On Friday, I headed downtown during my lunch break to practice that most fundamental of rights: voting. There are plenty of hot-button issues on the table politically right now, and plenty of hotly contested races to fill many a smear campaign ad. While I certainly had my political leanings in tow when I drove to the early-voting site, there’s another issue – on the back of that ballot – for which I was very interested in exercising my right to fill in a little circle on a sheet of paper.
A (much more feasible and better conceived) levy is being proposed that would restore $3 million in slashed funding to Kanawha County Public Library.
In case you missed it, last year the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Kanawha County Schools no longer had to fund the library system, resulting in a 40 percent cut to the operating budget. Decreased funding means decreased services, hours, staff – possibly even branches. Now at some libraries if a staff person calls in sick the place doesn’t open. That’s not good, folks. And, following the ruling, one of the first things to go was the popular West Virginia Book Festival, which had become strong enough in recent years to lure the likes of Charlaine Harris and Dave Pelzer, among others, to our fair city. That one still stings.
You may be saying, “But nobody even goes to the library, so why should I care?” Not so. Last year, between book loans and downloads, numbers passed the 1 million mark. And book loans are only part of the mix. Internet access, educational programs and activities, movie rentals – I even got my passport at my neighborhood library. Libraries aren’t simply books anymore. They’re community centers and knowledge access points.
Last year a different levy was on the ballot to restore this missing money. Unfortunately it was tied to the school board, was much larger in its amount and would’ve cost the taxpayers considerably more than the updated proposal. Not surprisingly, it was overwhelmingly voted down. This time around, instead of paying upwards of $100+ a year, the average taxpayer will pay about $16 annually, or around $1.36 per month. Seriously. That's it. Isn’t it worth a buck and some change to keep our library branches open and fully operational? I spend more than that a day on coffee.
Supporters have been campaigning hard for this new levy, from advertisements to social media to the group of friendly volunteers smiling and waving at the intersection near my house each evening. There are plenty of ways you can help spread the word, too. Learn more about the levy, how you’ll be affected if it passes and how you can help at LovingMyLibrary.com.
And remember to #VoteYesNov4!