Liz McCormick Published

Libraries in the Eastern Panhandle Say They Need More Funding


As the demand for Internet resources increases, libraries are the starting place for free information. However, budget cuts have forced libraries across the state to scale back drastically on operating hours and access to services, just when it seems those resources are most needed. The Jefferson County branch of the League of Women Voters hosted a public forum on ways the community in the Eastern Panhandle can support the public libraries in their area. These libraries say they have much to offer the public but need more funding.

At the public forum, five directors of the Berkeley and Jefferson County libraries gave insight on the services their particular library provides. From delivery services, to early literacy programs, to collections of distinctive Eastern Panhandle history, all five libraries spoke on the uniqueness of what their library has to offer. Gretchen Fry, the director of the Bolivar Harpers Ferry Public Library, argues that while online bookstore rentals may seem great, they can’t compete with what a library can do for its patrons.

“Libraries are able to provide a large selection of eBooks because of the fact that they actually have access to a number of vendors,” said Fry, “whereas Amazon actually is more restricted in what vendors they can provide, because a lot of them won’t sell to Amazon, so we actually can purchase a larger variety of eBooks.”

Fry says some publishers of certain bestsellers choose to sell to libraries over resources like Amazon. Because of this, libraries tend to provide a larger amount of online and physical collections.

“People would prefer to actually go to their library, because they can get a wider selection and it’s free–they don’t have to pay anything.A nd the way the current situation actually with libraries is set up, they don’t have to pay fines either for library books, like a traditional library book. What happens is after you check out the book, it just expires, you don’t have to pay a fine.”

Pam Coyle, the director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley Public Library, spoke on the upcoming November 4th levy in Kanawha County. If the levy would pass, the libraries in the county would receive over $3 million for five years sponsored by the Board of Education. While the pass of the levy would not directly affect the libraries in the Eastern Panhandle, Coyle does think it could send a very prominent message throughout the state.

“Kanawha County has its own levy that’s going out. That’s not, other than interlibrary loan, will not affect us, but it will affect the attitude of, when we have to go out probably for our own levy, which may or may not happen in the future, depending on what happens with the school board, and libraries across the state. Because if it can get passed in Kanawha County, then it can hopefully pass in every county that they could have their own levy, that’s dedicated specifically to the library and not dependent on any other agency,” noted Coyle.

With big dreams of expanding, the Jefferson and Berkeley County libraries hope to receive more funding in the near future. And if the November 4th levy passes in Charleston, they hope it will provide a ringer to the rest of the state that libraries need help.