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Book by Tom Emery Helps Illinois State Library Celebrate 175th Anniversary

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Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White announced that the book, Illinois State Library Heritage Project, 1839-2013, is now accessible by the public. The book, authored by Tom Emery, documents the history and growth of the Illinois State Library (I.S.L.) since its inception and the establishment of the state’s public libraries.

“As Secretary of State and State Librarian, I am pleased to present this informative and historic account of the Illinois State Library," said White. “I commend Tom Emery for his commitment in educating the people of Illinois through this accomplishment. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Illinois State Library. I am proud that this institution has enriched the people of Illinois with resources and knowledge for many years. It is my hope that this tradition lives on."

In 2007, the I.S.L. awarded Blackburn College a Library Services and Technology Act grant, with funding provided by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (I.M.L.S.), to pursue this project. “The project was sponsored by the Blackburn College library and offered Emery, a critically acclaimed freelance writer and historical researcher, the opportunity to author it,” wrote Kyle Peebles.

Peebles became the new Communications Manager for the I.S.L. effective Thursday, January 2, 2014. He relieved I.S.L. Chief Deputy Director Lawren Tucker Kyle of the E-News Weekly Newsletter editorial duties she had assumed after I.S.L. Communications Manager Patrick McGuckin retired Friday, May 31, 2013.

“I’d like to thank Secretary of State Jesse White for sharing this opportunity with Blackburn College,” said Emery. “This is when historical research not only becomes plausible, but fun. Working on the Illinois State Library Heritage Project, 1839-2013 has been an inspiring experience.”

In March, the Illinois State Historical Society (I.S.H.S.) awarded the book the Award of Superior Achievement. Public and academic libraries throughout the state will each receive a copy of the book.

In a press release on its Facebook page, the I.S.H.S. described the book as “a 220-page coffee table book on the rich, colorful 175-year history of the Illinois State Library, from its inception on Feb. 22, 1839 to the present day. The impact of the State Library on the lives of everyday Illinoisans is emphasized, along with the development and role of libraries in communities statewide.”

The work also covers a great deal of Illinois history, as some of the state’s iconic names contributed to the development of the State Library. Stephen A. Douglas was the first Secretary of State to serve as State Librarian, while Abraham Lincoln was the first to check materials out of the State Library.

The book combines easy-to-read, fast-moving text with an eye-catching layout containing over 130 illustrations, 40 sidebars, and complete documentation. The Heritage Project will be distributed free of charge to all public and academic libraries in the state of Illinois. A companion website, designed by After Hours Development of Springfield, will also be launched in the near-future.

…Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill. was selected by the State Library to administer the Heritage Project.

The book and upcoming website are the creations of Tom Emery, a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville. Emery, a 1993 graduate of Blackburn, recently earned the Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society for the Heritage Project, his seventh career award from the ISHS.

An accomplished lecturer who has appeared at many Illinois libraries, Emery is also a frequent contributor to a variety of Illinois newspapers. He has created twenty-three book-length and booklet titles.

“The Heritage Project was a tremendously rewarding experience for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Emery. “Illinois has a rich history of libraries, and our State Library is widely considered to be one of the greatest state libraries the nation. Illinois residents have every reason to be proud of their State Library and the libraries that serve their communities.”

Emery also cited the Directors of Lumpkin Library at Blackburn, who also served as Project Directors for the Heritage Project. “Carol Schaefer deserves a ton of credit for this,” he remarked. “She was there for me every step of the way, and I can’t say enough about her contributions. When she retired, Spencer Brayton took over, and he’s been extremely supportive as well.”

Members of the project team were honored in a ceremony in Secretary of State Jesse White’s office in Springfield on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Emery, Brayton, and Blackburn President John Comerford were recognized for Blackburn’s contributions to the Heritage Project, while Emery and I.S.L. Director Anne Craig presented Secretary White with a ceremonial copy of the book.

“That was a great honor for us,” said Emery. “We appreciate the opportunity that Secretary White gave Blackburn College with this project. The ceremony was a really special moment for all of us at Blackburn.”

"Blackburn College is honored to have been a part of this project," added Dr. Comerford, "and especially pleased to count the book's author, Tom Emery, as one of our alums."

“The Heritage Project is believed to be the largest research project attempted on any of the nation’s state libraries,” according to the I.S.H.S.
“That’s when historical research not only becomes plausible, but fun,” remarked Emery. “To be the first to tackle a certain subject and compile research that’s never been attempted is an exhilarating feeling.”

Concerning Blackburn College, the I.S.H.S. stated, “Blackburn College is a four-year, Presbyterian-related, co-educational liberal arts college located in Carlinville, Illinois. One of the seven work colleges in the U.S., Blackburn is the only one with a student-managed Work Program. Blackburn was also ranked by US News as the 2012 #2 Best Value College in the Midwest and The Washington Monthly ranked the school as #17 among baccalaureate colleges, nationally, and best in Illinois, in 2013. The school remains the most affordable, residential liberal arts college in the state.”

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