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Future of the Library | Frequently Asked Questions

As promised, below you'll find a list of our Frequently Asked Questions regarding the current and future state of the St. Charles City-County Library. If, after reading all of the questions below, you still have questions, we've created a form for you to submit additional comments and questions. You may also email the board at

  1. Can you summarize why our Libraries and Library staff are at risk?
    • The Board of Trustees challenged Library leadership to propose a solution that would adjust our course ensuring we are a sustainable organization ready to serve St. Charles County for future generations. Over the past six years, we have gathered information from our customers, our broader community, and staff including two strategic plans (2018 and 2023), a facilities master plan (2019), and more recently broadscale surveys and focus groups (early 2023). We have analyzed data showing significant changes in what consumers expect and how they use Library resources. And, as you may have heard in our Board discussions, many of these changes require notably larger investments than our current resources permit. At the same time, we have seen ongoing threats to our revenue, and we continue to face the very real challenge of hiring and retaining the best staff available.

  2. With St. Charles County being one of the fastest growing in the state, how do we not have enough funds to keep all of the library branches open?
    • Revenue is only one part of the analysis. The issue facing the Library District is not simply about revenue. While revenue has increased 41% since 2008, the District’s operating expenses have increased by 67%. This puts significant financial pressure on the District and makes it difficult for us to meet the needs of our patrons and the community.  

      The goal for a long-term, sustainable financial future for the Library is to bring down expenses so that we are able to implement the strategic vision for the District and provide the highest quality service for the community. 

      Over the years we have taken steps to reduce our operating expenses; however, it is clear that we need to make more changes if we are to preserve the Library’s future. Also, we need a healthy gap between our revenue and operating expenses so that we can put funds into our reserve fund and into our capital fund for projects that include things like maintenance, repair, expansion, renovation, improvement of infrastructure, and opening/building facilities in areas of population growth. 

      We know it may seem counter-intuitive that the Board is discussing opening or expanding facilities in the western part of the County while also discussing closing facilities in other areas; however, the Library District does need to be responsive to changing community needs and we will have to make trade-offs as we move forward. The Board has committed to hearing ideas from the community as we move through this process and determine the path forward.

  3. What are the challenges to your revenue?
    • Nearly all of the Library’s funding comes from property taxes. Legislative efforts continue to reduce, repeal, or cap real and personal property taxes. This includes the property tax freeze for seniors and other proposals that could eliminate personal property taxes. 

      There has also been recent legislation proposed to reduce the growth allowance under the Hancock Amendment.

      The Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution was passed in 1980. It limits the growth in tax revenue that a local entity can collect. As assessments on property rise, the actual dollars from taxes on existing property that can be collected are capped at the lesser of 5% or the rate of inflation, even if the growth in assessment would otherwise provide for more.  This is why we are legally obligated to roll back our tax rate on a regular basis and cannot levy at the most recently voter-approved rate.

  4. What is driving expenses and how can I see your financial reports?
    • There are three primary areas: electronic materials, infrastructure needs, and staff compensation. But there is also inflation and rising costs of health benefits. We’re struggling with unchecked increases in the costs of electronic materials along with the increasing demand for them. While we’ve made great strides in improving our infrastructure, our facilities need significant investment to bring them up to modern standards.

      All financial records are posted online and shared at our regular board meetings held on the third Tuesday of each month. You can opt-in to receive messages about upcoming Board of Trustees meetings. 

  5. Why did you choose the Kisker, McClay, and Deer Run branches?
    • These three branches were considered in part because these physical facilities do not meet the needs of the patrons based on the changing uses of the Library that we have seen over time, the results of our years of planning that involved community input, and costs. The cost to renovate the mid-sized locations is cost-prohibitive, ranging from $2.7M to $5.8M for these branches. 

      This being said the Board and the Library’s leadership have committed to taking a step back to consider other factors before a final decision is made.

  6. What is to be gained from such a significant change?
    • By redirecting our limited resources, we will increase hours of access to our other facilities and services with a goal for seven day per week operations at all physical locations and bolster offerings outside of buildings. 

      We will invest in staff, offering competitive compensation which increases our ability to hire, develop, and retain best-in-class employees. We will focus capital investments on branches with the physical capacity to provide the range of services our customers demand while better supporting our smaller locations and mobile services.

  7. Why haven’t we heard of financial issues before now?
    • We understand that this comes as a shock to many. In each of our board meetings, we share our financials for the month and year to date. We also post all financial reports and meeting minutes on our website. 

