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WIU Libraries Website Receives Illinois Bicentennial Recognition

March 16, 2018


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MACOMB, IL - The Western Illinois University Libraries' Laws of Illinois website has been officially recognized as a Bicentennial Project by the Illinois Bicentennial Commission. The application for project recognition was supported by Macomb Mayor Mike Inman and the McDonough County Historical Society.

The website, which is available through the WIU Libraries, links to digitized volumes of the Laws of Illinois from 1818-1920 and 1971-present, volumes of the laws for the Northwest, Indiana and Illinois Territories and volumes of Illinois Revised Statutes. Some of the volumes linked to the site were digitized from the collections available in the WIU and Illinois State Libraries, with support from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). The site also links to volumes that were digitized from other libraries by Google and volumes in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. The text of most volumes can be searched. Indexes to the Illinois laws that were digitized by the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois State Library are also linked to the site.

While the online collection is incomplete, the available volumes shed light on Illinois' history and genealogy. For example, the act that consolidated the laws under which Macomb was incorporated, passed in the Private Laws in 1857 (page 713), gives some interesting duties for the Macomb City Council. The list includes promoting health by preventing and suppressing contagious diseases and cleaning up "nauseous houses," places that might cause odors, such as privies, stables, tanneries and groceries, setting up schools, licensing businesses and providing water through a system of cisterns and wells.

"The volumes of the Laws of Illinois contain information that provides insight into Illinois history and life. For example, a Macomb ordinance from 1857 also requires that the City Council 'prohibit and restrain the rolling of hoops, flying of kites or any other amusements or practices tending to annoy persons passing on the streets or sidewalks, or to frighten horses or teams'," said WIU Government Information and Data Services Librarian Linda Zellmer, who developed and maintains the site. "I think my favorite is a law on 'Estrays' that was passed by the Eighth General Assembly titled 'An Act concerning water crafts found adrift, lost goods and estray animals (page 266).' Quite simply, the legislature passed one law detailing the procedures people should use if they find lost boats or canoes, goods or animals."

According to Zellmer, the digitized volumes of the Laws of Illinois get much more use online than they do in print, because many of the early print volumes in the WIU Libraries are in a closed collection. The WIU volumes that were digitized have been used over 43,000 times since 2010, while the website has been used over 28,000 times since 2012.

The volumes of the Laws of Illinois also contain information about people. Early in Illinois' history, it took an act of the legislature to grant a divorce, allow a woman to inherit her deceased husband's property, or set up a business or incorporate a town. These acts were published as Private Laws, which were passed for the benefit of private individuals, as opposed to Public Laws, which deal with the structure and operation of the state government and relationship of the government to the people. They can also be used to trace issues such as women's rights. In Illinois, women could serve on the school board before they could vote.

Some of the volumes of the Laws of Illinois include reports from the state treasurer and auditor. These reports contain records of payments to people who performed work for the state, such as surveyors and printers, or for the purchase of goods, such as paper and furniture.

The Laws of Illinois website is available at wiu.edu/libraries/govpubs/illinois_laws/index.php. It contains information about the online collection, as well as instructions on how to find laws on a particular topic.

For more information about the Laws of Illinois website, contact Zellmer at LR-Zellmer@wiu.edu, or by calling (309) 298-2723.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations