Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Metro East Libraries

Metro East Libraries

Continuing the theme of Metro East elections yesterday, here's the Library Service in the MetroEast blog run by Barbara Rhodes, the director of the Collinsville Memorial Public Library.

On the Missouri side, we're kind of spoiled by the fact we have long-established, well-developed public library systems. Four of them - St Louis Public Library, St Louis County Library, the Municipal Library Consortium of St Louis County, and St Charles City-County Library - have a reciprocal lending agreement.

That means anybody who lives in any of those territories can get a card from any other member library, free of charge, and check out books just as if they lived in that library district. For example, I live in the City of St. Louis, served by St. Louis Public Library. But I also hold a St. Louis County Library card, as I have for at least 20 years. When I was a kid living in unincorporated South County and going to school in South City, in order to get books from the nearby Machacek Branch, I used my teacher's library card. But for the past 10 years or so, I've been a cardholder in both systems.

A few years later, I obtained a University City Public Library card for free, which entitles me to access any of the nine municipal libraries within St. Louis County but not part of the County Library system. If I was so inclined, I could similarly obtain a library card at any of the 11 public libraries in St. Charles County, from Portage des Sioux to St Peters to Augusta.

But in Illinois, it's more complicated. Some areas are not served by a public library at all; others have one but only one, usually near the downtown of one of the small-towns-turned-suburbs. East St. Louis has a public library, although they abandoned their historic downtown facility some years ago, books and all. The new location is way out at 5300 State Street.

Yesterday, the Collinsville library - administered by the Mississippi Valley Public Library District - had a ballot initiative to expand their reach to serve the entirety of the Collinsville Community Unit School District #10 (including areas beyond Collinsville city limits) as well as Fairmont City IL, a heavily Hispanic community located inside East St Louis School District 189 but not in any library district.

At the same time, nearby growing suburb Maryville IL proposed a property tax for its own fledgling community library.

The bottom line: Maryville community library district voters said 'yes' to the tax. But Collinsville area voters said 'no' to the expansion. Further complicating matters is that apparently the issue was not placed on the ballot in St Clair County, where Fairmont City, Caseyville (which is part of Collinsville CUSD #10), and part of Collinsville itself are located.

This is just another example of the need to develop infrastructure in suburbanizing areas, that may not be as crucial in a small-town environment, but is well-established in most central cities.

Similar growing pains are evident in the Jefferson County Library District in Missouri, which opened its first locations (in High Ridge and in Arnold) only 15 years ago. They now have a third location in the Barnhart area, but still only service roughly the northern one-third of that county. Further south, Festus has its own public library, as do Crystal City and DeSoto. But most of the semi-rural parts of JeffCo have no public library of their own.


Maire said...

Just an extra plug for SLPL--remember that access to our 15 library locations is open to not only City residents.


Residents of and persons paying real estate or personal property taxes to the St. Louis County Library Taxing District, the St. Louis Municipal Library Consortium, the St. Charles City-County Library Taxing District, and the Webster Groves Public Library Taxing District are eligible for a free library card.

City Business Employee
Non-residents who are employed by a business, government, or non-profit agency located within the City of St. Louis or St. Louis Airport at Lambert Field are eligible for a library card. Military personnel who are assigned to full-time or part-time duty within the City of St. Louis are also eligible for a free card under this registration class.

Property Owner
Non-residents who pay real estate or personal property taxes to the City of St. Louis are eligible for a library card. The non-resident is entitled to have additional cards for every member of his/her household - adults and minors.

Non-residents who are temporarily residing in the City of St. Louis and persons living temporarily in shelters, half-way houses, rehabilitation centers, etc. located within the City of St. Louis are eligible for a library card with limited borrowing privileges. Both adults and minors are eligible for this card. Up to five (5) items (print only) may be issued. The card can be used to access public computers. These cards will expire monthly, and can be revalidated upon presenting identification.

Non-Resident Student
Non-residents living in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, but outside of St. Louis County, St. Charles County and the City of St. Louis, and attending schools, universities, colleges, trade schools, or daycares within the City of St. Louis are eligible for a library card. The metropolitan area is defined as the Missouri counties of Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, St. Charles, St. Louis, Warren and the City of St. Louis. The Illinois counties are Clinton, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair.
Fee-Based (Paid) Memberships
Annual Membership - Non-residents living in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area (see Non-Resident Student) who are not eligible under any of the other non-resident card types may pay an annual fee to obtain a library card. Payment of the annual fee entitles the applicant to have up to two (2) cards for members of his/her household.

Friends of the Library - Current members of the Friends of the St. Louis Public Library, who do not qualify as a Resident or Non-Resident, are eligible for a library card. Depending on the type of Friends membership, one or more library cards may be issued.

Also, non-cardholders who wish to book computers at the library may obtain a two-week computer pass

Bellevegas said...

A free public library is something a lot of people take for granted. I grew up only a half-mile from the Belleville city limits, but was not part of any library district! We used to pay $85/year to use the Belleville Public Library. When I moved to St Louis I was astonished to find out that anyone in the county could use city libraries and vice versa. Take full advantage of it! I do.

There was some talk years ago about mandating library district coverage in the same manner as school districts. Obviously, that got nowhere.