Retiring administrators see
Lincoln Public Library into electronic age
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[August 23, 2019]
The Lincoln Public Library's neoclassical style Carnegie building
reminisces age in beauty and grace. The 1902 building has been
carefully preserved, solid inside and out.
But don't let the sense of old and slow fool you. The stuff that
goes on inside is not what it used to be. It is better..., way
Going back 117 years ago people could not possibly conceive what
going to the library would mean today. The electronic age and the
internet have changed everything - how data for research or leisure
is stored and shared.
What is offered today at the Lincoln Public Library has taken effort
to develop and is a testament to great leadership.
To Lincoln’s good fortune Richard Sumrall has been head librarian
forging an ever changing a path that accesses electronic data, while
maintaining traditional books, magazines, other hard goods and
manual search methods.
Your grandma's library has grown exponentially. She still likes it
and it gives you more too.
There are some changes coming soon that will be a loss for the
library and its patrons. The Lincoln Public Library will miss the
smiling faces of Mr. Richard Sumrall, who is retiring in March 2020,
and Ms. Sue Rehtmeyer retiring in January 2020.
Sumrall has been dedicated as the library director for 28 years,
dutifully watching over the staff, responsible for the
administration and management of the library, its building,
personnel, finances, collections, services, and seeing the spring
summer and fall/winter children’s programs through.
During the course of Sumrall's time in Lincoln, libraries in general
have gone beyond the printed page. “We have seen changes through
videos, DVD’s, audio books, public access Internet, free Wi-Fi, and
other E-resources,” said Sumrall.
A bit about Richard Sumrall
In 1976 Sumrall began his career in Library Systems with degrees
that gave him depth and tools for the future. “I have a Bachelor’s
Degree in History with a minor in English, and then I have a Masters
Degree in Library Science and Information,” Sumrall said.
Library Science has a lot of research involved. Sumrall said, “Well,
there is a lot of work to it. Most people who try to aspire to the
upper levels of library work usually have what is called an MLS. One
of the best programs in the country is at the University of Illinois
in Champaign. People here in central Illinois are very lucky to have
a MLS program nearby.”
Mr. Sumrall attended the University of Southern Mississippi,
Hattiesburg in 1989 and 1990 to get his MLS.
Mr. Sumrall misses it there (Mississippi) in the winter, but not so
much in the hot-hot summertime.
The library director, who is diligent, has worked at three different
libraries since 1976. “For nine years I worked in the Mobile,
Alabama Public Library, which is a large metropolitan library. Then
for six years, I worked in the Mobile Municipal Archives and Records
Management Department of the city, which included a special library
He came to Lincoln in 1991 when he was hired at the Lincoln Public
Back in 2002, Mr. Sumrall received the Courier Citizen of the Year
Award, for which he felt genuinely honored.
Then he was honored to receive a Professional Staff of the Year
Award from the former Rolling Prairie Library System.
“I was awarded, but it counted in part to the library’s success.
That is something I am proud of.
"I know in past years when we had a Chamber of Commerce and the
mainstream of Lincoln would have a celebratory anniversary, they
would honor us in some way with a plaque or something. That was
always nice to be recognized by them,” said Sumrall.
Assistant Librarian Sue Rehtmeyer has helped Sumrall throughout the
years of his being a director. Rehtmeyer sits right outside his
door. “She helps me with everything. She is the assistant librarian
and head of the entire Technical Services Department. She is in
charge in my absence. I am very lucky that she is here,” said
The Lincoln Public Library serves over thirteen thousand residents
and has 17 employees, four full-time and 13 part-time.
Caroline Kiest is the full-time employee who works up front and
helps everyone with the public computers. She is the reference
librarian. All of the questions that come in, such as finding maps
to San Antonio, Texas, or a good book on frogs in Illinois; whatever
it is, she is in charge of that.
The full-time employee in the Annex is April Jensen. Sumrall said,
“April is the circulation manager and she is in charge of all of the
circulation services and the enormous computer database that we live
and die by around here. If it goes down we have to check items out
the old fashioned way. I am very lucky to have a full-time staff
It's not so long ago some residents will remember, you used a card
file to look up books you wanted to find. You can still use a card
file if you wish. But back in the time when you would check out, you
signed a library card, the book and card were hand-stamped with a
Now the director with the help of his staff has made finding and
checking out materials more efficient.
An electronic search system provides fast and expanded information -
supplying what other books the author has written and if they might
be brought in from other libraries, copious other details are made
available almost instantaneously with a few strikes on the keyboard.
"The use of the library card catalogue on our website is an example
of change," Sumrall said. "You just go to our website and in the
main menu click search library catalogue and you can not only search
our catalogue but the entire library system's card catalogue. You
can put items on hold and request other items. It is all automated,”
he said. And then patrons can, “Come to pick it up at Lincoln
Library and return it here; there is no charge,” he said.
