County Tax Hike: Build a Bonfire, Not a New Library

County Library headquarters was just remodeled, and now the library board wants higher taxes to tear it down, and build another one.

The St. Louis County Library Board recently voted to ask for a six-cent tax hike on the current 16-cent per $100 property valuation, for the purpose of tearing down and rebuilding the County library’s headquarters.

I went to the library headquarters after that. The building is on Lindbergh Boulevard in Ladue.

What did I find? They had just remodeled the place—the same building they now want to tear down.

And I don’t mean they remodeled the place several years ago, I mean in the last nine months.

An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Paul Hampel said the headquarters was built in 1960 and has been well maintained, but did have a leak in the roof.

Well, fix the roof, don’t tear down the building.

When my house had a leak in the roof, I called a very good roofing company and fixed the leak. I didn’t call for a bulldozer. I’d be happy to pass along the company’s name to the Library Board.

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail

Library District Director Charles Pace said the library was “reaching the end of its design life.” Pace said libraries of the future needed to be more like community centers “as opposed to being a big reading room with endless rows of shelves.”

Wasn't that what libraries are, and what they are designed for? But the library board doesn’t think that is functional anymore. Maybe they should put in some basketball courts and spas?

Pace also wants to expand the "library" parking lot from 395 parking spaces to 545 spaces. That is event parking for maybe 1,100 people. If you need parking for 1,100 are you really running a library?

Now, in terms of more taxes, I wasn’t wild about the bond issue for the courthouse repairs we all voted to pass April 3 at the polls. All the local trade unions were for it.

And I’m sure the same unions would love to start tearing down and rebuilding libraries around the county. But that doesn’t mean I want to see my property taxes go up.

The tax increase would raise property tax on a $450,000 house $51.30 a year.

If you add that to the property tax you pay in Chesterfield for fire dispatch, plus the new sales tax for 9-1-1 services, plus another tax for transit buses, plus all the new sales taxes to pay for developers' outlet malls in Chesterfield Valley—we're killing ourselves financially by dozens of small cuts. One cut is no big deal, but 30 are going to do some damage.

A modest proposal

I love books and don’t care for e-books, Kindles or Nooks. I like the feel of books and being able to read one, and pass it along to friends. I have bought so many books at estate sales that I had to build a library in my basement to hold them all.

I’m always reading a book. When I finish it I give it away. My wife and I both use the County library headquarters.

But let’s be honest. Books are becoming a thing of the past. Bookstores are closing all over the world. Fewer books are being printed and more are being downloaded.  

In 20 or 30 years, libraries will no longer be storing paper books. There will be monitors, or computer technicians to help you download books onto your e-reader, or you'll rent an e-book on an electronic tablet. If you keep it out over two weeks, the library will debit your bank account through a chip in your arm!

The library district also wants more money to buy CDs and DVDs. Hello! CDs and DVDs are rapidly going the way of the 45 rpm record—or any record for that matter. 

The Library Board might be trying to prove a need for libraries in the future, say 25 years from now.

But residents should not be paying a library tax to build community centers. The library district needs instead to tear down the buildings it has, and start planning to sell off the buildings, and land, and go out of business when there are no longer ink-on-paper books.

A Library Science degree will shortly go the way of English and Journalism degrees, as worthless pieces of paper.  

Soon, the Internet—and technology in general—will do what author Ray Bradbury predicted in his novel Fahrenheit 451 about futuristic America, where all books are banned and those found are burned.

We are now slowly getting rid of books without any fires.

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Editor's note: Speculation on Bradbury's book title is that 451°F is a temperature at which books would burst into flames.


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