Elk Grove library trustee proposes expanding services to unincorporated residents
There's a long-term effort beginning to expand the services of the Elk Grove Village Public Library beyond the town's borders into unincorporated areas that supporters say would benefit a currently underserved population.
But proponents will have some convincing to do since the proposal to create a library district requires approval by voters, who must decide if they want library services in exchange for a new property tax.
Current library Trustee Tim Burns has proposed forming a library district that would encompass Elk Grove Village proper and the unincorporated neighborhoods covered by the Elk Grove Rural Fire Protection District, a 2.5 square mile area roughly bounded by Dempster Avenue, Elmhurst Road, Busse Road and Touhy Avenue.
The fire district is home to some 12,500 residents who live in four mobile home communities, a condominium complex and an apartment complex. Burns says the mobile home areas especially have seen an increase in their youth population the last several years.
There's about 1,000 students from the unincorporated areas who attend Byrd, Rupley, Salt Creek and Grove schools in Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59.
"I believe in order to be a community that really values education, we have to give all kids a fighting chance when they come in," Burns said. "There's a large segment of children not able to fully access the library. What message does that send to them that they can't get a library card? It's like playing baseball without a baseball mitt."
Currently, residents in unincorporated areas are able to access limited functions of the library, but they have to pay a nonresident fee of $200 if they want a library card. Burns says that's costly for many who live there.
"To a lot of families ... $200 might as well be $2 million. That's rent perhaps," he said. "They don't have the discretionary income for it."
Burns, who isn't running for re-election next spring after six years on the library board, will focus his efforts instead on organizing a petition drive and building support. He needs to bring at least 100 signatures to a Cook County circuit court judge to get the measure on the ballot.
Burns said he hopes the question will be on the November 2016 ballot. A majority of residents serviced by the existing municipal library and a majority of those in the unincorporated area would have to agree to the proposal for the new library district to take effect. Burns said he believes the issue would have a better chance of being approved in a presidential election year, when more people come out to vote.
If approved, the assets of the current library would transition to the new unit of government.