Webster Groves Public Library
WGPL in 2013
|Location||Webster Groves, Missouri|
The library originated from a collection managed by a private organization beginning in 1890. The organization, the Monday Club, was funded by donations amounting to US$3,000. The City of Webster Groves donated land for a building to the cause on the condition that the city government could take management of the facility when it had the opportunity. A more permanent residence was built in 1911 by architect Lawrence Ewald at a cost of US$6000 and opened on October 12, 1911. The library was a single-story facility with a ceiling height of 14 feet (4.3 m) and a ground plan of 40 by 60 feet (12 m × 18 m). The interior was walled with hard pine and plaster, and wood shelving. Electric lighting and gas heating utilities were also installed and paid for by the Monday Club. Rooms included a large assembly room, which had applications as a reading room, book room and delivery room; two coat rooms and service rooms on one end of the building; and two rooms at the front for storing special book collections. The library was managed by five volunteer assistants and a librarian salaried by the City of Webster Groves. It was open two afternoons and one morning each week and was also open to the Monday Club for meetings.
On April 5, 1927, the citizens of Webster Groves voted 2,887 to 551 in favor of a tax levy to fund the library, making it one of the first tax-supported municipal libraries in St. Louis County. At the time, the school board was building an addition to the Webster Groves High School and offered to include a space for the library in it. In 1951, the library's present building was erected.
During the 1930s, a second library was established in North Webster with the help of Douglass High School Principal Howell Goins for access by African-Americans. They were only allowed entrance to Webster Groves Library one afternoon a week.
1951 Building at 301 E. Lockwood Avenue
Late in the 1940s the Library Board began planning for a stand-alone library building, and funds were raised through a bond issue that passed in 1947. A site was picked at the corner of Lockwood and Orchard Avenues, along the southern edge of the neighborhood known as Webster Park. The building was designed by the St. Louis firm of J. P. Hoener Associates, and the grand opening was held in October, 1951.
Over time, the library's services outgrew the space in this building, which was just under 11,000 square feet. Cubicles to house staff offices were built in the main reading room; Children's Services were moved to the Auditorium, leaving the library without a public meeting room.
From the late 1990s, various Library Boards at various times talked about an expansion plan for the building, but were met by the problem that the building was largely landlocked, with residences on most sides.
Another long-term problem for the library was the lack of sufficient parking. In 1999, the residence at 227 E. Lockwood, across Orchard Avenue from the Library, was listed for sale.The Library Board voted to purchase this house and subsequently applied to the Webster Groves Plan Commission for a Conditional Use Permit to subdivide the rather large lot this house sat on, in order to build a parking lot at the southeast corner of Lockwood and Orchard Avenues. The plan occasioned some opposition in the community from people who did not want a parking lot built and did not believe that the level of traffic in and out of the Library made it necessary. But the Library Board prevailed, and the parking lot was built. The residence, with its smaller lot, was then sold.
In 2003 another residence to the east of the library was listed for sale, and the Library Board purchased it, as well, hoping that a property contiguous to the Library building could provide space for an expansion. This plan grew problematic, as the Board began to realize the many impediments to using this old house, since its use as a public building required handicapped accessibility and new restrooms; however, the cost of razing the house and expanding the library building was unfeasible.
The library’s Long Range Plan 2007–2012, based on a community-wide telephone survey, input from several public engagement meetings and the work of a Strategic Planning Committee, named three key service goals:
- Improve services for children
- Maintain and improve services for seniors
- Improve technology services
The library began implementation of these services using existing resources and facilities. New staff members were hired to provide more youth programming and more outreach to seniors. Grant funds awarded through the federal LSTA program were used to purchase new public access computers. But the key component of the plan would be the renovation and expansion of the library building.
In February 2009, voters in Webster Groves approved a 13 ½ cent tax levy increase. Four and a half cents of that increase were meant to improve operating revenues, while 9 cents would fund the sale of bonds to pay for the necessary expansion. A Building Committee consisting of volunteer citizens, staff members and community leaders met over several months to select an architect, finally deciding on the highly regarded St. Louis firm of Powers Bowersox Associates (PBA). The building PBA designed included all the asked for components, including an entire second floor dedicated to children’s services and a meeting room where classes could be held and community groups could meet. But it also went the original plans one better by adding a lower level Computer and Reference Room, leaving the entire original Reading Room open for browsing and reading. The addition, clad in a glass curtain wall, was embraced as a striking and bold design statement by the city’s Architectural Review Board, though it met opposition from a small group of neighbors, who believed it clashed with the design of the original building.
Construction began in summer 2011, but in late September, the general contractor, Frederich Construction, Incorporated (FCI), experiencing severe legal and financial problems, defaulted on their contract. FCI’s surety company, Travelers Insurance, stepped in and oversaw the hiring of a new general contractor, Demien Construction. Projected substantial completion date for the project is August 2012, roughly six months behind the originally planned date.
- Missouri State Library commission. Volumes 1-10 the reports of the Missouri Library commission. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- Charles H. Compton (1954). Memories of a Librarian. St. Louis Public Library.
- "About the Library - History". Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- Dan Dillon (2005). So, Where'd You Go to High School? Vol. 2: The Baby Boomer Years: 1950s-1960s. Virginia Publishing. ISBN 1-891442-33-3. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- Harris, Marty (17 September 2010). "Webster Public Library To Relocate During New Construction". Webster-Kirkwood Times, Inc. Retrieved 14 January 2012.