MARION -- Fees for nonresident members at Marion Carnegie Library were reduced from $140 to $50 on Monday night, following a measure introduced to the City Council by Mayor Mike Absher.
Absher, who oversees the library as part of his job, said he had been taking numerous calls from nonresidents who wanted to check out books but couldn't afford the $140 annual fee.
Marion Carnegie is open to all, and holders of cards from other Illinois library districts are free to check out materials, Absher noted.
However, there are families that live in pockets not served by Marion Carnegie nor any other nearby public library district, mainly the area between Marion and Lake of Egypt, Absher said.
The $140 fee is "a lot to somebody who has a young family, and I am having a hard time explaining why it's in our best interest to deny someone who is between 5 and 8 years old the right to take home a book to read. I think it's poor public policy," Absher said.
Currently, there are 77 nonresidents who have ponied up the $140, Absher said. The $140 fee was actually set by a program in the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, but Marion could opt out of that scheme without any penalty.
"I am not suggesting we eliminate the fee. Because the problem there is that anything that is free doesn't have value to some people, and then we don't get some books returned," Asher said. "I am asking that instead of $140 we charge like $30, $40, $50. That's more reasonable."
Commissioners threw their support behind the move.
"I think you might see the number of nonresident members go up," said Commissioner John Stoecklin.
Commissioner Doug Patton agreed, and suggested that $50 be the number.
The council, with Absher, Stoecklin, Patton and commissioners Jim Webb and John M. Barwick Jr, voted 5-0 to approve the reduced fee.