History of SJVLS

Our system’s tradition of cooperation and resource sharing began more than fifty years ago, when the Public Relations Committee of the Yosemite District of the California Library Association began a reference project. This San Joaquin Valley Reference Project received federal funding in 1960. The first issue of News & Clues was published in August of that year. The cover page of that first issue stated:

Beginning with this issue, we will be sending you a bi-weekly newsletter containing items you may want to use to keep your reference aids up-to-date. These will include political changes, deaths, statistics, important dates and events.


In March of 1961, the Reference Project became the San Joaquin Valley Information Service, and News & Clues became a monthly publication at the end of 1961. Cooperation among valley public libraries increased as additional libraries began participating in SJVIS. In 1964, the Public Library Services Act was passed which for the first time allowed for the creation of cooperative ventures with state funds. During the period from 1964 to 1978 many of the current members of SJVLS participated in services of the Library System. With the passage of the California Library Services Act in 1978—which replaced the Public Library Services Act—SJVLS gained increased funding with more stability. SJVLS was organized under its present structure in 1979. The member libraries at that time were Coalinga-Huron, Fresno County, Kings County, Madera County, Porterville, Tulare County and Tulare Public. SJVLS would eventually expand to include Kern County (1984), Mariposa County (1994) and Merced County (2007).


In 1984, the members of SJVLS signed a computer agreement that would lead to installation of the first automated circulation system, ULISYS, the following year. This shared circulation system marked the first step in a gradual shift in the SJVLS focus from question answering to technology support. In 1990 the system adopted Dynix as our first integrated library system (ILS). Our original telecommunications network was implemented to support the connection of dumb terminals to our Dynix server in Fresno.


In 1999-2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided every member library with PCs for public use and supported upgrades to our telecommunications network. Before the Gates grant, public PCs were only available in limited numbers at select libraries. The impact of the new PCs was immediate, and public Internet access and management of PCs become a high demand service among our members. Two years later (2002), SJVLS migrated to Horizon, our current ILS. With the move to Horizon, the last text-based terminals were retired from the system. Our telecommunications network has been expanded and upgraded almost every year since to accommodate public demand for Internet access. SJVLS services and staff also expanded to include support for member websites, Internet filtering, public and staff PC management, and subscriptions to online content including magazine databases, ebooks, and downloadable audiobooks.

During this same period, the explosion of Internet-based resources began to impact staffing at SJVIS. Monthly issues of News & Clues ceased in 1995 and had become quarterly by 1997. Publication became irregular from 2002 to 2011, and publication ceased with the Spring 2011 issue. Today the Information Service, the original foundation of SJVLS, operates with minimal staffing, but the legacy of cooperation lives on.


Portions of this article written by Jeff Crosby and John Kallenberg were previouly published in News & Clues