LibraryElf

Thanks to the Municipal Library Consortium’s decision to subscribe to LibraryElf, it is now easier than ever to keep track of all your library materials.

Who uses Elf?

  • Anyone who wants to reduce overdue fines
  • Families with children and lots of books
  • Individuals with several library cards
  • Anyone who requests a lot of holds

 

What’s delivered?

  • Email and/or RSS alerts before items are due
  • Email and/or RSS alerts on overdue items and holds
  • Consolidated list of yours or your family’s library loans and holds
  • Cellphone text message alerts for holds
  • Real-time checking by browser

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Go to www.wgpl.org and click on “Library Elf” to sign up today!

 

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Libraries and Tax Forms

As recently as the 1980s there were several places around town where taxpayers could find the forms needed for annual filing. Among these were public libraries, post offices, even some grocery stores! In time, all but one of these has abdicated this responsibility–the public library. The problem is that it is not in anyone’s core mission to provide tax forms, nor are there laws specifying where they can be found. So if the U.S. Postal Service decides not to bother, they have that right.

Public libraries work more closely with their clientele. We understand people’s needs, and so we have never stopped providing tax forms. But providing this service is dependent upon the state and federal government sending us forms to distribute in the first place. For the past several years, both have been cutting back on what they will send us. Missouri especially has greatly curtailed the forms they make available, while the federal government has been cutting back a little more slowly.

However, we just received notice from the Internal Revenue Service that due to recent budget cuts, they really need to transition to electronic filing more aggressively. They are sending us significantly fewer forms this year. Most troubling is the fact that they will not send any instruction booklets for the 1040 and other basic forms. For years we have been working with library patrons to show them how to visit the IRS Website and print out the forms they need. But printing out whole instruction booklets can get pretty expensive. Of course there’s the option of finding the booklet online and reading through it while you work on your forms, but that is not an option for people who are either not online at home or who simply do not know how to use the Internet.

On one hand we see it as a good idea for the IRS and state governments to transition to online filing: it saves tons of money and it saves tons of paper. Every year, libraries throw out or recycle boxes and boxes of forms nobody needed. But even though many millions of Americans have long been comfortable using online resources, there are still significant numbers of our fellow citizens who are not. We hope we will be able to go on helping them, but sometimes it seems like the ‘powers that be’ make it awfully hard to do that.

Good Enough for Me . . .

We have long pondered the question of how old to say Webster Groves Public Library is. This is an important question, because we are, by most measures, the oldest public library in St. Louis County, rivaled in the region only by the older St. Louis Public Library. Last year we completed a comprehensive history of the library which shows that Webster Groves Public Library has been around in one version or another since 1884.

It was in 1884 that a group at First Congregational Church started a public reading room. By 1893, that reading room was moved to a larger space within the Church’s new sanctuary. It was open to the public until 10 at night six days a week. When First Congregational Church tired of providing a public reading room, the mantle was taken up by the ladies of the Monday Club of Webster Groves. In 1911 they opened their club building, which included space for a public library. This library was reported on in the annual reports of the Missouri Library Commission, which called it either The Monday Club Library or Webster Groves Public Library.

It wasn’t until 1927 that the citizens of Webster Groves passed their first tax levy for public library services, and in October 1928 the library building in Frank Hamsher High School was dedicated. This begs the question–do we count our history from 1884 or from 1927? Counting from 1884, we are by far the oldest library in St. Louis County. Counting from 1927, we are rivaled by Kirkwood, where they passed a library tax in 1924.

I just noticed that St. Louis Public Library is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year. They are counting 150 years from 1865, when a members-only, subscription library was created in the city of St. Louis. It wasn’t until 1893 that a tax levy was passed to support a public library. The way I see it, if it’s good enough for St. Louis Public Library, it’s good enough for us.

Thus Webster Groves Public Library is 131 years old, far and away the oldest public library in St. Louis County. Too bad we are still years away from a sesquicentennial celebration or any other milestone. But it’s still nice to know.