Passports & ID Requirements

For several years, Missouri legislators have been fighting with the federal government over the REAL ID act. This was legislation put into place after 9/11 to require enhanced identification to board airplanes. The upshot of the ongoing dispute was that come this January, Missouri residents would not be able to board an airplane using their drivers licenses as ID. This would have led to everyone boarding a plane in Missouri needing a currently valid passport–even for domestic flights.

Finally, last spring, the Missouri legislature relented and passed a law implementing a plan to move towards federally compliant ID’s. How exactly the state is going to go about replacing everyone’s drivers license with a new, more secure license is a big question. But the important thing for now is that the state has been granted a nearly year-long waiver on implementation of the new ID requirement.

In the meantime, Webster Groves Public Library is a passport acceptance agency. We can accept your passport application and send it in for processing. The wait time at present is about 6 weeks, 3 weeks if you pay the additional $60 fee per passport. If you are considering any sort of travel over the next year, it’s a good idea to apply for a passport as soon as possible.

For more information about what one needs to apply, and the fees associated with getting a passport, the best place to check is the Department of State’s Website at



New County Agreement

The Board of Trustees of Webster Groves Public Library recently approved a new agreement with St. Louis County Library, allowing residents of Webster Groves free access to County Library locations.

The change was spurred by County Library’s decision, taken at its September board meeting, to eliminate the transactional fees associated with reciprocal borrowing agreements, and allowing the provision of free library cards to all patrons of St. Louis Public Library, St. Charles City-County Library, and the nine Municipal Library Consortium member libraries.

In 2014, Webster Groves Public Library withdrew from a previous reciprocal borrowing agreement, citing the associated fees and the high cost of maintaining it. Since that time Webster Groves residents who wanted to use St. Louis County Library locations have been asked to pay a $50 annual non-resident fee. The new agreement will be effective as of January 1, 2018.

New Books, Old Books

There is kind of a prejudice among library users to always look for new books. They enter the library and head straight to the new book shelves. But there is an old saying among librarians: Every book is new until you’ve read it. Among 50,000 books in the library, aren’t there some older ones that you haven’t read and yet might be interested in?

Recently I have been doing some research about music. In pursuit of that I found a book from 2012 that I had not seen when it came out all those years ago. It is called The Story of Music: from Babylon to the Beatles, How Music Has Shaped Civilization, by Howard Goodall. The author is an English musicologist, and though his learning and knowledge are very evident, his prose style is casual, welcoming and informative.

I have never read a book which, in the course of just a few hundred pages, taught me so much about how Western music developed, from the simplest flutes, drums, and stringed instruments to the full symphony orchestra. It deals with how notes, chords, harmony, and finally concerto and symphony form developed. It also helps you understand why people you may not have heard of, such as Guillaume de Machaut, Josquin des Prez, and Arcangelo Corelli may be more important in the development of musical form than Mozart, Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky. And the author takes us right up to modern times, with examples of popular song composition from Adele, the Beatles, Sting, and more. A highly recommended read.

So the next time you’re in the library looking for something to read, remember—the new shelves are only about 1 or 2% of our collection. Every book is new until you’ve read it!

Driverless Cars?

Not being a ‘car guy,’ I am not one to read the magazine Car & Driver very often. But I came across the November, 2017 issue yesterday, and have barely been able to put it down. It contains a series of articles, edited by Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, The Tipping Point), on the status and the future of driverless cars.

More erudite than the average Car & Driver article, Gladwell deals with such issues as risk and risk aversion, and how much safer than cars driven by humans will driverless cars have to be to gain broad acceptance; will we ever be able to protect ‘connected’ vehicles from being hacked; what are the technological options for driverless cars; and where we stand right now in the development of those technologies.

As technology changes our lives in new and often confusing ways, there’s nothing like staying informed to help calm our nerves. This article goes a long way in explaining one of those looming technological changes. And speaking of technology, the article is available for checkout from our online magazine database Zinio.

The Answer

Well, it’s been several days and nobody has ventured a guess, so I’ll just offer the answer now. The most-written about news story in the Webster-Kirkwood Times from 1986 to 1988 was the shipping of radioactive waste from the Three Mile Island accident on trains through St. Louis County to points west where that waste was to be disposed of. Those shipments came through Webster Groves on the Missouri Pacific line.

Three Mile Island, a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, experienced a meltdown in March 1979, creating a lot of contaminated water, soil, and nuclear waste. The cleanup lasted until 1993, and it seems that nobody whose communities the waste passed through was happy about it. Residents in Webster Groves, as you may imagine, had a lot to say about it, and every local legislator worked to end the train shipments through town.

Newspapers and History

I noted a while back that during the summer, Webster-Kirkwood Times publisher Dwight Bitikofer donated his personal archive of the paper to the library. Since then we have been working our way through them, indexing the stories they contain. Phil Graham, one time publisher of the Washington Post, once said that ‘journalism is the first rough draft of history.’ It has been fun going through forty years of the rough draft of history for Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Rock Hill, Warson Woods, and other surrounding communities. We have just about finished the first ten years, from 1978 to 1988.

Many stories go on for a long time. From late 1987 to late 1988 there was the story of St. Joseph Hospital facing neighborhood opposition to its proposed heliport. (They got the heliport.) There were quite a few stories about the development of Bethesda Orchard Retirement Center, and the overall development of Old Orchard. Likewise there were many stories about a redevelopment of Old Webster. As late as 1988, that has not begun.

There were pretty many stories about St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary’s proposed reorganization of the county, a plan that would have combined many municipalities: Oakland and Glendale becoming part of Kirkwood, Rock Hill becoming part of Webster Groves. 1988 has not seen the end of that process, but it’s obvious that nothing ever became of the plan.

But there is one ongoing story, which begins in May 1986 and is still being discussed in December 1988, which has far and away more coverage than any other in these years. So far there are nearly 40 stories in the paper, and it shows little sign of letting up soon.

So here is a question to long-time Webster Groves residents: do you know what that story is? I’ll just float the question out there for a little while, and answer it soon. But I’m supposing someone will know . . .

The library recently had a contest to guess the name or location of several buildings in Webster Groves.  Most of the buildings were identified correctly but there were two, the Rock House and Douglass Manor, which stumped several entrants.

The Rock House, which is located at 330 N. Gore, was built in 1852 by Reverend Artemus Bullard for his Webster College for Boys. Edward Avery ran the school after Bullard’s death in 1855 in the Gasconade River train disaster, but the school did not do well in the turmoil leading up to the Civil War and it closed. In 1864, the property was sold to the Western Sanitary Commission to be used as a soldiers’ orphans’ home. Five years later the Western Sanitary Commission merged with St. Louis Protestant Orphan’s Asylum and by 1876, it was caring for 110 children. The building was destroyed down to the stone walls on Thanksgiving Day, 1910 and rebuilt in 1911 but without its original Italianate character. In 1943, the organization’s name was changed to Edgewood Children’s Center. Today it is Great Circle, a school and children’s services organization that was formed in 2009 by the merger of Boys & Girls Town of Missouri and Edgewood Children’s Center.

Originally Douglass Elementary School, Douglass Manor Apartments is a 41-unit apartment building located at 546 N. Elm Avenue. It was built in 1947 on the property of Joseph Mitchell, the founder of the first African-American newspaper in St. Louis, the St. Louis Argus. Until segregation became illegal in 1954, it served the African-American students of north Webster Groves. From the late 1960’s until it closed in 1978 due to decreasing enrollment in the district, it was a highly successful demonstration school. After extensive renovation, it was rededicated in 1983 as an apartment building.