of Illinois and the 18 systems.838

Coupled with the Intersystems Library Delivery Service, patrons now had quick access to resources from practically every library in the state. Interlibrary loan requests made from the terminals usually resulted in delivery within three or four days. Now, Illinois residents had the library resources of the entire state at their fingertips. Hugh Atkinson, the longtime and highly respected head librarian at the University of Illinois, relayed an exchange with a university faculty member, who marveled at the speed of delivery for a requested book, as the university library was nearly a mile across campus from his office. Atkinson asked to see the book, which was not from the University of Illinois, but another college library nearly 200 miles from Urbana. The book was delivered so quickly that the faculty member had just assumed it was locally held.839

Another enthusiastic endorsement came from Phoebe Bormet, the librarian of Macomb Senior High School, who recalled “the magic of ILLINET Online:”

“In January 1989, when I saw my first IO demonstration at the Western Illinois University library, I sat spellbound watching titles scroll across the monitor, and I knew that I had to introduce my students and faculty to IO. There were two reasons….First, this statewide system would allow us to reach beyond our four walls and give us access to over 4 million titles. With a book budget that has remained the same for more years than I care to admit and with book costs constantly rising, we have moved backwards every year in purchasing power. Also, IO would give the users access to more academically challenging titles that I could ordinarily purchase….”840

Secretary of State Jim Edgar, far left, gets a hands-on view of the construction of the new State Library building.

Secretary of State Jim Edgar, far left, gets a hands-on view of the construction of the new State Library building.

The effort to bring IO to Macomb Senior High was easier said than done. Bormet recalled that “our library had no computer available” and had to apply for a LSCA grant to fund one. Next was the process of selecting the right type of equipment with the money in hand. But the benefits offered by IO made the effort worthwhile.841

The evolution of LCS was a landmark in the development of ILLINET and helped spur interest in multitype library systems. By the end of the 1980s, all types of libraries in Illinois would join the systems, completing another step in the development of multitype cooperation that Al Trezza envisioned throughout his tenure.