2011 was a year of great change for the St Louis County Library. Among the projects that we completed in the past year were the following: self-check kiosks at all branches, credit card payment for fines, a new and more sophisticated Wi-Fi system at all locations, a new and improved library website, and the relocation of the existing Eureka Branch to a new facility more than twice the size of the old one. Projects coming soon include the installation of new exterior signs at all locations and the release of a new library app which will have a number of cool features including a streamlined process for downloading e-books and other e-media content. The library will also finish 2011 with record usage, our current projections show that we will end the year with circulation of well over 12 million items, an all time high. Thank you to our customers for making us the busiest library in Missouri and one of the busiest in the Midwest.
However, as we look ahead to 2012 certain challenges loom. The library depends heavily on property taxes for its funding and this source of revenue has been heavily impacted by declining property values. In order to close this gap we have striven to be more cost conscious than ever and to be the best possible stewards of your tax dollars. Through attrition we have reduced the size of the library workforce by almost ten percent during the past few years and we have overhauled many of our procedures in order to make sure our customers have a positive experience. We are also faced with an aging physical plant as many of our branch buildings are nearing the point where they will need major renovation or replacement in order to continue to serve our community effectively. In order to fill this gap we have been aggressively pursuing private dollars and have increased our intake of private donations by some four-fold in the past five years.
Nevertheless, private money alone won't fill the gaps and we are considering various options for new tax revenues in order to meet the long term needs of our customers and to make sure that you will continue to have access to the quality children's and job assistance programs that we have offered in the past. The library last went to the voters for assistance in 1983, almost thirty years ago. The time may be coming soon when voters will be asked to make a personal determination about the value of the library in their own lives and in the life of the community. We will be presenting more information on this topic after the first of the year in the meantime I wish you all a happy holiday season and a joyous New Year!
--Charles Pace, St. Louis County Library Director