In just over 24 hours, 10,000 library fans sent more than 20,000 e-mails to the offices of Governor Quinn and Comptroller Hynes to save essential library services on the chopping block. Due to non-payment of state funds, Illinois residents may lose many privileges they currently receive from their local library, including the ability to check out materials from libraries other than their home library.
The sharing of resources between Illinois libraries depends on the delivery service coordinated by the regional Illinois Library Systems (ILS). Funding for the ILS comes in the form of an annual grant from the Illinois General Assembly. Since July 1, the Illinois Library Systems had not received any of their authorized funds.
The online rally began on January 20, and by the morning of January 22, most of the systems had reported receiving a partial payment from the state. The systems received 35% of the 50% that should have been received by December 31
"We are still struggling to remain open and provide services to support libraries. While this payment of appropriated funds will help; it is only a stopgap." said Jan Ison, executive director of the Lincoln Trail Libraries System (LTLS). "We're very concerned about the future. The future, not only for the system and our member libraries, but for all Illinois libraries." To stay in operation, LTLS has had to redistribute funds and labor, as well as, reduce expenditures
Last year ILS vans delivered over 28 million items between libraries around the state. The LTLS delivery service handled 1.8 million of those transactions for its member libraries, which includes over 50 public libraries, over 50 school libraries, 7 academic libraries, and 10 special libraries in East Central Illinois
People have no idea what happens behind the scenes so that they can borrow a book from another library," said Beverly Obert, chair of the Illinois Library System Directors Organization, and executive director of the Rolling Prairie. "How does that book or CD or DVD get back to the library from where it was borrowed? This service is one of the best examples of economic efficiency in the state."
Illinois Library Systems partner with the Illinois State Library to coordinate special library services for the blind and physically handicapped, including free talking book and Braille service. This popular resource is also teetering on the brink due to delays in payment from the state. The program has only received 3% of its state funding this fiscal year.
Libraries also depend on the ILS to negotiate discounts for online resources they would not be able to afford to purchase on their own. This includes services such as homework help for kids, job search assistance, and expert research sites.
The thousands of Illinois residents that participated in the January 20 online rally sent letters to the Governor and Comptroller by an e-mail generated from the "Save Illinois Libraries" website www.saveillinoislibraries.com. Many followed up with phone calls and faxes. The "Save Illinois Libraries" campaign launched in October, with the initial focus on contacting members of the General Assembly.
"Library use is at an all time high and without Systems the patron experience will suffer. Libraries will be unable to provide the kinds of resources and services the public has come to expect." said Rosanne Reidner, President of the LTLS Board of Directors. "We will not give up the fight and we urge everyone who believes in the importance of libraries to aid us in the fight to send a message in support of system funding to the Governor, the Comptroller, and all our elected officials."