League studies library issues
To the editor:
During National Library Month, the League of Women Voters of Missouri would like to remind us of the role that free public libraries play in the development of an informed and democratic society. They offer access to knowledge for everyone regardless of income. As research sites, as gathering places and as lenders of new and old books, books-on-tape, movies and free Internet access, libraries better our lives.
The League of Women Voters of Missouri has been engaged in a two-year study examining public libraries' governance, service, funding and audiences for the purpose of evaluating the overall coverage of this needed resource. One of the study's major findings has been serious funding problems resulting from weakened grant support and increased use of tax-increment financing and other exemptions. New technology and increased costs also impact library services, resulting in buying fewer books and possibly reducing hours, thus weakening an essential public institution.
Over time, most libraries have experienced changes in their populations' need for services. Add this to the finding that many unserved or underserved areas of the state exist, and it's clear that our libraries, and access to information, are in trouble.
Public awareness of the issues surrounding library service can go a long way toward solving some of the problems, and the League of Women Voters of Missouri will continue to play a role in getting the library message out to the public.
MARY MERRITT, President,
League of Women Voters of Missouri, St. Louis