Residents’ informational and recreational needs are served by the Christian County Library District. Founded April 1949 at the minimum ten cent levy, Christian County Library has had a single levy increase in sixty years. In 1972, voters approved supporting library services at twenty cents per hundred dollars. Reduced by reassessment and Hancock, the 2009 collectable levy of $ .087 is a third of Missouri’s average twenty-five cent support. Income is inadequate to build, equip, stock, staff or operate adequate facilities. Thus, funding, facilities, collection, programming and collections are well below state and national public library averages.
In 2008, Christian County Library issued new library cards to 3,886 individuals. Attendance at library headquarters was 102,430, and 6,252 visited the Clever Public Library. The library’s internet connection was used by 20,296 people within the building, not counting wireless users for the first half of the year, catalog searches or use of the laptop computers in library classes or scheduled open labs. The library’s chief website was used 178,898 times. Materials checked out were 196,201. Not counting the e-books or other virtual sources, 5,408 new books and audio and video materials were added to the collection. In 2008, 466 children registered for the summer reading program.
Christian County Library operates sixty-three hours per week. Services are provided to Clever Public Library twenty hours a week. The library van makes deliveries three half days a week during the school year and less during the summer. Over 73,000 books and audio and video materials are available for public use. Most of the library’s thirty-one subscription databases are remotely accessible. Total active card holders are 21,231.
In Missouri, county library districts are governed by a five member Board of Trustees, each appointed for four year terms by the County Commission. The terms are staggered, with one trustee’s term expiring for three years out of four and two terms expiring in the fourth year. Insofar as possible, trustees are of different ages, occupations, genders, strengths, interests, backgrounds and residences throughout the county. Outgoing members are replaced with someone from the same general part of the county. Trustees represent the public to the library and the library to the public. At regular meetings, trustees set policy, adopt budgets, keep aware of library progress and hire a library director who is in charge of library operations.
Friends of the Christian County Library’s spring and fall book sales and other fundraising efforts pay for library participation in business expos, prizes for summer reading programs, flowers for the picnic area, and many other equipment, materials and services not covered by the library budget.
The library headquarters in Ozark was built in 1972 when county population was a fifth of the 2009 population. An addition was constructed in 1984. Most county libraries serving over 70,000 have branch locations. Typically, branches are within ten miles of all residents. Christian County’s single ten thousand square foot building is a bit northwest of the center of the county, leaving some southeast county residents over thirty miles and many residents in south and west Christian County citizens at or near twenty miles from the library. To update services to all residents; to serve residents living far from the library; and to help compensate for budget-restricted facilities, collection and services, the library offers remotely-accessible databases, community pick-up and drop-off sites and a regular van delivery schedule. Still the shortfalls result in many statistics, when computed on the per capita level, being well below average. A standard comparison tool, Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings often called HAPLR, uses weighted per capita criteria such as building and collection size, attendance and circulation, income and programming attendance from public libraries’ annual statistical reports to compare what each library offers and how citizens use the services. Christian County Library’s 2008 HAPLR score, based on the 2007 report on 2006 statistics was 322 of a possible 1,000. The average score of Missouri public libraries is 462. HAPLR places the library at the national percentile of twenty-one percent. Overall, of 550 American public library districts serving between 50,000 and 100,000, the size of Christian County’s income, facilities, collection and staffing place it at 423rd.
The Christian County Library District operates primarily on a $0.087 per $100 assessed valuation real and personal property tax levy. In 2008, property tax and in the interest on it made 93% of all library income. The balance of library income derived 5% from state aid and athletes and entertainers’ tax, 0 .7% cost recovery from late materials returns, printouts, and photocopies; and 1.3% from gifts and replacement of lost or destroyed materials. These percentages do not include one-time income from major grants.
In addition to operating the Christian County Library, the district in September of 2007 began an annual contract to provide collection, staff, library automation, internet, and materials delivery to the newly-founded Clever Public Library. It is housed in the office of a former fire station. The City of Clever, through a $180,000 bequest restricted for library services, and fund-raising efforts of Friends of the Clever Public Library provide the building, supplies, furnishings, equipment and utilities. If adequate funded becomes available, a branch library will replace the current arrangement. Library users may also request materials to be delivered for them to pick up at J & M Foods in Sparta or the Nixa Community Center during their regular hours. Library users may return borrowed items at bookdrops in all four locations.
The library has available for up to one hour per day per person use ten public-use internet computers, one of them restricted to use by children. In addition, two adult and one children’s area computers are library catalogs and a computer is a sign-up and notification station for computer use waiting lines. Internet access is provided on a T-1 line through the Remote Electronic Access to Libraries, REAL, Project of the State of Missouri and Missouri Research Network, MoreNET. The library recently became eligible for T-5 access, possibly later in 2009. In compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, internet access arrives pre-filtered. Wireless users are authenticated via an individual access code supplied before log-in.
