To the Editor:
In 1901, the Andrew Carnegie Foundation granted the citizens of Streator a gift of $35,000 for the purpose of building a public library. The gift was three and a half times the normal grant of $10,000 usually given to a community. The reason for the larger donation was because of the friendship and respect Carnegie had for our first mayor and founder, Col. Ralph Plumb. The new public library was dedicated in 1903 and has been an iconic building in the downtown area ever since.
The city of Streator helped the library with its finances in its first few years of operation but has not had an obligation to do so for well over a century now. It has been self sufficient ever since then. In 1970, when the state of Illinois adopted its new constitution, the tax rate for all municipal libraries was set at .0015%. This is the first time the library has come to the citizens of Streator to ask for a rate increase. For 50 years we have been operating at the same rate. Because of many factors that are out of our control, the Board of Trustees has made the decision to place on the March 17 ballot a referendum to raise that rate from .0015% to .0023%, an increase of .0008%. That’s 8 cents per $100 of taxable value. If you have a home valued at $75,000 your increase in tax liability would be $15, or $7.50 per installment.
The role of the library has evolved over the years from just being a place to come check out a book to being more of a community center. The Streator Public Library offers more services now than ever. We not only offer books to our patrons but we offer audio books, large print books, movies, e-books, newspapers, magazines and access to the internet. Last year we had over 140 years of Streator newspapers that were on microfiche digitized. We offer reading programs to patrons of all ages, we have a Lego Club and a Playdough Club. We also offer Laser Tag nights and escape rooms! Not only do we offer over 45,000 books in our catalogue, but our patrons now have access to the catalogues of 136 other libraries!
We have no idea what the role of public libraries will be in the future. Twenty-one years ago we could not have imagined having digitized newspapers and internet access. One of the reasons we are asking for this modest increase is so that whatever the needs of our libraries are, we will be able to meet those needs. We can’t imagine what Streator would have been like these past 117 years without the Streator Public Library and we can’t imagine a Streator in the future without our beloved library. Let’s hope we never have to.
Please support the Streator Public Library on March 17 with a “Yes” vote on the referendum.
DAVID REED, president, Streator Public Library Board of Directors