In an age when finding funding is at a premium and everyone seems to be scrambling to make ends meet, one community has joined resources to best utilize what each had.
For more than twenty years Steeleville Public School District 138 and the local library district had hashed and rehashed the idea of joining forces. Through the ensuing years, a library satellite was opened in the neighboring community of Percy. Still the idea of joining continued to be discussed. Instead of three electric bills, instead of three libraries ordering similar if not the same materials, instead of triplicates, why not join forces? How this could be accomplished was the source of much speculation. Finally, Representative Dan Reitz offered to help.
Other rural communities had combined their school and public libraries with success, why not Steeleville? The first step was to visit other libraries that had previously combined; many questions were raised. Unlike the other communities though, Steeleville would not house the library materials within the school building. The second phase involved accessing the feasibility of using an existing building, but the excessive costs made this idea unworkable.
When the school district offered the land, a new idea formed. Working with Secretary of State Jesse White, Representative Reitz, the public library, the school district and the Village of Steeleville secured a grant to build a new building on the school’s campus. With assistance from the Shawnee Library System, Mayor Mike Armstrong and the town board members, library board members, library directors and school administrators worked tirelessly. Many questions and concerns needed addressing, and often answering these questions and resolving these concerns took weeks and months to complete. However, the dream of long ago was realized on January 2008.
Months of weeding, working with the architect to choose a floor plan, to choose brick and interior colors, shelving and on and on finally have resulted in a beautiful new 5,000 square foot library that serves Pre-K-12 students from District 138, Pre-K-8 students from St. Mark Lutheran School, and all district library patrons from the communities of Percy, Steeleville and the surrounding areas. Joining forces can be done.
On the front of the new District Library is a plaque that reads:
Built Through the Cooperation and Dedication of the Steeleville Area Public Library, Steeleville Community School District 138 and the Village of Steeleville
Truly this has been a joint effort to best serve all patrons within the library district. The Steeleville Area Public Library is not the school district’s library, nor Steeleville’s library, nor Percy’s library. This library is OUR library.
Article by Shelley Wolter, Director, Steeleville Elementary School
Photo Caption: The youngest (3 years), and oldest (90 years) card holders for the new Steeleville Area Public Library cut the ribbon on the new facility.