Letters to the Editor 11/23/17
A DEEPER HOLE
I write to congratulate Bruce Rushton on his fine article titled “Can I see your papers? No!” in the Nov. 16 issue of Illinois Times.
In a time when libraries are faltering with fewer people actually coming and sitting in a reading room to do research, it is sad to see the ALPL dig their hole deeper. The rationale of its administrators makes some sense if there were no other options, but in this day and age it makes no sense. There are so many newspapers and books that have been digitalized and are searchable. Most are free to web users, some sites have small charges, and even those can be accessed through most public libraries. So, ALPL, where are you going? Why do we need you to pontificate about your wonderful newspaper library when it is a dinosaur? Most of it can be accessed online. And if some is not accessible, why don’t you take on digitalization and share the results online? Why don’t you take the lead and funnel some of your unique material to Google books for scanning and sharing? What are your arguments against such? I know it threatens the status quo and that is something you think you are shaking up, but sadly, you are not. You are going backward into the past – a retro position. Get with it and forget about the protective storage of stuff in big buildings. Come out of the closet and let the sun shine on your collections. Come into the digital age, big time.
And while I am at it, why did the ALPL close to its users the physical facilities of the document library, newspaper library and photographic library? This is a disaster and takes the soul out of the ALPL. This is where the scholars who come to Springfield to do research hang out, not in the reading room. And the fine librarians who staffed those three libraries were a source of information not otherwise available in a useable way. I bet they don’t like this new system. And don’t give me the old canard that change is hard and takes time. That doesn’t play in this court. I don’t know the rationale for this, but I would like to hear from the powers that be about why they made this decision and was the public consulted in any of their deliberations. I bet not, but I will sure look forward to an explanation.
Richard E. Hart
A COMPLETE PICTURE
The article on interlibrary loan (ILL) at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (“Can I See Your Papers? No!,” by Bruce Rushton, Nov. 16) didn’t paint a complete picture of the situation.
ILL has always been a popular aspect of the Illinois State Historical Library/ALPL’s service; making material available to students, authors, researchers, etc. who cannot travel to Springfield. As the person who handled the ILL of newspaper microfilm for over 15 years, I sent hundreds of reels of microfilm to dozens of libraries across the United States every month. I would disagree with Dr. Wheeler that the loan procedures are “haphazard.” The ILL policy was and is simple and straightforward. A four-week loan, limits on material sent, library use only, return in a shipping box and insure the material to cover replacement costs should the loaned items be lost or damaged. The lender is responsible for the material until it reaches its destination. The borrower is responsible until it has returned. This applies to printed material as well. Dr. Wheeler is correct that loaned material may not stay in the library as mandated. If that situation is discovered, the library should lose its borrowing privileges. In the case of the Isham family history, the borrowing library is responsible for the $200.
When referring to newspaper microfilm, I know of only one reel that is irreplaceable and that film box is noted Do Not Lend. No Master Available. A master negative is kept for everything microfilmed by the ALPL staff. Commercial companies are more than happy to sell replacement reels for film the library has purchased.
It’s a new day at the ALPLM and public service is on the chopping block. Alan Lowe has been tasked with turning the ALPL into a presidential library using the organization, policies and set-up of NARA-run presidential libraries as his blueprint. The fact that 80 percent of the collections are not strictly Abraham Lincoln is a small detail in the overall plan. The Illinois State Historical Library (ISHL) traded its name for a new building and now it’s time to pay the piper. “Change is hard” will be echoing off the library walls in the months ahead. ALPL patrons/researchers, make your concerns known to ALPLM administration and your legislators. Your voices carry more weight than those of current and former ISHL/ALPL staff.