People who live in unserved areas next to the Gail Borden Public Library District's western border can expect to be asked in November if they want to annex and become taxpaying members of the district.
The library's board of trustees is working on placing a referendum question on the Nov. 4 election ballot. The results would affect an estimated 870 unserved households, said Denise Raleigh, the library's division chief of public relations and development.
The majority of those households are in Elgin, some are in Campton Hills, and a few have mailing addresses in St. Charles, Plato Center and Plato Township, she said.
Even though the referendum directly affects only unserved areas, voters within the library district -- which serves more than 144,000 residents in Elgin, South Elgin and portions of Hoffman Estates, Streamwood and Bartlett -- also will be asked to weigh in on Election Day, Raleigh said.
"We hope people will decide to join this library district because we think it's so imperative that kids have access to a public library. And everyone else," Raleigh said.
The unserved areas are east of Route 47, generally north of Burlington Road and south of Plank Road.
The areas include 1,039 addresses, though not all correspond to a household. In some cases, the households are in pockets surrounded by in-district homes, she said.
The main library is at 270 N. Grove Ave., and the Rakow branch is at 2751 W. Bowes Road, both in Elgin.
A majority of district voters and a majority of voters within the unserved areas must approve the referendum question, Raleigh said.
Suzanne Fahnestock, director of elections for Kane County, confirmed that's how the law reads, although she cautioned she can't issue an opinion before the library submits its ballot question.
Fahnestock also said that if there are multiple precincts within the unserved areas, any precincts with a majority of "yes" votes could get annexed individually.
"We would wait to hear from the library district to be specific on the (unserved) area, to code all that," she said.
If the question is approved, residents living in the unserved areas could get permanent library cards after Election Day, Raleigh said.
The new members would start paying library taxes in 2015. For a house with an assessed value of $150,000, library taxes are estimated at about $240 annually, she said.
Under state law, library districts can annex contiguous land following the boundaries of contiguous municipalities and school districts, Raleigh said.
That can happen through action by the library board, by voter decision or by request from residents, she said.
Library Executive Director Carole Medal said the board must vote on placing the question on the ballot no later than its July meeting.
The board is paying $2,500 to consultant Steve Larson of Ehlers Financial Advisors in Lisle to guide the preparation for the referendum, Medal said.
"We are doing so much of the work in house," she said. "It's more just using our consultant as a watchdog and making sure that everything we're doing is correct and by the law."
The library starting Monday will mail temporary cards valid May 1 to Nov. 4 to all unserved addresses, Raleigh said.
"We're going to be providing them with six months of demonstration services," she said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to try our library services that we think have a very important impact."
People can begin using the library's online services as soon as they receive the temporary cards but will have to activate the cards at the main library or the Rakow branch to check out materials, she said.
"We would really love them to visit the library, of course," Raleigh said.
To deal with the additional temporary patrons, temporary staff members will be hired for the next six months, Raleigh said.
Should the referendum question be approved, any expenses related to serving more patrons -- including hiring -- will be covered by the additional tax revenue, she said.
"If you're already a member of district, there is no tax consequence to you," she said.
About half of students in Burlington Central School District 301 live in unserved areas with no access to a public library, Raleigh said.
Last summer, the school district added summer hours so families could check out books from its libraries when school is not in session, District 301 Superintendent Todd Stirn said.
Still, that's not comparable to the vast resources of a public library district, he said.
"The referendum would give them the opportunities to have access to the wonderful services (of the Gail Borden library)," he said.
"They offer so much in various resources with not only media, but science experiments that can be checked out, books, access to computers and other educational opportunities."