A library that serves residents in mid-Missouri’s Cole and Osage counties now has funding to expand its popular contactless locker system in Jefferson City’s Capital Mall.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft presents an $11,540 grant check to Missouri River Regional Library officials at Jefferson City’s Capital Mall on August 2, 2021 (photo from Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth)

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) presented an $11,540 check to Missouri River Regional Library officials at the mall last week. Ashcroft says the funding comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was signed into law this year by President Joe Biden (D).

“It was such a success that we were able to work with the library system to get them a second grant to allow them to expand it and almost double the capacity. We’re just trying to make sure that the people can utilize the library. I’ve always said that libraries are a great part of education,” Ashcroft says.

Capital Mall currently has 20 multipurpose lockers, where library patrons can check out books and other materials. The new funding will allow another 16 lockers to be built. Library staff go to the mall twice a week to deliver and pick up books.

Ashcroft credits strong demand from residents in Jefferson City and Cole County for the contactless library book check outs, for the grant. He notes more than 900 books have been checked out at the mall this year. Everything is contactless for library patrons and staff.

“It’s wonderful. It shows that the government is doing something that’s actually helpful to the citizens. They had originally planned to only fill it up once a week: they’re finding they have to come by at least twice a week now. We love the fact that people are utilizing it and finding it beneficial,” says Ashcroft.

Library patrons reserve a book by calling or going online, and staff members place the books in Capital Mall lockers. Patrons use their library card, which opens the locker.

During an interview with Missourinet after last week’s check presentation at the mall, Secretary Ashcroft also addressed two key issues that are expected to come up again next year at the Missouri Capitol.

Ashcroft says Missourians expect state lawmakers to approve voter ID and paper ballot legislation in 2022. He tells Missourinet it should have been done this year.

“I’d love to see photo ID move through. I’d love to see us go to the official ballot being a voter-marked paper ballot, except for accessibility concerns, so the people know it can’t have been hacked. Obviously, I would rather that they had done that during the normal session,” Ashcroft says.

The Missouri House gave final approval in late March to legislation that would have required a photo ID and the use of a paper ballot. They approved HB 738 by a 109-48 vote, a vote that was primarily along party lines. That bill died in the Missouri Senate.

Supporters say HB 738 would have ensured that Missouri’s elections remain fair and transparent, and would stop fraud and ensure an accurate vote count. Opponents say the bill would have disenfranchised voters. State Rep. Joe Adams (D-University City) called the photo ID provision “despicable,” during a March House floor speech. The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition is also opposed to photo ID, saying it would erect barriers to to the ballot for thousands of eligible Missouri voters.

As for Secretary Ashcroft, he says we should always be looking at how to improve future elections.

“Not necessarily just to make elections better, but also to make it so that people know that they’re run well,” says Ashcroft.

Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s interview with Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R), which was recorded on August 2, 2021 at Jefferson City’s Capital Mall:

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