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A Message from our Board President & CEO

A message from our Board President and CEO
Article Date
May 23, 2024

This past week we have had the opportunity to hear from many of you as you shared your heartfelt library stories, your concerns, possible solutions, and support for current and future library operations. Thank you. Like you, we understand how incredibly difficult it is to hear that changes of some kind are needed.

We acknowledge that we fell short on communicating the seriousness of our situation. Because of that, a lot of assumptions have been made and inaccurate information shared. 

We are committed to doing better moving forward. In the next few days, we will have FAQs available on our website. These FAQs will provide important information and provide an opportunity for you to continue to share your comments and ask additional questions. We will continue to update the FAQs to make information available to you.

In the meantime, the Board of Trustees has tabled any action for at least 30 days from the May 17th meeting. The Board will use that time to take some immediate steps to move forward to address the challenges facing the Library District.  First and foremost, we will be working diligently to listen to the community and staff.  We will host a series of listening sessions; more information about these sessions will be forthcoming. In addition to the FAQs, we will disseminate more information about the challenges facing the Library District. We will take a deeper look at expenditures, particularly electronic resources, to identify opportunities for cost savings. Even though the action has been tabled for 30 days, please know we are committed to taking more time to make a decision that is in the best interest of the Library District and those we serve. During this time, we will not implement the proposal presented on May 17th.  

Over the years we have seen changes in how our community uses our branches, the types of resources they seek and request, and the services they need from the Library.  We have seen a significant shift in how patrons are using our collection; specifically, an increase in the use of eMedia and a decline in the use of physical resources.  We have also seen an increased need for meeting and study rooms, improved technology, and for us to become an “everywhere library.” These changes in the preferences of our patrons have impacted our financial resources and use of our facilities.  

This, along with inflation, the cost of health insurance, market wage increases, facility maintenance, and other issues, have contributed to the current state of the Library. Additionally, operational expenses have outpaced annual revenues since 2008. 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 heard this past Friday, 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. 

For these reasons, we must examine our Library system and make decisions to ensure a financially sustainable future that can meet the needs of our community; however, the feedback we have received makes it clear that the Board’s decision about the Library’s future must consider factors beyond financial concerns. We are committed to making a decision that is based on both the Library District’s financial future and meeting the diverse needs of those in our community. To this end, we will be examining important data about our community and gathering feedback that we can use to inform our decisions.

Following Friday’s meeting, we understand and appreciate the outcry to save our library. We understand that for some in our community, the library is a lifeline. Your voices are being heard. We are listening. Like you, we feel the weight of this decision. We know difficult choices will have to be made. but we can promise you that the Board and the Library’s leadership will use an informed decision-making process that includes input from the community and staff. We’re confident that we’ll arrive at a solution that enables us to serve St. Charles County for generations to come.  

Thank you for your input and patience as we continue to navigate this difficult situation. 

If you would like to share your feedback with the Board, please email or fill out this form.

Stacia Alvarez, President
St. Charles City-County Library Board of Trustees

Jason F. Kuhl
Chief Executive Officer