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Financial woes threatening library, official claims

January 17, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County Commissioner and member of the board of directors for the Old Charles Town Library said Thursday the library's future is threatened because it is losing about $300,000 a year.

The library, at the corner of Washington and Samuel streets, is unique because although it is "completely free to everyone," it is a privately run library, library officials said.

Because it is privately operated, it does not receive any money from the state library system, library officials said.

County Commissioner Rusty Morgan brought the library's situation to the regular county commission meeting Thursday morning. To help the library stay in operation, there has been consideration of linking it with the state library system, Morgan said.

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But that effort has been unsuccessful, Morgan said.

Barbara Tinker, director of the library, said one of the problems with linking the library with the state library system would be that the three other public libraries in the county - in Summit Point, Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry - would not get as much money from the state.

Public libraries have their own problems to wrestle with, she said.

"West Virginia libraries are scrambling. They really are," Tinker said.

Garland Moore, president of the library's board of directors, downplayed Morgan's comments Thursday and said the situation is not as serious as it is being made out to be.

Due to the poor performance of the stock market, the library's financial portfolio is not performing as well as the board of directors had hoped, Moore said. Tinker said the library is drawing about $300,000 a year out of its assets to help keep the library running.

Moore said the library is not close to the possibility of closing.

"I regret he did that," Moore said, referring to Morgan's comments at the commission meeting. "It's not a panic situation or it's not a crisis situation."

Moore said the board of directors is considering several ways to raise money for the library, including asking the county commissioners for funding. Another possibility is asking the United Way of Jefferson County for funding or forming a "Friends of the Library" organization to conduct fund-raisers for the library, Moore said.

Such an organization has been a common way for libraries to raise money, Moore said.

The Old Charles Town Library has operated at its current site for 75 years. It started in a small house and was operated by a women's civic organization, Tinker said.

The library prospered in the 1920s when Elsie Bogardus Murphy left money to continue the library, Tinker said. The library was then named the Helen Platt Murphy Memorial Library, in memory of Murphy's mother, Tinker said.

Much of the funding for the library comes from people who have left money to the organization, Moore said.

The library operates in a red brick building that was built in about 1960, Tinker said.

About 72,000 books and other items were checked out of the library last year and it operated 181 children's programs that attracted 3,175 children, Tinker said.

"It's a busy library," Tinker said.

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