Restore Public Library Funding
The Ohio County Board of Education confirmed a disastrous decision in the late spring to cripple the Ohio County Public Library with an immense cut to funding, going against a proud history of public support for this most honored of Wheeling’s public institutions. President (David) Croft showed absolutely no interest in evaluating the numerous articulate and cogent testimonies given by the public regarding why such cuts should not go forward. A strong leader would have, at the very least, made a show of having a more considered analysis. It was quite clear his mind had been made up long ago when watching his evident lack of interest in what the speakers had to say at the May 24th BOE meeting. It’s sad to see a man in his position show so little leadership and a basic lack of empathy for articulate argument. That certain other members of the school board went along with Croft’s predetermined stand is very troubling. The fierce and intelligent love for the library shown by its patrons should, at the very least, have been acknowledged and addressed but this did not happen. The many testimonies to the life-changing existence of the library were totally ignored.
Croft has subsequently tried to explain the BOE’s reasons for this attack on the library by making it sound as if the library was a fatted calf that wouldn’t miss over $300,000. Show me a library anywhere in America, let alone West Virginia, that wouldn’t miss such an immense sum. When he makes a false show of democracy by asserting the BOE met with two representative members of the library board he is disingenuous. It’s quite clear these individuals did not represent the majority thinking of library supporters and perhaps not even of the board itself.
It’s wise to examine carefully all that Croft has said regarding library funding. There are certain facts cited — cost overruns about which Croft does not like to elaborate much beyond perhaps lamenting the increased price of plywood. Come on! How much plywood is part of the costs of the $288,000 for the new track? No, what we have is an innuendo and deception suggesting there’ll be no effect upon programming or personnel. That may be true for this year but only because the library is a far better steward of its finances than is the school board. But for the years ahead this ambush on library funding could soon paralyze future services. Not only will programming be slashed, jobs lost, but countless children and adults throughout Wheeling will no longer have the education-supportive activities they have come to value and enjoy. Isn’t the Board of Education called to support education throughout the city regardless of its source?
As for the suggestion that library funding be put on the next levy? That is a Hail Mary no one wants and has more liabilities than advantages should a future bond levy fail. It is especially self-serving to hear Croft say how there’s nothing that says the Board of Education has to support the library. Yes, there’s also nothing that says we have to do the right thing when we get up in the morning, but surely it serves a community and a nation to try to do the right thing. Even the West Virginia Code (see section §18-2D-1) “finds and declares that the public school system in any community is most effective when it involves and serves all of the people of that community and not just the kindergarten, elementary and secondary school students of that community.” So, when the right thing to do is as clear as it is here for the library, let us hope the school board members who have, so far, been misguided by Croft, have second thoughts and reverse this ill-fated decision and truly do the right thing.
W.Va. Poet Laureate