By Pauline Masson
A measure to increase the tax levy for the Scenic Regional Library from 10 cents to 20 cents per $100 assessed valuation would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $20 a year — less than the cost of a new hardcover book.
And it could help to improve the local economy, protect home values and add to the books and services at the local library, according to Steve Campbell, Scenic Regional Library director.
Campbell spoke at a Pacific Area Chamber of Commerce meeting Jan. 21. The meeting was held at the Tri County Senior Center and guests included the center’s regular lunch crowd.
“Although it’s been shown that students who take part in summer reading programs can sustain or even improve the reading levels they achieved in the previous school semester, libraries benefit a much larger segment of the population than small children,” Campbell told the mixed audience of businessmen and -women and senior center patrons.
Campbell said he was not meeting with local groups to advocate passage of the tax levy, but to inform the public of the scope of services provided by the library and compare the funding that Scenic Regional Library receives with other library districts.
People visit libraries to apply for jobs online, research and write business plans, learn new job skills and prepare for college entrance and vocational exams, Campbell said.
It’s not unusual for families with children who are interested in relocating to the area to visit the library, just like they would check out the parks and public school system.
In 2013, some 276,000 people visited a Scenic Regional Library and its branches, checked out almost 500,000 items, including 38,000 ebooks, a 35 percent increase from the previous year and completed 150,000 online searches.
Almost 2,000 children participated in the library summer reading program and 3,800 children attended story time.
Campbell said the library completed a survey to find out what patrons thought of the library and overall the results showed people like Scenic Regional, but 60 percent of those responding said they wanted more — more DVD books, more audio books and they wanted the library to be open more hours.
“We’d especially like to increase the library hours in Pacific,” Campbell told the hometown crowd.
The library also would like to offer more technology, he said, such as downloadable movies and music.
“We’d like to mail books to homebound patrons,” Campbell said.
The library is hampered in its wish to increase materials and services because of funding.
The 10-cent tax levy the library receives is the same amount it received in 1959.
Of 133 libraries in the state, Scenic Regional ranks 131 in its tax levy. St. Louis County Library receives 26 cents, St. Charles County-City Library receives 26 cents, the Jefferson County Library, Missouri River Regional Library Jefferson City and Washington County Library, Potosi, each have a 20-cent levy.
The Pacific Library at 119 W. St. Louis St., is 4,000 square feet to serve a population of 7,000.
“We need a library two or three times that size,” Campbell said. “If the levy passes, we can expand our libraries and the material we provide.”
Scenic Regional Library is headquartered at 308 Hawthorne Drive, Union and has branches in Pacific, St. Clair, New Haven, Hermann, Owensville and Warren County.