Librarians say Jefferson funding lowest in state

February 24, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Despite increasing demand for services libraries offer, Jefferson County ranks last among the state's 55 counties in per capita funding for the facilities, a group of library officials told the County Commissioners Thursday.

On average, counties across the state spend $6.14 per person for library services, while Jefferson County spends about $1 per person, according to a report by the Jefferson County Public Libraries. However, a principal facility, Charles Town Library, is privately funded.

Neighboring Berkeley County spends a little more than $10 per person on library services, the report said.

The Jefferson County Public Libraries, which represents three libraries in the county, requested up to $30,000 from the commissioners to upgrade library services. The request comes as the commissioners begin the process of deciding how to budget money for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The low funding for libraries comes at a time when communities are expecting more from them, according to Suzanne Koenig, president of the board of directors for the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library.


Libraries in the county need to expand their hours on weekends and evenings to better serve the county's commuter population and students, Koenig said. The county has about 7,000 students and they need libraries on weekends and nights when school libraries are not open, Koenig said.

"Schools alone can't do the job," Koenig said.

Expanded services are especially important given that the county is expected to experience strong growth over the next five years, Koenig said.

The South Jefferson Public Library in Summit Point, the Shepherdstown Public Library and the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library make up the Jefferson County Public Library System.

The three libraries receive $12,000 from the commissioners and $7,500 from the Jefferson County Board of Education, said Don Ranelli, president of the board of directors for the South Jefferson Public Library.

Library heads told the commissioners a good library system is important in spurring economic growth.

David Levine, president of Ultraprise, a rapidly growing loan brokerage firm in Shepherdstown, said good library services are a high priority for his nearly 100 employees. Ultraprise employees often take their children to the Shepherdstown Public Library for programs, and parents often congregate there, too, Levine said.

Companies thinking about building in the county increasingly are asking how many libraries there are in the county, at what level they are staffed and how many volumes are available, said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

"If we're looking at a more educated work force, I think there is no more valuable thing we can do than improving our library system," Peters said.

The commissioners did not comment on the request, although Commissioner James K. Ruland said he could sympathize with the needs of the libraries.

The requested funds would be used to hire additional staff, expand library hours, create electronic card catalog systems and expand reading programs for children.

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