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We're Special! -- The MCMH Library

It's National Library Week, which means libraries across the country are celebrating the positive impacts they have on the community around them. In our community, some libraries immediately come to mind – Bloomington and Normal public libraries, Milner, and Ames. We have our own library here at the Museum, the Stevenson-Ives Library, which falls into the “special libraries" category.

Special libraries are a distinct group from academic, public, and school libraries and work in a “specialized environment of interest such as corporations, hospitals, military, museums, and the government" (www.ala.org). Our library's mission is twofold- equally dedicated to both preservation and access. To best preserve our unique collection of materials, we are non-circulating ("Sorry, you can't check that out!"), but, on the bright side (and in terms of access), if we have a book in our catalog, it'll always be on the shelf! Just like the museum, the library is always open to the public (with museum admission) whether you are a researcher or just looking around. Come browse the stacks some day, or have a chat with one of our wonderful reference desk volunteers.

To celebrate our library's impact on our community, I thought I would share a few facts that you may not know-

  • Our library/archives houses documents, photos, and other paper-based articles, including 750,000 photos and negatives from the Pantagraph.
  • For a historical society of our size, we have a remarkable number of collections with item-level finding aids (What's a finding aid? Check them out here).
  • Our librarian is a local celebrity- Bill Kemp publishes a wildly popular history column in the Sunday Pantagraph.
  • By partnering with the both the McLean County Genealogical Society and the Letitia Green Stevenson chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, our library has become one of the best places to do genealogy research in downstate Illinois.
  • For those interested in the life and career of Abraham Lincoln, the archives houses an impressive collection of local reminiscence on the nation's sixteenth president—from forthright accounts on Lincoln's sometimes bedraggled appearance to his love of language.
  • The archives includes vast collection of primary source material relating to the Civil War, from correspondence by soldiers to regimental records.
  • Day in and day out, the library provides assistance to folks of all ages—from middle school kids working on Illinois History Fair projects to PhD candidates working on their dissertation.
  • We help find answers to questions for hundreds of patrons from all over the world every year.

State Farm, Advocate BroMenn, and Illinois Farm Bureau all have libraries/archives that give doctors and staff access to cutting edge research and maintain an institutional memory. Theirs, though, are not open to the public. Milner's special collections hold one of the largest circus collections in the world. Special libraries are one of the lesser-known types of libraries, but each fills a great need.

Click through the slide show below to see images of our library.

Torii Moré

Torii Moré

Curator of Digital Humanities