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Lewis & Clark Branch Library

Director of St. Louis County Library Kristen Sorth speaks at a press preview of the brand new Lewis & Clark Branch Library on 9909 Lewis and Clark Boulevard in Moline Acres on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

St. Louis County Library is nearing completion of the Your Library Renewed campaign to renovate or replace 19 branches in the library district. In 2019, we will open three brand new branches: Thornhill, Meramec Valley and Mid-County. This campaign has transformed our community libraries across the region.

We have turned the view of public libraries upside down in a fabulous way. The branches are now more welcoming, interactive and fun. They serve as gathering places for the community. The enhanced children’s spaces are a destination for area families. Teens frequently gather at our locations to study. Usage at the branches has exceeded expectations.

The new buildings have inspired new and creative programming — like Sensory Story Time for families with children on the autism spectrum, after-school meals for kids ages 18 and under, and health and fitness programs for adults. As a result, programming attendance has skyrocketed. St. Louis County Library has remained the busiest library in Missouri throughout the campaign.

The experience of working closely with the community has made the Your Library Renewed campaign particularly gratifying. We’ve had the privilege of working with patrons and government officials as well as local leaders, architects, companies and construction trades on these projects. The libraries were built for the St. Louis community by the St. Louis community.

The final project of the Your Library Renewed campaign is to rebuild the current library headquarters, located at 1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard in Ladue. Headquarters has been the center of library district operations for almost 60 years. The current building houses support staff, including materials processing, bookmobiles, programming development, information technology, marketing and administration.

In addition, the building serves as one of the district’s busiest library branches; it’s home to our popular author series and also houses the library’s History & Genealogy Department. In 2018 headquarters circulated over 1.5 million items and more than 21,000 people attended one of 100-plus author events.

We’ve been planning for the replacement of headquarters since 2012 and looking for a new home for Operations and History and Genealogy. The library has explored many options, looking for a solution that is both a responsible use of taxpayer dollars, centrally located within the library district, and close to the current headquarters location.

As was reported, the library purchased six acres in December near the intersection of Clayton Road and Spoede Road in Frontenac, less than one mile from the current headquarters and directly off Interstate 64 (Highway 40). This land, which meets all of our search criteria and is under the land budget set for this project, will be used for the construction of a single building that includes a new History & Genealogy Center and a separate space to house support staff currently located at headquarters.

Buying the land was the best option for the library as it eliminates the need to lease a temporary facility for staff while construction is underway on the new headquarters. Under this plan, staff will remain at the current headquarters until the new building is complete. In addition, the world-class History & Genealogy Center Department will be showcased in the new building.

Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2019. Once that project is complete, work will begin on a new library headquarters in Ladue. Our new library will be entirely dedicated to public use and will feature a state-of-the-art event space to host the author series, an interactive teen makerspace, a dynamic children’s space, a small-business center and, of course, books.

This has been a remarkable time for St. Louis County Library, and we’re not finished yet. In 2019, we’ll be expanding our musical instrument lending program, introducing coding classes for adults, a teen summer internship and expanded small-business programs. A new mobile outreach vehicle will hit the road, bringing technology and library materials into the community.

We’re also introducing resources to help improve adult literacy. An on-demand eBook collection will be available this summer, featuring popular titles and increasing the number of titles available to patrons. And we are adding one more construction project: Design on a brand-new Eureka Hills Branch will begin this year.

St. Louis County Library has been steadily building a brighter tomorrow for the St. Louis region and positively affecting current and future generations. As we near the end of the Your Library Renewed campaign, our commitment to providing resources that support and enrich our community is stronger than ever.

Kristen L. Sorth is director of the St. Louis County Library.