Library Support Should Continue

It is true, as state Sen. Brooks McCabe stressed last week, that West Virginia should re-examine is system of funding public libraries. Until that happens, it would be a disservice to their communities for county boards of education, including here in Ohio County, to stop supporting public libraries.

A 1957 state law requires nine county school boards to provide funding for their local public libraries. But the state Supreme Court has ruled Kanawha County’s board cannot be required to continue the practice. That probably will affect other counties, too.

About 40 percent of the Ohio County Public Library’s funding comes from the local school board. The amount, $531,932 for the current year, is critical to the library but represents less than 1 percent of the school board’s budget.

McCabe, D-Kanawha, said legislators should react to the court ruling by rethinking how libraries are funded. “We’ve got to find a better way,” he urged. Lawmakers indeed should look at the situation.

But legislators who enacted the 1957 law were aware of the valuable partnership between schools and public libraries. As we have pointed out, the Ohio County library provides a variety of educational opportunities for children – ones it would be expensive for the school board to replace, should the need arise.

The library is an integral part of our community in many ways, including its education role. So school board members, while urging legislators to look at the funding issue, should continue their support of the library.