The Move and the Dedication

As the completion date neared, plans were made to move the State Library’s collection. It proved a mammoth undertaking. In addition to quarters for 120 employees, the 5 million items of the collection needed relocation. There was also the question of continuing service; how would the library remain open in the midst of a move? And how could the move be made without disrupting the other state offices in the Centennial Building? The library’s Chief Deputy Director, Marlene Deuel, was well aware of the challenge. “Our eyes just sort of glaze over when we think of it as a whole,” said Deuel in March 1989. “We can’t look at the big picture. We have to view it in tiny steps.”891

A committee of eight State Library employees was appointed to oversee the move. A professional moving company with expertise in documents transfer was hired, but library employees organized the move themselves. Relocating one of the largest state library collections in the nation (stacked in a single line, the library’s collection would have spanned 15 miles) was indeed a heady challenge.892

The mover, the William B. Meyer Company of Connecticut (working in conjunction with Kenny Meyers Movers of Springfield), had moved such libraries as Yale University, Boston College, Colorado State University, and the University of North Carolina. No moving company in the United States had as much experience in moving libraries as did Meyer. The Illinois State Library move proved the largest library project in company history. Every day, movers were to fill 120 carts that had been specially designed to fit easily in between shelves. The carts were then loaded onto trucks, which could hold 35 carts of material. Included in the move were all documents, the huge map collection, and microfilm and microfiche that measured in tons. Each step of the move was done with painstaking organization, to ensure that holdings would be quickly shelved in the new building and that patron needs for specific material could be easily met. The work was physically grueling and described as “a boring, menial, and dirty job.”893

Dedication ceremonies for the new State Library building on June 20, 1990.

Dedication ceremonies for the new State Library building on June 20, 1990.

A total of 9,000 carts – and 250 trucks – were filled with printed material. Some of the holdings were packaged well in advance of the actual move. It was determined that library service could not be interrupted at any point, and the library was never shut down during the move. Thanks to the proximity of the new building, and organization of human services, any item requested during the move could be retrieved within 20 minutes. That service never was halted is a testament to the wise planning and dedication of the workers of the State Library. The entire move cost $189,000.894

The relocation was a long time in coming for State Library staff members, who met the change with a mixture of happiness and relief. The May-June 1990 issue of Top Shelf, the library’s in-house newsletter, offered a sampling of those who were “joyfully anticipating” the move:

  • “A new inner ambition which will help my morale and inspiration as I deal with the patrons.”
  • “My own work area, my own phone. A beautiful environment of carpeting, glass walls, Italian marble, the atrium.”
  • “A dust-free environment and no fuzz balls rollin’ around.”
  • “Good service to the public and other systems. A pleasing place to work.”
  • “A place to put my lunch in the refrigerator!”
  • “Just getting there!”
  • “Windows. Clean carpet. Clean paint. Clean, period!”
  • “Finding my desk.”895
The art collection of the DuPage Library System.

The art collection of the DuPage Library System.

The new State Library building was dedicated in a gala celebration attended by over 3,000 people on June 20, 1990. With music from the Springfield Municipal Band and colors presented by Boy Scout Troop 62 of Carlinville, a succession of dignitaries headed by Secretary of State Jim Edgar offered their remarks. Edgar’s comments summarized the respect – both traditional and modern – reflected in the essence of the building.896

“On the outside, it pays tribute to our past. Its carvings salute great Illinois writers of yesterday and today. Its architecture salutes the century-old Capitol and other buildings nearby. Inside is a computerage doorway to worldwide information. Your key to this building is any library card issued by any public library in Illinois.”897

Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, whose name was among those adorned in stone, graced the occasion with an original poem. The State Journal-Register reported that Brooks “lifted the proceedings above the usual government ribbon-cutting.”

“To me, the word library has, since my childhood, a special radiance. The library was a wide, high structure with mighty accommodations. There was allowance in it for all the sort of delights, sightings, strides, detours, and departures of life. It is a treasury of art, science, and technology. To have my name celebrated by the great library of the state is a major radiance in my life.”898