Libraries are important
My father often told me that if you’re a stranger in town, stop in at the public library. You’ll always have a friend. People who work in libraries are lovers of knowledge. They’ll welcome you and they’ll help you learn new things and explore the world of books.
Dad was right. Most towns of any size have a public library because citizens know their value. Libraries help educate our kids and our neighbors. They’re a place to go for access to books and online services. A lot of people can’t afford these things at home. They rely on the public libraries. A public library is a civilized place.
Libraries cost tax dollars. Tax dollars are scarce. But of the 50 states, the one that ranks 49th in local tax-based funding for libraries is West Virginia. The local average in West Virginia for tax-based funding for libraries is only $9.72 per capita. In Jefferson County, it’s even less than that, just $6.29 per capita.
We can’t maintain good libraries is we don’t make the investment. And it is an investment. Every library program for pre-schoolers gives our children a vital head-start on kindergarten. Older students find a place where they can study without distractions. In particular, for students from the 40 percent of Jefferson County households with no internet access. the public library is a lifeline for research, tutoring, test preparation, job searches, scholarships, and college applications. Our public schools and our public libraries are partners in the great mission of educating our kids. The two go together.
The Jefferson County Board of Education is preparing the 2016 Excess Levy for the voters’ approval. The Board has been asked by supporters of the Jefferson County Public Libraries to include in the levy at least $100,000 for each of the four libraries. That’s just half a percent of the total levy for each of the public libraries. We should all let the Board know we’re in favor of this, and that we’d applaud their support.
The first day I got to Shepherdstown, I walked into the public library on German Street and felt at home. That’s the nature of libraries. They cost money, but they’re priceless.