La Grange has a problem – a parking problem – which is not such a bad problem to have. It suggests that customers are visiting the downtown area; that businesses are benefiting from the traffic; and that the community is finding ways to grow and thrive.
The La Grange Public Library is not exempt from this parking issue, and is often affected by it. It is not the desire of any business or non-profit to watch customers turn away because of a lack of parking. The Library has struggled with the ability to reserve our parking lot for our library patrons only. We are not blind to the fact that many people abuse the parking at the Library and use the lot when they are not visiting the Library itself. Our struggle then rests in whether it is the best use of staff time to “police” the lot.
In an effort to provide the best service to our patrons, we have had discussions about parking rights with nearby schools, churches, and downtown businesses. We have put reminders in our own newsletter, as well as school and preschool newsletters. In the summer of 2011, we began a routine of putting reminders on vehicles in the lot. All cars were tagged with a message reminding them that the lot is for use while in the Library only. After several months of this action, notices were posted in the lot warning of towing.
Finally, in April of this year, we contracted with a towing company to provide service. In order for this to work, the Library staff has to remain vigilant to determine who might be abusing the parking lot regulations. Out of courtesy, we page the owner to make certain that they are in fact not in the Library. A few cars have been towed since April.
Concerns have been expressed about what some perceive as the lack of interest or action on part of the Library in this matter. As outlined above, the Library does take the matter seriously. Most of the suggestions offered included signage throughout the Library building. Our offenders, however, typically do not enter the Library building.
Some other suggestions involve cost. The towing company will only monitor the lot for a fee. And we believe that our staff is better utilized helping patrons with questions, and providing programming and support.
We are not alone in this problem. Many of our neighboring libraries, such as Riverside, Brookfield, Western Springs, and Hinsdale have only on-street parking, and the La Grange Park Library also struggles with having a small parking lot. Here in La Grange, we are at least fortunate that we have a Village parking garage less than a block away.
We know from monitoring the lot that the hardest times to park are during our own Library programming; we are victims of our own success! As such, we are always looking for ways to make it easier for patrons to use the Library’s services without parking in the lot. In addition to being able to place holds, renew books, and pay fines online, patrons can now do online research using our databases; sign up for programs online; and download music, ebooks, and audiobooks.
Our very existence relies on taxpayers. We are free and heavily utilized by Village residents and beyond. We provide a needed service to many, and in these economic times, we are delighted that we have been offering free services for over one hundred years. We know the frustrations that many people experience with parking in our lot, and will continue to do the best we can within our means to make using the Library as convenient as possible for all.