When I was a little girl, my mom used to take me to a magical place called the Lane Road Library. It’s a small library housed in a red-brick building with crisp white columns flanking the front door and a bay window that looks out onto a tree-lined walkway. My favorite part of every visit to that library was sitting on the bench inside of that bay window, with a pile of Encyclopedia Browns, reading for what seemed like the whole afternoon.
When I got a little older, I would have my mom drop me at the Dublin Public Library in my hometown of Dublin, Ohio. The Dublin Library was more modern in design, but I loved it just as much and probably used it more efficiently because I used it not only to borrow books for pleasure, but also for school projects and papers.
After high school, I left Columbus and headed out west to sunny California. After visiting Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, and spending a few days at the beaches in Ventura County, one of the very first places I went, in order to make myself at home, was the Lancaster Library, part of the County of Los Angeles library system. I got my library card there before I even found a church or knew where the best neighborhood grocery store was. And, when I moved from the High Desert down to the San Fernando Valley, I found yet another small, public library to use- this one in North Hollywood.
I’ve loved all of these libraries. They were all more than just a place to borrow a book. When I was little, I felt comforted by the kind, sturdiness of the librarians at Lane Road. They were calm and so knowledgeable! I never knew how they could suggest exactly the perfect book for me, but they did so without fail. I was rather lonely as a child, but I never felt alone surrounded by quiet, sitting in that window seat, reading.
Libraries have provided me access to information, knowledge, freedom, comfort, ideas, escape, assistance, respite, and… well, tax forms. I never want to live in a community that doesn’t care for its library.
But right this very minute, I’m concerned that I may be living in just such a place. My favorite library in the world, the Kanawha County Public Library, is at risk of losing funds that equate to roughly 40% of its budget. The details on that are here: Library Considering Layoffs, but the takeaway for me is that the board of education that represents ME, mother of two school-aged children and a taxpayer in this county, has determined that library service is NOT an integral part of education.
This amazes me because KCPL has helped me teach my children from the time they were infants! I obviously use the library personally and love to go there alone, but my best KCPL experiences have always had to do with seeing my kids get excited about something they found- or did- at the library. When they were babies and toddlers I took them to Baby-n-Me programs; together we played with the Thomas the Tank Engine set and borrowed Thomas videos; Kanawha County Library’s Summer Reading Program kept them going in a time when schools have yet to adopt a balanced calendar; we’ve had a blast together every year at the Library Street Fair; and just this month, they’ve completed reports on Ella Fitzgerald and Gerald Ford while sitting at a table on the 3rd floor of the Main Library.
Mr. Thaw and members of the Kanawha County Board, may I be frank? I will never vote for a man or woman who cannot see the absolutely indispensable role that libraries play in the education of children. And, I especially wouldn’t vote for someone who feels that way even as the school system LITERALLY uses library services in its schools.
Wait, what? You mean, Kanawha County uses the Public Library system IN THE SCHOOLS, but wants to cut funding? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they do. Believe me, I know! I had to go to the library to pay my son’s fines just the other day so that he could check out a book at school. They use the same system! What happens to libraries in the schools if the Board decides to stop funding now that it isn’t required to by law?
I’ve had enough. I hope my kids will continue to be able to use the library in its current incarnation and I hope they will learn something from me about commitment to a cause. I will be taking annual leave on Monday, March 4th so that I can attend the Kanawha County Board of Education’s special meeting at 4:00 pm to speak in support of the Library. (BOE office, 200 Elizabeth Street) I hope to see some of you there!