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.