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There are also multiple forms of new media such as DVD’s, audio
books, and electronic books for the downloading to personal
electronic devices and more continue to become available.
Lincoln Public Library has always been a participating member of the
automated circulation systems offered by the Rolling Prairie Library
System and the Illinois Heartland Library System.
Apple computers were introduced in the 1980’s to help with basic
library card functions. Fast forward to today and the Lincoln
Library District offers free internet access on public computers,
free Wi-Fi, color/b&w printing, and wireless printing from a
personal device. All that is what Director Sumrall has helped to get
for the Library District each year.
As he is preparing to take leave of the library, Mr. Sumrall says he
is proud of taking the already successful reading program and adding
new things; especially to create programs for the kids, such as the
STEM program that integrates science, technology, engineering and
math. Particular children’s programs Sumrall thinks best suited for
the children in Lincoln are being brought to the forefront, in
addition to the 'craft programs.'
The director said the craft programs have more to do with computers
and coding little automated devices, that kind of science and
technology, things that the boys and girls really love.
“I am really proud of that and I am really proud that we improved
our teen program so that they have things to do so they have
positive experiences here at the library. We are not only expanding
our collections in the youth services department, but also offering
programs for older teens that they would enjoy.
"I am really proud of those accomplishments that we’ve made here at
the library - not only during summer reading programs, but at other
times of the year," Sumrall said.
When asked if he would ever like to see this library expand or be
rebuilt, Sumrall answered, “The library is a district, so it is on
its own form of government similar to the school districts and other
"As libraries head more into electronic services, like e-books,
e-audio books, streaming video, that kind of thing; it means you
need less space to house physical books and physical DVD’s.”
“Right now electronic services is a real juggling act,” Sumrall
said, “We offer two different e-book services and one e-magazine
service through our website to all of our library card holders, and
there is no charge for that.
"That means that you don’t need all that extra space for all of
those extra books and extra magazines because they are electronic.
It is kind of the way things are happening.
"So I am not sure this library is going to see an expansion of
physical space. Perhaps it’s more of an idea of using the physical
space in a different way in the future."
Sumrall mentioned, “We try to display any new books in our new books
section out front and in our new display case right outside the
door. And, in the other building (the Annex) there is a new books
section and the staff likes to put some of the new ones on top of
that bookcase as well.”
And, Sumrall says, they try to interest people with the newest
things when they walk into the front door, "We try to keep the best
sellers list of the New York Times posted in both buildings. We kind
of color code it to let other people know we either have it or we
have that title on order. That is kept at the circulation desk of
Keeping the building at its finest
The best and most successful fundraisers that Sumrall ventured with
the Lincoln Public Library District were held in the years 1988,
2001, and 2003. “In those years we raised money to purchase exact
reproductions of the original brass light fixtures in the Carnegie
"We also made significant restoration to both mosaic tile floors in
the Carnegie building’s front entrance and the original oak doors at
that same entrance,” he said.
Each year there is a library used book sale. Sumrall has made it a
bargain for everyone to purchase books at an incredibly reasonable
rate, a buck-a-bag.
That sale is this weekend, Saturday, August 24th from 9 a.m. to 5
p.m. and Sunday, August 25th, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Everyone has been
working hard to prepare lots of great finds for book treasure
There are also added events for the family on Saturday from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. - petting zoo, giant games, caulk art and crafts for kids.
“We work very hard on the used book sale program. It has been very
successful over the years. We do it as a fun program for the entire
community. We do it to get discarded books and donated books into
the hands of people that want them. You can take as many bags as you
would like,” he said.
“We do have to weed the collection of books (on the library shelves)
periodically, such as old books, damaged books, books where the
information may be out-of-date. We don’t want to throw them away. We
want to give them to the people as cheaply as possible. Normally,
any proceeds from that, we use to buy new books for the library. So
it's kind of a cyclical process,” said Sumrall.
As director Sumrall has greatly appreciated working for the
community and the library board, helping make rules for the library
district and plans for the upcoming year.
He encourages all to come to the library and read. Participate in
the children’s programs with family and to get involved with such
programs as the Harry Potter Day or Lego Day, which are a great
turnout and learning adventure for the children.
The library staff, Board of Trustees and the community are sure to
miss a great, considerate and dedicated director who has issued in
much change and updated programs to the Lincoln community.
Although Sumrall does not know who his successor might be, he hopes
he/she will be thinking of future goals for the library, such as
adding public access to streaming music, e-resources, collections,
especially regarding streaming video and audio.
“Probably my successor will be thinking about streaming music as an
option to offer to the community. My guess is that my successor is
going to be thinking about more electronic services through the
website and maybe fewer physical holdings,” Sumrall said.
What Mr. Sumrall now plans beyond his retirement is to spend more
time with his family in Alabama and to stay active in the Lincoln
community. He said he might consider joining a book club as he
hadn’t had time to do so before.