It would be easy for us to consider libraries irrelevant in the age of Google, when students no longer need Encyclopedia Brittanica but rather need to know how to cite credible web sources. It would be easy for the libraries to get lost in their old mission of shelving books rather than view themselves as pipelines to information.
There is solid evidence that those smart folks in our libraries get it, and remain relevant. They are still cradles of free thought. They still help those with limited resources or abilities connect with knowledge.
They offer access to the usual library media but expanded into e-books, Blu-rays and video games. They now offer access to 3D printers and scanners, drones and hand-held computers.
That reminder came in a story about Barb Rhodes retiring as executive director of the Mississippi Valley Public Library District, which serves Collinsville, Hollywood Heights, State Park Place and Fairmont City. She talked about expanding beyond Collinsville city limits to serve more of the students in Collinsville Unit School District 10.
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The school district’s students are all covered, but by four different library districts. Maybe those four — Mississippi Valley, Granite City, Caseyville and Maryville — would better serve their populations by merging.
Or maybe consolidations and expanded territories should be looked at for the areas served by Belleville High School District 201? A high school student living in Belleville, Fairview Heights or Millstadt has library access, but not the student sitting at the next desk because she happens to live in Swansea.
Just as Rhodes saw expansion as a way to spread services to more young minds, so too could consolidation. Merging government functions builds efficiencies and has the potential to spread capabilities and resources, especially in a state that leads the nation with 6,968 separate government units.