      Our Board of Trustees and Library leadership are discussing ways to better inform residents as we move forward. 

  8. Why was there such short notice for the special meeting on May 17?
    • The notice was handled with the same process that we announce all regular and special board meetings. By law, we are supposed to provide notice with postings at our buildings and on our website 24 hours in advance. By practice, we always effort to post announcements 48 hours in advance. If you would like to receive an email announcing Board meetings you can subscribe here.

  9. What is the process for getting notified of Library Board business and meetings?
    • By law, we are supposed to provide notice with postings at our buildings and on our website 24 hours in advance. By practice, we always effort to post announcements 48 hours in advance. If you would like to receive an email announcing Board meetings you can subscribe here.

  10. Why can’t the Library go to the taxpayers and ask for more funding?
    • This is something the Board is looking at as we weigh all options. It has been 30 years since we have asked the taxpayers in St. Charles County for an increase. We have looked into this option within the past few years and have found that our minimum cost to get on the ballot could be in excess of $100,000. Additional support would cost even more. Recent research among Library loyalists showed that there was not a general appetite for a tax increase. We understand the question was limited and did not ask specifically about closing branches. We do know that as successful as our library is there are still more non-library users in the county than users and chances of a successful ballot initiative in a generally tax-averse county are not certain.

  11. Are there other ways to save without losing staff or branches?
    • We are considering all things but options that don’t substantially impact operations are limited. Your feedback continues to be important. If you would like to share your ideas please email

  12. If you’re struggling financially, why are you spending money to renovate two branches?
    • We can understand the questions you have about the relationship between the Library's financial challenges and the renovations at two of our large branches. The renovations at the Spencer Road and Middendorf-Kredell branches are being completed to improve services, work flow, and study/meeting/gathering spaces while also performing necessary maintenance like a refreshed parking lot and HVAC. These renovations are funded out of the Library's capital fund and are not the cause of or related to the challenges we are facing with our revenue and operating expenses. The funds being spent for building improvements cannot be spent to fund operations. We acknowledge that we need to do a better job of communicating to the public about the Library’s financial situation and we hope that the information we disseminate in the coming days and weeks will help our community more fully understand the Library's finances.

  13. Why would you spend money on space in the mall? And will it remain open?
    • We currently have a lease with the mall through early 2025. It was a way to bring service to customers while two of our branches were closed. There was no additional investment in staff since they came from our temporarily closed branches. And for the most part, materials and furnishings also came from other branches so our investment besides the lease was minimal. We have been very pleased to see the hundreds of people who visit this branch daily.

  14. You said the bookmobile could make up for some of the lost branches. What kind of services can it provide?
    • The Library to You Bookmobile currently makes 14 stops around the county focusing on those areas where we don’t have facilities. The Bookmobile offers services like Holds pick up and returns, free WiFi, use of Chromebooks, print/copy/scan services, a small browsing collection for all ages, notary services, and the opportunity to get a Library card. And as of March 2023 they launched a new book discussion group.

  15. Can you apply for grants and sponsorships to make up for some of the operational expenses?
    • We do apply for grants and sponsorships but they never go toward operations. By the nature of most grants, they can only be used to purchase or support a specific item, event, or initiative.

  16. Why can’t volunteers help ease the burden staff is feeling with unfilled positions?
    • While we welcome volunteers, we cannot legally use them to do jobs that are also done by paid staff. Volunteers are a great asset and they make things happen above and beyond daily operations.

  17. Why doesn’t the Library accept used book donations to fill the shelves?
    • While we genuinely appreciate the thought, we have a team of professional librarians curating our collection based on many factors. The Library typically buys new books as newly released items. If someone donated a used book even if it was 'new' we wouldn't be able to get it out on the shelf until days or weeks after the release date. Additionally the quality of donations can vary. All would have to be inspected for quality control. 

      We also have a highly efficient system in which new items purchased from vendors are automatically downloaded into the catalog with on-order records so customers can see it and start placing holds right away. The vendors also put on barcodes and mylar book jackets for us now since our Tech Services staff has decreased substantially in the last 8 years (due to attrition.)

  18. Can you explain the difference between your operating budget and your capital budget and why you can’t look at it as one larger pool of money?
    • The easiest way to explain it is to compare it to a household budget. When your paycheck comes in you probably use most of it for rent/mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc. These are the equivalent of our operating expenditures. They are the day-to-day things we have to pay year in and year out to keep the doors open. Just like with a household budget if those expenses exceed your paycheck you have to make adjustments. Similarly, our operating expenses can not exceed our revenue. 