The Christian County Library uses Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III) library automation system to catalog, locate and track library materials and maintain the records of users and material via barcodes. Resources and personnel for maintaining the system are pooled in the eight-county Consortium of Ozarks Libraries (COOL) . Library patrons have access to materials belonging to other library districts through requests staff submit on their behalf to the Missouri Library Network Corporation (MLNC), the OCLC cooperative, and First Search, a single search method of looking at the catalogs of hundreds of libraries simultaneously.
Three library websites serve users at any computer with internet access. The catalog at coolcat.org allows searches, requests, renewals and checking on personal materials loan records. The transcribed records website at www.rootsweb.com/~moccl provides guidance and information for researching families and history in Christian County. The library home page at christiancounty.lib.mo.us is a frequently updated, customized collection of information about the library and its services and the most useful and reliable websites in the categories of Reference, Christian County, Missouri, the United States, the World, Family and Home, History and Genealogy, Work and Play.
Particularly useful and convenient are the databases, some provided statewide and paid with state funds, others carefully chosen and subscribed to by the district for the use of Christian County residents. Databases of searchable and full-text newspapers and magazines; hundreds of the best reference books; business contacts and information; auto repair; small engine maintenance; hobby and craft information; legal forms; homework help; genealogy; history; literature; educational and vocational practice tests; reader’s advisory; over eight thousand electronic books; science and biography are available for use at any internet connection, usually with the library card number. Companies fo not off a couple of popular subscription databases, Ancestry and the Kansas City Star, for remote access. These must be used in the library at library computers or on personal laptop computers. Access to all is through http://christiancounty.lib.mo.us/databases.html.
Meeting citizens’ current and anticipated future library needs will require funding levels nearer those of library districts which better meet those needs. Since 2002, the district has conducted surveys, focus groups, panel discussions and related means to determine citizen priorities and ways of providing the modern and adequate services available in other better supported districts. Convenient library locations, hours and access for residents throughout the County; a drive-through pick-up service; a diversified collection, in the full range of current formats from print, audio, and video to on-line, to match the increasingly diverse interests of the county’s growing population; space for collections, programming, equipment and library users; remote 24-7 on-line access to many of the library sources; and staffing to facilitate full library services are among citizen-identified needs.
As a basis for a decision on a ballot issue, citizens ask most often “Where will it be?” and “What will it look like?” Combined with the disappearance of suitable land and the increasing price of remaining land, the board decided to answer these questions before approaching the voters with a proposal to provide twenty-first century library services to Christian County. In 2008, the district hired a real-estate attorney, Thom Field of Neale & Newman, to identify, negotiate and obtain sites for three library locations using criteria determined from the studies. Proposed are a headquarters building between Nixa and Ozark of approximately 35,000 to 37,000 square feet to serve the over 40,000 residents within or near those cities; and two branches of about 5,000 square feet each, centered in the east and west parts of Christian County at Sparta and Clever to serve the remainder of the county. A list of ideas and requests from previous citizen input and consultant studies will be refined and finalized at public hearings prior to completing library designs. The estimated cost for the three libraries is about eleven million dollars. The district hired Sapp Design Associates, Architects, to coordinate engineering and surveying services to determine site suitability and to design and coordinate construction of library facilities. Carson Elliff of Yates, Mauck, Bohrer, Elliff & Fels was named Bond Attorney and Julie Portman with Edward Jones, Underwriter. As soon as all sites are determined to be suitable for building sites and under contract, the Library Board of Trustees will set an election date at which voters may decide whether to support convenient, adequate, modern library services for Christian County. The date is expected to be soon after July 2009. Should citizens approve funding, we anticipate plans to be completed, contractors hired and construction begun on all facilities within months. Barring unforeseen delays, all three locations should be open and operating within three years of the election. In addition to the property tax, every effort will be made to raise private funds, cooperate with others, and seek grants to enhance the basics provided by the levy, provide for features not payable with public funds, hasten the time when income can be spent for ongoing and future library services, and to address evolving future expectations and demands.
COMPARISON OF PUBLIC LIBRARY STATISTICS 2006 – REPORTED 2007
CATAGORIES US average MO average Christian County
Tax Rate (per $100) various support methods $0.25 $ 0.0872
Per capita Spending 23.51 26.27 9.55
Volumes per capita 2.37* 5.96 1.21
Library visits per capita 3.98 4.91 1.64
Circulation per capita 5.54 7.15 2.57
Sources: haplr-index.com 2008; CCL statistics; Missouri State Library, Institute for Museum and Library Services; National Center for Educational Statistics.
All per capita statistics are based on 2000 census figures, so CCL actual will be lower than stated, due to population growth. *US average volumes per capita from HAPLR is print only. Missouri and Christian County also includes audio, video and e-book counts.