Lincoln Public Library offers more
through borrowing systems: “Libraries, better than you remember"
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[September 19, 2020]
Walk into the front doors of the Lincoln Public Library Carnegie
Building and what do you see? Maybe the first thing to attract your
eye is the beautiful wood reception desk and several of the staff
ready to help with questions you might have. Look farther and row
upon row of stacks filled with books bring one the traditional
library view. Look right and book cases filled with more volumes
stand ready to serve you.
Cross the alley behind the main library to the Annex and book
shelves filled with fiction offer hours of reading fun.
“The Lincoln Public Library has over 55,000 books, DVD’s, and
magazines with the split of about two-thirds in the annex and the
rest in the Carnegie Building,” said Assistant Library Director
April Jensen. It would take a long time to go through all of these
resources, books that can provide fiction and nonfiction to fill
lots of reading hours.
What if a library patron wanted a book that is not on a shelf in the
Lincoln Public Library? Are they out of luck, maybe forced to go to
a Bloomington or Springfield big box book store and buy what they
wanted? Not by a long shot!
As if by magic, a library patron can open another portal and see
library shelves filled with books that stretch as far as the eye can
see, well at least west from Lincoln to the Mississippi River, east
to the Wabash River along the Indiana border, and the southern
reaches of the state along the Ohio River. The Lincoln Public
Library is a member of an amazing organization called the Illinois
Heartland Library System (IHLS). How can the IHLS be described?
Think of the delivery service Fed Ex and you really have a handle of
what IHLS does for libraries in Illinois. Do you have a LPL library
card? Then you have access to all of the libraries that make up IHLS.
The IHLS, headquartered in Edwardsville, is made up of 524 member
libraries in 58 counties in Illinois. Given that our state has
one-hundred two counties, it serves over half of the state including
over twenty-eight thousand square miles with a population of more
than two million residents. This link ties public libraries, college
libraries, and high school and grade school libraries together, and
makes their resources available to anyone with a library card living
in the IHLS territory, resources that included nine million items.
There are even specialty libraries in the system, think law,
medical, and civil engineering resources. Live in Lincoln and need a
book that can only be found in the Benton library, you have access
to it. Live in Effingham and need a book that can only be found in
the Lincoln Public Library. You have access to it and can check it
out. Wait a minute! Some of the libraries in the IHLS are hundreds
of miles apart. How can you get your hands on a book in Carbondale
or Cairo? This is where the Fed Ex analogy comes into play, the
hub-and-spoke system of package delivery.
Every evening, Fed Ex collects packages from all over the country,
packs them in to a fleet of their aircraft, and flies them to the
system hub in Memphis, Tennessee. There the packages are sorted
overnight to direct them to their final destination, loaded onto
waiting aircraft and flown to their final destination, or at least
as close as they can get to the package’s final delivery point. Then
they are put on trucks with the iconic logo and delivered to their
The Illinois Heartland Library System works the same way. Well, not
quite. The IHLS doesn’t have a fleet of giant aircraft to carry
millions of books around the state each day. What they do have is a
fleet of 22 vans driven by dedicated employees to ply the highways
of its 58 county service area to deliver books from one library to
another, perhaps a book or DVD that you ordered. “Every library in
the Illinois Heartland System is guaranteed Monday through Friday
delivery even if it consists of only one item,” said Susan Palmer,
Operations Director of the Illinois Heartland Library System. She is
in charge of all of the vans and buildings in the system.
The IHLS has a modified hub-and-spoke system. It has three hubs
located in Carbondale, Edwardsville, and Champaign. When a book is
plucked from a shelf in a library headed for another library, it is
placed in a plastic tub, loaded into a delivery van, and sent to the
closest hub to the sending library. There a team of sorters place
the book into another tub headed to the hub closest to the receiving
library. Sorters at the next hub take over again and place the book
into a tub bound for the receiving library. If a book is to remain
in the area served by the closest hub to the sending library, it is
a simple matter to place it in the receptacle and deliver it to the
receiving library, cutting out the second hub. It is truly an
The IHLS delivers books to the libraries at Lincoln Christian
University and Lincoln College as well as the Lincoln Public
Library. The van that delivers books to the Lincoln Public Library
typically arrives before the library opens. The driver has a key,
let’s himself in, drops off or picks up, and departs.
