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Residents ask commissioners for library funds

February 20, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Library patrons turned out en masse Thursday to lobby the Jefferson County Commission for money for the county's three public libraries.

Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library, Shepherdstown Public Library and South Jefferson Public Library are seeking a combined $90,000 from the Jefferson County Commission in its new budget.

Helen Becker, a trustee of Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library, represented all three libraries in her presentation to the commissioners at their regular weekly meeting. The libraries "are as important to the vitality of a community as schools" and other institutions, she said.

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While the libraries appreciate the increased funding they've received from the commissioners in recent years, she said, "Jefferson County is one of the richest counties in the state, but it lags behind other jurisdictions" in funding its libraries."

The average county contribution to libraries comes to $6 per person in West Virginia, she said, while Jefferson's contribution came to about $1.50 per person.

"We need new and qualified staff, and can't do that at the expense of books and resources," Becker said.

Nor could the libraries consider shortening their hours, she said. Pre-schoolers come in the morning for programs, and students and adults come at later hours for research, she said.

Patrons packed the commissioners' meeting room at the Jefferson County Courthouse, many with small children in tow, to convince the commissioners of their support for the libraries. One library official told the commissioners the standing-room-only attendance was "representative of how the space works out" at special library programs.

Commissioner Greg Corliss asked whether the libraries were still stocking taped audio books or had switched to compact discs. Library officials said they were still using audio tapes because they didn't have the money to purchase CDs.

The outpouring of support - which included a petition - prompted Commissioner Rusty Morgan to suggest the libraries consider creating a countywide system for administering them. He also asked whether a levy should be considered to raise additional money for the libraries.

"You'd need about $1 million to run these libraries properly," he said. "I would like to see a more comprehensive plan."

Corliss said he also would like to see details for how money from a levy would be used.

"The tools we have are just not adequate. I would like to see a more uniform approach," Morgan said. "We're just doing a miserable job, let's face it."

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