Hillsboro Library District Expands Area

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"The goal is to get a library card in the hands of the kids in the school district," library director Shelly Kolb said of an expansion of the Hillsboro Area Public Library District to nearly all of the Hillsboro School District over the summer.

That expansion was approved by the library board on April 16, and after a legal notice published in the April 22 issue of The Journal-News and a 30-day period during which voters could have petitioned the expansion onto the ballot, the new district was recorded in the Montgomery County Clerk's office on June 28.

Now, due to the expansion, families outside of Hillsboro city limits plus those who live in Taylor Springs, Schram City, Butler, Irving, Coffeen, Panama and Donnellson are entitled to the services of the Hillsboro Public Library without paying in the neighborhood of $30 for a library card.  Instead, those who are new to the library district may get a library card by simply furnishing two proofs of residency.

"We used to hear the complaint, 'My kid goes to school here in Hillsboro but can't get a library card,'" Kolb said.  "If you felt left out before, now you don't have to."

The library director said that the majority of library districts have annexed the territory in their school districts–like the Litchfield Public Library District and others have done.  The new boundaries of the Hillsboro Area Public Library District do not include all of the Hillsboro School District, however–and for good reason. It can't.

The Hillsboro School District territory most notably absent from the new, expanded Hillsboro Area Public Library District is Witt, an area already served by the Witt Township Library.  One library district can't snatch territory from another any more than one school district, fire protection district, or any other taxing body can.  There are also small parts of the Hillsboro School District to the northwest that are already served by the Doyle Public Library in Raymond, and small parts to the northeast that are served by the Nokomis Public Library.  The part of the school district that extends into Bond County is also absent from the expanded library district; that decision was made to keep the tax levy from crossing county lines.

Those who have valid cards from those neighboring library districts–like Witt, Litchfield, Doyle and Greenville–may still borrow from the Hillsboro Public Library and vice versa.

"This is called reciprocal borrowing," Kolb said.  "We will ask to make a copy of your card, make sure you are in good standing, then you can check out materials."

Those new to the library district will be able to enjoy the existing programs for pre-K children age 3-5 the second Friday of each month, children grades K-4 on Tuesday the last week of the month, "tweens and teens" the last Thursday of the month, and the adult book club that meets the third Thursday of each month.

Plus, "we will no longer ask for a $2 donation to use the computers," the library director said.  Those who need one-on-one assistance doing computer work may call ahead to make an appointment.

Housed in a building that opened on Oct. 10, 1905, the Hillsboro Public Library continues to march toward the future while paying respect to a history that dates back even further.

The Public Library and Reading Room opened on the second floor of the Corner Block Building in downtown Hillsboro on Nov. 14, 1895, but the history of the library really began with the establishment of the Hillsboro Lyceum and Library Association in September 1837 when early community leaders financed the construction of a one-story building on the southeast corner of Main and School to be used as a lyceum and rental library.

That rental-fee-based library eventually moved to the Hillsboro Academy on the same property and ceased to exist when the academy did.

Efforts to establish a free public library began in February 1895 when the Ladies Reading Circle formed the Hillsboro Reading Room and Library Association.  They soon raised enough to establish the first free public library, hired Ottie Gannon as first librarian for a salary of $1 a week, and opened on Nov. 14, 1895, for one day a week.  

The following spring, the Hillsboro city council agreed to provide financial support up to $500 a year and appointed the first nine library trustees.

Six years later, members of the library board asked and were granted $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, wealthy steel merchant who had endowed more than 3,000 libraries around the world, to build a new public library.  In 1903, the citizens voted to accept the grant and the city council chose the site of the present library at Rountree and School streets.

Fundraising began in 1976 for renovations, and that work was begun in 1979. In recent years, the library has purchased the vacated bank building downtown, become a library district in July 2018, and elected its first trustees on April 2, 2019.  Now friends of the library are trying to raise $600,000 to remodel the former bank building into a new home for the library.

Future plans in the new downtown library space include a DVD library, movie nights, special events, and expanded evening and Saturday hours.

"I think our library does want to be a part of the good things that are going on in Hillsboro," Kolb said.  "Moving forward, libraries are not only for education, but also for a cultural experience and socializing."

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