To carry the Fed Ex idea further, every airport that Fed Ex serves
with its flying freighters has a three letter identifier unique to
it. Every library that Illinois Heartland vans serve has a unique
four letter ID. The Lincoln Public Library ID is LINP. The P
indicates that it is a public library. This is a really smooth
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Fed Ex may deliver millions of packages overnight, but the numbers put up by the
Illinois Heartland Library System are no less impressive. IHLS vans drive over
one million miles and deliver more than 6.4 million items a year in the 58
counties it serves.
Can’t find that latest John Grisham page turner in Lincoln? Well, it is sure to
be somewhere in the IHLS. Give your card to a LPL librarian and order it. It is
always a pleasure to come into the LPL, but all of the available resources in
the IHLS can also be ordered online from home.
Need genealogy information from far southern Illinois? Check out the extensive
virtual card catalog of the IHLS, and you may just be surprised to find what you
are looking for. Are you doing research for a college term paper from home?
Well, now you know about the spectacular research option that is available.
In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, July through June, the patrons of the Lincoln
Public Library borrowed 11,543 items from libraries in the Illinois Heartland
Library System, while Lincoln loaned out 16,653 items. “We are down somewhat
this year, because the library was closed due to the virus lockdown, but it is
easy to see what a valuable resource the IHLS is,” said April Jensen.
Illinois has two other library systems in addition to IHLS, one serving northern
Illinois called RAILS and one for Chicago. Books from those systems are
available also, but cannot be ordered online. A special request for a book
outside the IHLS has to be made to a library staff member, and they would search
for it. It would probably be sent to the Lincoln Public Library by the US Postal
But that does not end the possibilities of finding the right book. The borders
of Illinois are not the end of the search potential. A book that is only
available at the Lincoln Public Library was requested by a person in Denmark.
“It was a manual on how to repair a particular type of motor scooter. We had the
only copy, so I took it to the post office and mailed it to Denmark,” said
Jensen. Books from the Lincoln Public Library have gone all over the United
States including Alaska and Hawaii.
Libraries are magical and librarians are the magicians who can find that
important resource you need. Books, DVD’s, and magazines come to mind when
library resources are discussed. But libraries in the Illinois Heartland Library
System also have displays available that a student can use for a presentation.
“In order to be a member of the Illinois Heartland Library System, a library
must meet several qualifications,” said Susan Palmer. The library must be open
fifteen hours a week, have at least one paid employee, and must have a
searchable collection. “Once a library is a member, the book exchange between
libraries is free,” said Palmer. You heard that right.
Except for paying for the software that searches library resources, everything
else is free, paid for by the Illinois Secretary of State. And that free library
card you get at your local public library, well it is good at any library in
The state of Illinois has reciprocal borrowing at all libraries. While traveling
in northern Illinois, did you take out a book at the Rockford library with your
Lincoln Public Library card? Well, thanks to the Illinois Heartland Library
System, you can return that book to the Lincoln Public Library and Illinois
Heartland will deliver it back to Rockford for you. The RAILS System and IHLS
meet in Champaign every evening and exchange books. This is an amazing
“Libraries, better than you remember” is a quote from Susan Palmer. The Illinois
Heartland Library System and its member libraries is a remarkable operation. The
range of knowledge located in the 524 libraries that make up the system, the
delivery option that includes all of those members, and employees that make it
all happen is a truly wonderful service.
Don’t have a library card? Go to the Lincoln Public Library Annex and apply for
one. The card is free to residents and available for an annual fee to those
living outside the district. A LPL library card gives you access to the Lincoln
Public Library and the world of libraries beyond thanks to the Illinois
Heartland Library System.