[Editor's Note: This story has been updated provide correct information regarding the Powell Memorial Library and the Joseph R. Palmer Family Memorial Library.]
Exactly 97.3 percent of Missouri counties have county-funded libraries. Lincoln County falls in the 2.7 percent without any.
An initiative that was shot down in 2018, to make public, county libraries in Lincoln County a reality, is an initiative that will be coming back around again come 2021.
And the group responsible for the initiative is and has been putting in work to ensure that the correct decisions are made moving forward and that the level of awareness is high.
That 2018 initiative, which was a 10-cent tax to fund a Lincoln County Library District (LCLD), was awfully close to passing, and missed out by only about three percent.
“That was a contentious election, not for the Library District, but for all these other issues. Right to Work was on [the ballot], which brought out a lot of people. Not that we don’t want people to vote, but it made it a little more difficult for the library,” Patti Silvey said. After that initiative failed in 2018, all of the Board of Directors resigned, except for Silvey.
“Me and some of the other people that had been involved with that campaign, we still agreed that we wanted a Library District in the county, so we’d give it another go. That’s kind of where we are,” Silvey said. Having a new, full board to help manage the campaign efforts, Silvey said that she and her colleagues hope to have a new initiative on the ballot in 2021.
Those board members are Silvey, Jill Maher, Angie Baker, Betty Cox and Mike Willard.
As far as what the upcoming initiative will look like compared to the one from that 2018 ballot, Silvey said that they may look the same, or similar, but that such information is far from finalized.
“We’ve done a little more investigation. We’ve been approached by the Scenic Regional Library District to join their Library District,” Silvey said.
The Scenic Regional Library District spans three counties: Franklin, Gasconade, and Warren.
“It’s a much larger library system, and it would certainly be great to join it,” Silvey said.
Joining an already established Library District comes with major benefits, such as a chain of knowledge and vital resources available from the get go, without having to work to establish those things.
The kicker is that, should Lincoln County go solo and try to set up a Library District themselves, they can shoot for that 10-cent tax, but should they choose to join another, already established Library District, such as Scenic Regional, they’d have to abide by the tax rate where that District is based. To join Scenic Regional, the tax would be 21-cents.
Silvey, thinking back to that 2018 election and looking ahead to the future efforts of the Library District, added that she has noticed and understands that the residents of Lincoln County tend to lean towards liking fewer taxes.
“I do anticipate some difficulties with the recent increase in real estate assessments,” Silvey said.
While there is no county-wide library district, the Powell Memorial Library in Troy is open to the public.
The Powell Library in Troy is funded in part through the Lincoln County R-III School District; There are also fund drives and private donations that help keep them operating to the best of their ability.
Library cards are available at the Powell Memorial Library for those in and outside of the Lincoln County R-III School District area.
If you live or own property in the Lincoln County R-III School District, there is a $10 yearly fee for a library card.
And anyone who lives outside of that school district is still eligible to get a library card at a $20 yearly fee.
The Powell Memorial Library also has computers available for a small fee and available Wi-Fi.
There is also the privately-funded Joseph R. Palmer Family Memorial Library in Elsberry.
Silvey said that to have an area of Lincoln County’s size, without a public library system, is quite rare.
“It is very uncommon. In fact, according to the State Librarian, there are three counties in the state of Missouri that don’t have tax supported libraries,” Silvey said.
Lincoln County is one of those three counties, out of 114 total counties in Missouri.
“It really is a shame because a lot of people take them for granted. It has even become more needed because of the Internet. Internet service is spotty throughout the rural areas of the county. Not only that, if you want to apply for a job, most employers now require that you do it online,” Silvey said, mentioning how important things that come with a public library, like accessible Wi-Fi, can be.
There have been discussions of Troy economic development of late, with meetings being held to ensure that the city is growing effectively and efficiently, and Silvey brought up a point that lends it self to that conversation.
“When businesses are looking to relocate, they will look at the services within the county and not having a Library District is a big detriment because they are looking for an educated workforce with resources within the community that help that education and also provide a good quality of life,” Silvey said, adding, “I think that’s important because it does add to the economic engine of the county.”
The Library Board is looking to start hosting some public meetings, to raise awareness about their ongoing efforts.
“I kind of wanted all of the negativity with the assessments to kind of calm down a little bit and then we are going to hold some public meetings,” Silvey said.
The options that they will be assessing and gauging public opinion on, will be creating their own Library District, at what would likely be around a 10-cent tax, joining the Scenic Regional Library District for a 21-cent tax, or becoming reciprocal with the St. Charles County Library District at the tax rate that they have in place: 16-cents.
Silvey and the Library Board have been touring surrounding libraries, to get an idea for what they may need, building wise. They toured the relatively new library in Vandalia along with a library in Ralls County.
“We are going to hold these public meetings and tell the public about these different options and try to get a feel for what residents want, because, while I want one thing, it might not be what the whole county wants. So we want to get a feel for where people are leaning and where we should go from there,” Silvey said.
She thinks that those meetings will occur around March and April, and after they have been conducted, the ballot language will start being put together, and there will be a petition drive to get the necessary 1,600 signatures.