Thanks to 40-year-old state legislation, the boundaries for library districts in Missouri are difficult to change. Most library districts -- like the Cape Girardeau Public Library, and the Riverside Regional Library that serves Jackson, Altenberg, Benton, Oran, Scott City and Perryville -- rely on special taxes paid by residents of those districts.
While library districts haven't changed since the 1960s, city boundaries have. As Cape Girardeau has grown, the city has added approximately 800 households since the 1960s that are outside the Cape Girardeau Public Library district and are in the Riverside district. As a practical matter, this means those Cape Girardeau residents pay the Riverside library tax and are expected to use the Riverside facilities. In order to use the Cape Girardeau library, they have to pay an annual fee on top of the Riverside tax.
For those in that peculiar situation who want to use the Cape Girardeau library, paying the Riverside tax and the Cape Girardeau library fee might be less expensive than being in the Cape Girardeau library district and paying its tax, which is about double the Riverside levy.
There are a good many Cape Girardeau residents in the Riverside district who use neither library and probably would be just as happy to keep things the way they are rather than pay a higher tax to the Cape Girardeau library district.
Still, there are some Cape Girardeau residents in the Riverside district who would prefer the convenience of access to the Cape Girardeau library without having to pay the additional annual fee. Some of these residents would like for the library boundaries to be changed to reflect how the city's boundaries have changed in the past 40 years.
To that end, the Cape Girardeau library has scheduled a meeting for Cape Girardeau residents who are in the Riverside district. The purpose of the meeting is to determine what level of interest there is in changing the boundaries and to explore what it would take to make such a change.
New state legislation would again be required, and legislators cognizant of similar boundary concerns around the state could be faced with the prospect of wholesale changes once they decide to attempt redrawing any district lines.
It will be interesting to see what residents say they want at the April 6 meeting. And the Cape Girardeau library's trustees are to be commended for making possible this discussion. If it accomplishes nothing else it will provide an educational forum for everyone affected by the boundary disparities.