      Out of your paycheck, you may also be able to set aside savings for emergency reasons and to save for a bigger investment like a new roof for your home. We need to do the same. That new roof on your home probably doesn’t come out of one year of spare income or savings. The Library also needs multiple years of savings in our reserves to fund our special projects, like new roofs, parking lots, etc. 

      For us to fund day-to-day operations out of our reserves is not sustainable. Ultimately, and in the case of public entities legally as well, operating expenditures cannot exceed annual revenues.

  19. Why can’t you eliminate, reduce the availability, or even charge for the costly electronic resources?
    • The Library provides electronic resources through several platforms. The examples discussed at the May 17th meeting were – Hoopla and Overdrive/Libby. While the Board and Library’s leadership will be considering the cost of these electronic resources when it explores options for cost savings, electronic resources are not the only operating expense that has contributed to the Library’s current financial situation. The costs of electronic resources are a stark example of rising costs that are outpacing the District’s revenue, but it is not the single cause. 

      We acknowledge that we need to do a better job of communicating to the public about the Library’s financial situation. We hope that the information like these FAQs will help you and others in our community more fully understand the Library’s finances. Additionally, our electronic resources provide a vital service to those in our community who cannot access the Library’s physical locations or collection. The electronic collection provides information and materials to persons in our community with disabilities, limited access to vehicles, and other barriers that prevent them from visiting our branches or using the physical collection. It is important for the Library to provide access to those who are not able to use our physical collection. We have committed ourselves to considering these factors during our decision-making process.

  20. Why can’t you look for alternate revenue streams such as bringing back fines, charging for digital materials and room rentals?
    • Though we appreciate this question, as a public library it is our goal to never charge for borrowing items either physical or digital. While digital items may feel like a luxury to some, they are oftentimes the only option for someone who is sight or hearing impaired, is dyslexic, or even homebound. One of our values is that we are inclusive and offer access to all. We want to remove barriers where we can. 

      In the last year we charged overdue fines, they amounted to less than 1% of our revenue. Since electronic materials are automatically “returned” on their due date, they are not subject to overdue fines so the shift in use we’re seeing means an even further decline of the revenue potential. Further, there is a cost to collecting and managing fines that are paid by the customer. 

      In some cases, we do charge a small fee for room rentals but that is simply to cover our set-up and cleaning costs. 

      We are always open to finding additional revenue where it makes sense but many times the return on investment is simply not there.

  21. Has the library district studied new home build locations and age demographic census data to forecast library users?
    • During our strategic planning process, we examined our library users and a demographic analysis of St. Charles County. It is our intention for the Library District to undertake another analysis of our community at large, as well as the specific communities surrounding our library branches so that we have a clear and full understanding of the people that will be affected before any final decisions are made about changes in the District.

  22. Beyond adjusting hours, have staffing levels been studied to understand the true need for FTE positions and peak times? Have creative staffing models been considered, piloted, or implemented? 
    • The Library’s leadership has consistently examined staff levels and our positions to determine how to best meet the needs of the District. As part of the salary structure implementation process, we are certainly open to considering other changes that may enable the District to save money while minimizing the community impact as much as we can. The challenge for the District is that we have issues recruiting and retaining staff in some areas and this impacts our ability to do things like change the staffing model, increase hours, or increase staff at different locations or times of the day.

  23. Is there an opportunity to better partner with school districts and school libraries for shared staffing/ resources? 
    • The Library does partner with local schools on several initiatives. Forming better community partnerships is always on the table as we look for efficiencies and overall impact. 

  24. It is surprising to see 6 FTE employees in the library administration/ executive category when there have been 3-4 going back to 2019 (P. 7 FY 24 budget). 
    • Edited for clarity 5.28.24: The line being referenced on p. 7 of the FY24 budget titled Administration (Executive) does not only represent the Library’s Executive leadership. We understand why this causes confusion. In FY24 these FTEs represent the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, Executive Assistant, the Director of Branch Services an existing position that was moved into this category based on a reporting structure change, a Grants & Data Coordinator (a new position that was never filled and will be removed in FY25) and two part-time receptionist that had been eliminated during the COVID closures and needed to be reintroduced once the building was opened.  Previously these two receptionists had reported to Finance which is why there was a drop in FTE for the Finance Department between FY20 and FY21.
    • The actual C-Suite number in leadership has been reduced by one in recent years going from 5 to 4 in 2022. If you are looking at the budget one thing to note: The Chief Financial Officer falls under the Finance Department and the Chief Communications & Engagement Officer is in the Marketing Department.

