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Libraries ask JCC for further funding

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

Shepherdstown Public Library Director Hali Taylor, left, and Charles Town Library Director Marcella Genz petition the Jefferson County Commission for funds in the Charles Town Library meeting room on Feb. 13. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN – On Feb. 13, Jefferson County’s four libraries met with the Jefferson County Commission in the Charles Town Library meeting room, to discuss funding for the next year.

With supporters wearing “Love the Library” stickers, the libraries collectively asked for an annual funding increase of $10,000 per library, from $82,500 to $92,500 for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Public libraries are not going away – they are becoming more necessary in this age of technology,” said Shepherdstown Public Library Director Hali Taylor, mentioning the increase in funds would help the libraries retain staff, although it would only amount to a one-percent wage increase for library staff.

In 2018, the Shepherdstown Public Library lost its children’s department librarian, Christy Haggerty, to a better-paying school library position in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“A 40-minute drive almost doubled her salary,” Taylor said about Haggerty’s new job.

During the meeting, the Charles Town Library, Shepherdstown Public Library, Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library and South Jefferson Public Library directors agreed their staff needed an increase in benefits and pay, as the cost of living increases.

“On behalf of the four public libraries, I thank you for your continuing support of the libraries,” said CTL Director Marcella Genz. “We acknowledge and understand your suggestion to keep our costs at the same level as in previous years.”

According to Genz, the Charles Town Library’s endowment fund, which provides the library with some extra funding throughout the year, does not make enough interest to cover the library’s needs. Even with the combination of the money from the endowment fund and annual JCC contributions, the Charles Town Library agreed that it, like the other three libraries, needed this increased support.

“I think you all recognize we are the working library for the county – we have become a year-round day shelter for the homeless. Everyone who comes through these doors is welcome. But for the library staff, it is not easy to serve the homeless. On seriously cold days, we’ve had as many as 50 homeless people here,” Genz said, mentioning fights and other incidents have occurred in the library, as a result of Jefferson County having no place to house the homeless.

Some patrons, according to Genz, have told her they are afraid to come to the library, because of the homeless in the building.

“It takes considerable staff time to monitor the homeless. We do not have the resources to provide anything more than a warm space to the homeless,” Genz said. “It is not the library that can fix this issue. It must be the community that solves this issue.”

While Genz indicated the Charles Town Library would use its extra funds to compensate its librarians for the extra work they put in, to clean up after the homeless and accommodate their needs, the other three libraries each went before the JCC to request additional funding.

Following, Genz, the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library and South Jefferson Public Library directors both asked for additional funds outside of the $92,500, for building maintenance. SPL Capital Campaign Committee Chair Neil Marcus was the last to speak, requesting the JCC to allocate $200,000 for the Shepherdstown Public Library’s new building project.

“Our library, while quaint and historic, is inadequate to serve its job. This new library will be a game changer,” Marcus said. “Early on with our estimate, we were given an estimate for $3 million. Now we are facing a possible increase to $3.5-$3.7 million, in the worst-case scenario.

“The fundraising for this project has been painstaking, and we only have so many people who can write big checks in our town. We’ve been waiting for this library building for a long time, for a place where you can come and relax, without buying a cup of coffee,” Marcus said. “The value proposition is a completely different matter. This county gets literary benefits, economic benefits and more from having a good library system.”

According to Taylor, the SPL is currently preparing to build in late summer or early fall, by working on completing county permits and registrations.