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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 03:51 pm

Room to grow

Opposition from Lincoln scholars stops library’s plan

Untitled Document Lincoln scholars and the librarians who serve them are celebrating — oh so quietly! — the newly approved plans to preserve the “Lincoln Room,” the hub of Lincoln and Illinois research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Last winter, the 25,000-volume collection was facing a bad breakup: A plan to overhaul the entire UIUC library system included a proposal to splinter the decades-old collection and disperse it among other parts of the system. John Hoffman, curator of the collection, incited a well-mannered revolt by authoring a petition that got passed around by way of the Internet and signed by more than 100 Lincoln Room patrons and fans [see Dusty Rhodes, “Bookworms,” Jan. 10]. Hoffman’s efforts apparently paid off. Last month — after collecting input through town-hall meetings, departmental discussions, and e-mail — the committee in charge of creating “new service models” for the library system issued its final report. The proposal to scatter the collection had been replaced by a proposal to move it from its current inconvenient location into a better space. “It would be ideal, actually,” Hoffman says. “It would allow for browsing without being insecure. It’s a great move, if they can go ahead and carry it out. It’s a matter of priorities.”
According to the report, the proposal to disperse the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections drew “substantial” discussion demonstrating that the IHLC program is “deeply valued by its core constituents.”
UIUC has a main library and many smaller departmental libraries scattered across campus. The task of reorganizing them is similar to a child’s number-tile puzzle: One unit must move to make space for another unit to move. The “new service models” plan includes 19 proposals, some of which are mergers of existing libraries and some of which are entirely new libraries. The mechanics of how this grand plan will be carried out have not been determined. The plan also calls for access to be increased through the digitization of the material and the creation of a Web portal to the documents. Hoffman isn’t quite so keen on that concept, noting that the result will be an emphasis on works published before 1923 — items now in the public domain. “That’s not always the best stuff,” Hoffman says. “Scholarship improves in any field. Some scholarship becomes obsolete.”

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com
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