  25. Though I commend you on a planned $1.2m budgeted operating surplus for FY 24. It appears that as the district is 50 years old, some of the financial concern resides with aging facilities that are funded through the "special fund."  Is that the root issue to address?  If so, on your 5-year capital forecast by branch (fy 24 budget P10), Kisker Road and McClay are planned for $550k in maintenance (220k and 333k respectively).  It seems shortsighted to close branches based on aging infrastructure if they appear generally well maintained.  
    • The capital projects, like the maintenance projects referenced, are not related to the revenue and operating expense issues facing the Library. Our capital project funds are separate from our revenue and operating expenses. The maintenance shown in our budget for the mid-sized branches reflects the estimated costs to keep the branch from suffering from things like leaking roofs; it doesn’t reflect the major improvements that our mid-sized branches need to modernize the facilities to meet the service model of the Library and the services that the public and our patrons requested during our strategic planning process. As mentioned above, our ability to continue to put funds into the reserve fund and into the capital fund so we can maintain our facilities and implement infrastructure improvements relies upon us keeping our expenses below our revenue.

  26. Are there offers on the table to purchase Kisker and McClay for development that have fueled the board to more vigorously pursue the option to close the libraries?
    • There are not any offers on the table to purchase the Kisker Road or McClay branches.

  27. How do my donations to the Friends of the Library make a difference?
    • The Friends of the Library continue to be an invaluable source of support through their annual book fair and membership dues. Their contributions have significantly enriched our library experience, funding initiatives like the Summer Challenge, staff development, book purchases for discussion kits, the diaper program (coming Summer 2024), and special events featuring authors and local personalities.

  28. How does my support of the Library Foundation make a difference?
    • The donations the Friends and the Library Foundation receive continue to support the Library in fulfilling its mission. The Foundation’s mission is to raise funds beyond tax dollar support to build a stronger library in service to our community. Over the years, the Foundation has consistently supported the Library with donations averaging around $110,000 annually. The support of individual donors, grants, and corporate sponsorships has been instrumental in fueling various programs and projects, enhancing the Library's offerings to the community.

      This year, the Foundation’s funds have been allocated to an array of impactful initiatives, including:

      • Born to Read Program
      • Library to You
      • Online High School Program
      • Large-Scale Author Events
      • Storybook Walks
      • Stay Sharp Kits
      • Open Access + for an upcoming project
      • Bookmobile Funds
    • Furthermore, the Foundation’s past contributions have played a vital role in funding essential resources and initiatives such as the Library to You Bookmobile, Early Literacy Computers, Early Literacy Centers, primary support for the new patio cover at Spencer Road, and various ongoing projects.

  29. Where do things currently stand?

    • There have been a lot of questions about the 30-day time frame that the Board approved to table the May 17th proposal and what is going to happen after June 15th.  We want to assure you that all decisions about any future changes to the Library District are on hold at this time.  The Board and Library leadership have committed to taking a step back to gather input and other information before the Board makes any final decisions.

  30. When are the Listening Sessions taking place?
    • Thank you for your patience as we work to schedule the Listening Sessions so we can hear your thoughts and answer your questions about the future of the Library. We plan to begin promoting and accepting registrations in the next few weeks. The Public Listening Sessions will run throughout the summer — longer if needed.

      There have been a lot of questions about the 30-day time frame that the Board approved to table the May 17th proposal and what is going to happen after June 15th. Please know the Library Board has committed to taking a step back and is gathering input from our community before making any final decisions. 

      Please continue to send your suggestions and questions to or submit your questions and/or comments on this form. When the Public Listening Sessions are set you will find more information on our website, our facebook page, and via email if you are a cardholder with an updated email address on file.nces.

  31. Will the Board be requesting an audit?

    • The Library has an independent audit done annually. It is required by law and is due to the Missouri State Auditor's office by December 31 each year. All audits are on the State Auditor's website and posted on our website

  32. Why doesn’t the Library charge for electronic materials?

    • That would make us unique among public libraries if we were to charge. These are third-party vendors and the checkouts go directly through them. There is no system in place for us to implement that.

If you have additional questions or comments, you may submit them directly to the board by clicking the Submit Your Questions button below and filling out the form or email them to

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