What's library access worth to you?
Schaumburg Twp. candidate wants to charge nonresidents
A Schaumburg Township District Library candidate is causing waves among his fellow hopefuls and within the Illinois Secretary of State's office with a proposal to charge out-of-district residents for the borrowing of library materials.
Former library trustee Richard Hetzer, who is running for the board again, wants the library's plentiful out-of-district patrons to pay $30 for three-year reciprocal borrower cards.
Hetzer estimates that such a policy would not only generate an initial $450,000 in new revenue but free up about 15 percent of the parking spaces in the central library's often overcrowded lot.
Furthermore, Hetzer believes the money raised should be earmarked for the occasional replacement of the computers at the library.
But fellow candidates including incumbents Debby Miller and Nick Scipione and newcomer Julie Wroblewski Bosshart said the proposal flies in the face of the reciprocal borrowing arrangement enjoyed by library users in Illinois for decades.
And Illinois State Library Director Anne Craig -- who works in the offices of Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White -- agrees.
"In our office, we strongly support resource sharing for everyone," Craig said. "We believe in the access that's already provided."
There is a body of law that allows libraries to reasonably limit access to some materials to out-of-district card holders in favor of district residents, Craig said.
Scipione, who spent many years working at the Schaumburg Township District Library before becoming a trustee, said this is a right the library already exercises.
But Craig could not immediately dispute Hetzer's claim that state law was silent on the ability of libraries to impose the type of out-of-district user fee he's suggesting.
While Craig would not speculate on the ultimate consequences of a library adopting such a policy, she said it would inspire the Secretary of State's office to consider some type of response.
Hetzer said he realizes that adopting such a fee might make it fair game for other libraries to do the same. But he said revenue is a concern of many libraries these days, pointing out that the current library board was strongly considering a tax-hike referendum on April 5 for many months before backing off.
Hetzer said he obtained information from the library showing that of its 130,058 card holders, 30,674 or nearly 25 percent were reciprocal borrowers.
In his estimate of revenues, he said he made an educated guess that just under half of these borrowers -- or 15,000 -- would actually pay the fee.
Based on the half who probably wouldn't, he estimated that about 15 percent more parking spaces would be available in the lot at most times.
He said having to park in an outlot of the library at Town Square at Schaumburg and Roselle roads is a common experience for him and others.
However, the other three candidates said they've rarely found parking in the admittedly busy lot to be an insurmountable problem.
Furthermore, they didn't feel additional revenues were worth changing such a fundamental aspect of the relationship among Illinois libraries.
"Reciprocal borrowing is mandated by state law and I'm not sure charging for it would be legal," Miller said.
"I want to see as many people use our library as possible, whether they're in our district or not," Wroblewski Bosshart said.
While believing current parking was adequate at the library, Wroblewski Bosshart suggested a study could determine whether some other option for increasing it might be feasible.
"There are some nights when the lot is full, which I think is a testament to our materials and services," Scipione said.
He added he might be more compelled to look for a recourse if he felt nonresident patrons were causing a big drain on the library's resources, but he didn't believe that to be the case.