Library officials disinclined to share public information

By Mike Anthony

As we’ve written before, for people in the information business, St. Louis County Library officials aren’t very forthcoming with public information.

As reported this week by the Call’s Gloria Lloyd, the Library Board of Trustees voted last week to approve an amended contract with Colliers International, the real-estate broker that performed such a bang-up job of steering library officials to the Musick-Gravois site for the new location of the Tesson Ferry Library.

Lloyd, who attended the April 21 library board meeting, sent an email to Executive Assistant Sandra J. Williams, requesting a copy of the amended contract.

Williams responded: “The request for the ‘Resolution Approving the First Amendment to the Exclusive Real Estate Brokerage Services Representation Agreement with Colliers International’ must be made through the custodianofrecords@slcl.org.”

First, the fact that library officials would force anyone to file a Sunshine Law request for information that should be readily available to the press or public is ridiculous.

Second, the fact that the library board does not prepare press packets — like virtually every other governmental body in St. Louis County — can only be viewed as an attempt to keep the press and public in the dark.

What do library officials have to hide? We can only surmise that they have plenty to hide, since they have a well-documented history of being reluctant to provide public information to the press and citizens.

For example, when this newspaper requested the library district’s tax rates after they had been approved by the board last September, the Call received the runaround from then-Interim Director Kristen Sorth, who told us the tax rates would not be available until after the board approved the minutes of its September meeting — in October. After some unnecessary back and forth with library officials, the Call finally received the rates with the stipulation that “these rates are not final and have not yet been certified by the state.”

First, the rates are public information and should have been provided upon request. Second, the board’s minutes are public records in their draft form — not until they have been approved by the board the following month.

Sorth’s apparent lack of understanding of the Sunshine Law certainly didn’t bother the appointed library board, which voted in November to remove the “interim” from her title and name her director.