Each of the United States’ 50 states runs its own official state library. I have only visited Illinois’ and Indiana’s state libraries so far. Both are located in their states’ capitals, which are Springfield and Indianapolis, respectively.
You would assume that all state libraries are similar, but Illinois’ and Indiana’s state libraries each have separate missions. Founded in 1825, the goal of the Indiana State Library is to collect books, manuscripts, maps, etc. pertaining to the history of the state of Indiana. On the other hand, the Illinois State Library, which was founded in 1839, only collects resources for those who work in Illinois’ government in Springfield. The Illinois State Library does not need to collect resources about the history of the state of Illinois because the nearby Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (formerly, the Illinois State Historical Library) already does that.
When I visited the Illinois State Library, I was disappointed because I did not realize that it did not collect material related to the history of Illinois. Of course, it has resources related to the political history of Illinois, but no other history besides that. Despite the disappointment, I did enjoy visiting the Illinois State Library’s Illinois Authors Room, which showcases the first editions of books written by people who were either born in the state of Illinois or lived there for a while. These include books by L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Wizard of Oz series, who was born in New York but lived in Chicago from 1891 to 1910. Other authors include Ray Bradbury who was born in Waukegan, Illinois and wrote the dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451.
I ultimately enjoyed my visit to the Indiana State Library more than the Illinois State Library. This is probably because it had more reading rooms and space for the public, whereas the Illinois State Library restricts much of its space to government officials only. Like the Illinois State Library, the Indiana State Library has a room exhibiting the works of authors who were either born in Indiana or lived there for a significant amount of time. This includes the Raggedy Ann books by Johnny Gruelle. Gruelle was born in Illinois, but raised in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public could wander into any state library for free during visiting hours. However, as with the example of the two state libraries that I visited, not all state libraries help the public with research. Whereas the Indiana State Library would be a great place to research the history of Indiana, the Illinois State Library primarily focuses on helping local government employees. I need to visit more state libraries in the future to make further comparisons.
Sources and Further Reading
“History: Illinois State Library.” Cyber Drive Illinois. https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/library/about/library_history.html (accessed June 5, 2021).
“Indiana State Library.” Indiana Government. https://www.in.gov/library/files/ISL_general_Brochure.pdf (accessed June 5, 2021).