Legislative and Interlibrary Loan Practice

While the Illinois Library Extension Commission was charged with much of this work, the State Library was kept busy as a result of it. In 1910, Maude Thayer reported on the continued growth of library holdings; the number of acquisitions in the previous two years was 4,188 and in 1912 was 3,155. The library was fast running out of room to shelve their new volumes. Periodicals also remained in great demand. In her 1912 report, Thayer noted an “ever-widening demand for periodical literature” that “warrants a constant extension of the list of periodicals purchased,” warning that “a larger fund for the purchase of books and periodicals is recommended to meet the growing demand.” The legislature listened and $2,900 annually – an increase of $900 – was appropriated for fiscal years 1913 and 1914.173

The library also continued to serve the needs of the lawmakers, which was reflected with the creation of the Legislative Reference Bureau. Approved by the General Assembly on June 26, 1913, the LRB, as it would be known,  was composed of the Governor, the chairmen of the Appropriations Committees of both the Illinois House and Senate, and the chairmen of the Judiciary Committees of both chambers. The purpose of the LRB was to collect and keep “laws, reports, books, periodicals, documents, catalogues, check-lists, digests, summaries of the laws of other states,” and any related material for use of the General Assembly.174

The State Library was to cooperate with the LRB and “make the facilities of the library accessible…for the use of the reference bureau and…loan to said reference bureau and books, periodicals, reports, or other printed or written material” of the library. A secretary was to be appointed to handle the administrative duties of the reference bureau at a salary “not to exceed $5,000 per annum,” a sum far greater than the earnings of any library staffer. Although the act creating the LRB expressly defined the role of the library in assisting the needs of the General Assembly, the act was repetitive in many ways. The State Library had served the legislature since its inception, something not changed by the LRB. The needs of the General Assembly would continue to be served by the library despite its increasing mission as a repository for public information exchange.175

This period also marked substantial changes in library staff and administration. In 1914, Thayer was replaced by Eva May Fowler, who remained in the position for seven years. Practically all other library staff turned over during this time as well. After June 15, 1914, all staff vacancies were to be filled by civil service appointment. Five such appointees were hired, greatly increasing the available staff. But the most significant change came with the implementation of the Dewey Decimal Classification System beginning Feb. 1, 1913. Named for the famed librarian of the New York State Library, the system remains in practice today. The Illinois State Library made the decision to combine its three catalogs – General, State, and United States Documents – into one for means of convenience. The imposing task of converting the inventory to the Dewey Decimal System took several years. 176

The workload of the staff was also soaring, largely due to the increasing exchange of information with other libraries and with patrons from around the state. In her 1914 report, Fowler correctly predicted this trend would continue and called for more “vertical files for increased correspondence, {which} are greatly needed as a result of our inter-library and special loans.” She noted the expenditure for “16 sections of steel wall stacks for the reading and reference room, 9 sections of steel wall stacks and 15 sections of floor stacks for the space formerly occupied by the reference room and office.” Two large oak magazine racks, used to help display the 160 periodicals and 15 daily newspapers on hand, were also acquired, as were “two 60-tray catalogue cases.” Still, she stressed that “more shelving is needed for books on hand as well as for the increase of the next two years.”177

The library was taking on these additional responsibilities not only with a minimum of staff, but also with far less money than other state libraries. The state libraries of Nevada and Louisiana, both far younger than that of Illinois’, had over 10 times the funding, while the California State Library had over 12 times the income. The income of the Illinois State Library also paled in comparison with its counterparts in Indiana and Iowa, both of which had nearly five times more money to spend.178

In addition, the size of the collection was still smaller, ranking in the bottom quarter among all state libraries. The Illinois State Library did not even rank among the top 10 largest libraries in its own state in the size of its collection. Although state libraries were commonly smaller than other libraries, particularly those of large universities, the discrepancy was more pronounced in Illinois, where the State Library did not even have the largest collection in its own city. That distinction belonged to Lincoln Library, the public library of Springfield.179

In 1914, Fowler reported on a letter sent from the Illinois State Library “to the citizens of Illinois” as an announcement about the library’s changing mission. Encouraged by the Library Extension Commission, the library intended to change its role from a government repository into a reading center for the people of the state.

“The Library will be glad to arrange with libraries in other towns or cities, or with schools or other institutions in places where there is no public library, for inter-library loans. Requests for such loans must in all cases come from the institution, not from the individual, and the asking institution is held responsible for the safety of the volume and for the cost of transportation. Persons who desire books for study should, therefore, make arrangements with their local libraries or schools to request and secure them. In places where there is no institution able or willing to do this service, this library lends, at cost of transportation, to study clubs or students who are able to furnish proper security. Study club programs or bibliographies will be gladly received and kept on file for future reference.” 180

The interlibrary loan practice described in Fowler’s 1914 letter is still in use today. The Illinois State Library had become a statewide hub for information exchange, a role that grew progressively more important in the years to come.