Bucks for books: Community comes out to support annual library request
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Every year, the libraries in Jefferson County gather together in the basement of the Charles Town Library, to ask for funding from the Jefferson County Commission.
On Feb. 12, the libraries and their community supporters filled the JCC meeting room, as Shepherdstown Public Library Director Hali Taylor, Charles Town Library Director Marcella Genz and Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library Director Sara Curley came before the JCC to ask for an increase in funding.
“On behalf of the libraries, I want to thank you for listening to us,” Taylor said. “Our democracy is based on free access to facts and information in our daily lives. An informed citizen is an engaged citizen. When we hamper the abilities of our citizens to be informed citizens, we are injuring the community.
“Just recently, I lost my third children’s librarian in as many years, to a job that could pay her more,” Taylor said, mentioning this has been the case with all three of her most recent children’s librarians. “This is unconscionable for a library in the richest county in West Virginia to not be able to retain a children’s librarian.
“Jefferson County has continued to grow over the years, but our funding has remained static for the last four years. We need adequate, sustainable funding,” Taylor said.
Jefferson County’s libraries have each been given $82,500 every year for the past four years, according to Taylor, and if that amount was increased to $95,000, or $380,000 for the entire library system, she believes staff would be easier to retain.
“Each of these librarians are an integral part of the community. We do what we can for the community, but we can only do that with your generous support,” Curley said, mentioning her library used last year’s funding to repair its building. “Your contribution last year has helped us repair our parking lots and fix our building.”
Curley made the point, that the libraries need more funding, not only so the community can benefit from reading free books, but also because they offer many other services needed by the community.
“Our library offers many services to the community, including fax and notary — which is a service that is surprisingly hard to find,” Curley said.
While the likelihood of having an increase in funding this year is slim, as the JCC budget for 2020 included no increase for the library system, Taylor said the libraries have to be persistent in asking the JCC for an increase in funding.
“They know we’re abysmally funded and haven’t done anything to change that, but that doesn’t mean that we can stay home,” Taylor said about the annual visit. “We have to let them know that it’s not okay.”