Library lightens up

November 27, 2005|By CANDICE BOSLEY

MARLOWE, W.VA. - Here's what you will find in the new, temporary library branch in Marlowe: The newest books for adults and children, current magazines, laptop computers and printers, Internet access, daily newspapers and plenty of parking.

Here's what you won't find: A dark, dank space full of mold.

Although it's in the basement of the Ruritan Club on Broad Lane, the space is not dark and moldy as some had worried. It's bright and airy, with a fireplace and wingback chair contributing to a "homey, living room-type of feel," said Annie Maroney Donelan, the librarian in Marlowe and assistant director of branch library services for the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library.

She has a request.

"I would like people to keep an open mind and come and look at it for themselves," Maroney Donelan said.


Her suggestion is driven by the fact that opening the branch in the Ruritan's basement was not without controversy. Some urged library officials to seek another site, but the library's board of directors voted to use the Ruritan space, for which no rent is charged.

A new floor, new ceiling and new lighter-in-color wooden paneling were installed in the space, using a $7,000 grant obtained by state Sen. John Unger.

Although the space is small and has no windows, an opaque piece of glass in the door helps let in some natural light.

Del. Craig Blair donated a comfortable blue wingback chair that is set in front of the space's fireplace. Maroney Donelan hopes to complement it with a rocking chair.

Although the fireplace works, Maroney Donelan said she does not believe it will be used since a child could be injured by accidentally touching a glass screen that is to be installed.

Items still to be added include a fax machine, a copy machine and notary services. Maroney Donelan plans to add more picture books for children and more nonfiction books on home improvement and decorating, which are in demand.

Eventually, the library could house a collection of about 3,000 books.Three more shelving units are to be installed to hold movies and audio books. Beginning in January, a story time for children 2 to 5 years old will be held on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

Still concerned

Del. John Overington, who represents the county's northern residents in the state Legislature, has publicly questioned the choice to open the temporary library in the Ruritan's basement and continues to believe it was not the best option.

Although he supports the Ruritan as a club, he felt the library should have opened its northern branch in a property along U.S. 11 near Falling Waters, W.Va., that needed no renovations.

The monthly rent would have been $750, but Overington said people had volunteered to pay that for the library.

He said he has not visited the site in the Ruritan basement, but he hoped to soon. Positive comments have been voiced to him, he said.

"I'm glad the folks in north Berkeley will have library service," he said. "The positive thing it shows (is that) a concerned group of people that raise enough attention can get results."

That attention included appearing before the Berkeley County Commission and Martinsburg City Council for library-related matters, including the makeup of the library's board.

All five members of the library's board of directors are appointed by the City Council, even though the city contributes a much smaller portion of funding to the library's budget than the County Commission and Board of Education.

In the last fiscal year, the city contributed $81,335 to the library's annual budget. The county gave $429,077 and the Board of Education gave $425,919.

During a City Council meeting in August, Overington called the situation "taxation without representation" and said the tension over where to open the temporary branch might have been avoided had the county been able to appoint at least one board member ? a suggestion library board member Sally Jackson called "absurd" during the council meeting.

The situation over the board makeup remains unresolved; City Council took no action at the meeting in August.

The former library for residents in the county's northern end was a windowless trailer erected in 1973 that was shut down by library officials in the summer of 2004 because of its poor condition.

That trailer, on Nestle Quarry Road, was supposed to have been a temporary location.

Library officials say they want to build a new library, expected to happen in about three years.

All sides agree that they hope a developer will donate land for a new library, which would alleviate some of the financial burden placed on the library, given the skyrocketing cost of real estate.

Overington said he was worried a new library would not open in three years, and he said he has heard it might be as long as five years before a new branch opens.

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