Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, was a good day for me. After weeks of anticipation, I finally received a letter from the Illinois State Library about my application to produce the Illinois State Library Heritage Project. Fortunately for me, I was awarded the project.
The excitement of that first day was the beginning of a rewarding and enriching experience. It was a privilege to compile the history of the Illinois State Library, and part of the enjoyment was the opportunity to meet dozens of wonderful people. A project of this scale is never done alone, and the list of those who helped me is a long one indeed.
The staff of the Illinois State Library was warm and welcoming and always available to assist me with anything I needed. Their professionalism, courtesy, and skill ensure that Illinois librarianship is in good hands. I had the opportunity to work with many of them and each one deserves my thanks. The list starts at the top with Director Anne Craig, and includes Pat Norris, Karen Egan, Kathleen Bloomberg, Pat McGuckin, Greg McCormick, Marti Martin, Nancy Krah, Helen Knecht, Dan Dixon, Alyce Scott, Donna Mayberry, Raymond Collins, Francie LaCamera, DeeAnn Powless, Arlyn Booth, Vicki Strohm, Ethel Snyder, Jeanne Urbanek, and others that I probably forgot to mention who deserve credit as well. There was never a time that I did not enjoy visiting the Illinois State Library and working with its wonderful people.
When I ventured away from the State Library, I was able to work with more great people in other great places such as the Illinois State Archives. The Archives staff, including John Reinhardt, Stacey Skeeters, Jim Ladd, and Ryan Prehn, were always fast, friendly, and highly competent. They all spent a lot of time fielding my requests for box after box of material and always did it with a smile. I especially appreciate Reinhardt’s help in scanning the photos of the past Secretaries of State that hang in the upstairs conference rooms. At the Archives, I also had the opportunity to work with Elaine Evans, and I always enjoyed my meetings with Dr. Wayne Temple, one of the great gentlemen of the Illinois historical community.
Elsewhere in Springfield, I also owe debts of gratitude to Jan Perone and Debbie Ross, the fine staff of the newspaper department of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, as well as Mary Michals of the ALPLM’s audio-visual department and Kathryn Harris, the ALPLM’s director. I also appreciate the efforts of Mark Johnson and Chet Rhodes of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
My thanks also are due to the surviving past directors of the Illinois State Library, Bridget Lamont and Jean Wilkins, who courteously spent much time and effort during in-depth interviews with me. I am also indebted to de Lafayette Reid III, the son of the late de Lafayette Reid, Jr., who served as head of the library from 1954 to 1968. The younger Reid offered me much insight into the man who is still remembered as “Laf” with great affection. My thanks and sympathy also extend to Mildred Trezza, the wife of the late Alphonse Trezza, the dynamic director of the State Library from 1969 to 1975. Mr. Trezza’s death during the later stages of this project was a poignant moment both in the history of the library and in my work. Mr. Trezza’s son-in-law, Jim Johnston, and granddaughter, Julie Milavec, provided much insight in their own interviews.
Stanley Adams, a longtime former State Library employee, was particularly generous with his time. Marie Halcli, the widow of longtime (and beloved) State Library employee Albert Halcli (a close friend of Mr. Adams), was equally courteous. Another relative was Agnes Hembreiker, the sister-in-law of former State Library Director Helene Rogers, who went out of her way to answer all questions I had.
Mark Sorensen of the State Archives spent a great deal of time giving me tours of past State Library facilities and fielding countless e-mail requests for more information. His 1999 series of articles on the library proved invaluable in my research. Mark introduced me to Steve Dyer, recognized by many as the authority on the history of the current Illinois State Capitol. After talking to him for a while, I saw why. Steve’s engaging personality and never-ending wealth of sources made my work all the more pleasant.
Others who deserve mention, and much more than this space allows, include Taylor Pensoneau, Amanda McKay, Karon King, Carolyn Sandidge, Elizabeth Hardy, Kristine Hammerstrand, Robert McClarren, Jane Running, Leah Broaddus of the Southern Illinois University Archives, John Tilford of the University of the South Archives, the University of Illinois Archives, the Northern Illinois University Library, the California State Library, the Maine State Library, the Mississippi State Library, and the directors of the Illinois regional library systems for their help and enthusiasm in this project.
I also want to recognize Chris Schuefele and David Hine of After Hours Development, who are the designers of the Web site that accompanies this project. I tried to warn both of them about what they were getting into and probably understated it. But they always brought a professional approach, a wide flexibility, and a multitude of skills to every meeting, phone call, and e-mail that I threw at them. These young men have an impressive portfolio of credits, and having worked with them, it’s easy to see why. They are rising stars in their field, and I was lucky to get them for this project when I had the chance.
My project team also deserves much thanks. My good friend Carol Schaefer, director of Lumpkin Library at Blackburn College, first made the suggestion that I pursue this project, and that she would serve as project director. In no way would this project have been possible, let alone successful, without Carol. She is usually underappreciated in her role as Lumpkin Library director, but not by me. And she will never be underappreciated by me for what she has meant to the Illinois State Library Heritage Project.
Similarly, I also appreciate the time and guidance offered by Jeff Aper, provost of Blackburn College, for the duration of this project. Few people care more about Blackburn than Dr. Aper, and I am grateful for having such a friend in Blackburn administration. In addition, my project advisors, Curtis Mann and Edward Russo, were there from start to finish.
Last, and certainly not least, I owe much to my mother, Janice Emery, who has always provided her love and support to my endeavors. She was there for me this time as well.
– Tom Emery