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Kanawha library to close computer lab, cut back children's programs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The main Kanawha County Public Library in Charleston will soon cut its children's department hours and close a computer lab because there aren't enough staff members to support them.

Since the state Supreme Court ruled nearly a year ago that the Kanawha County school system no longer had to financially support the library, library officials have warned of cutbacks -- including staff layoffs and potential branch closures.

Several staff members have resigned since the loss of 40 percent of the library's operating budget in February, and the library can't afford to replace them, according to KCPL Director Alan Engelbert.

That means beginning on Monday, the Children's Department will reduce its hours from 64 hours to 48 hours a week, cancel the Books-N-More story time program held each Thursday, and moving the Family Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

The new hours of the Children's Department will be Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also, the library's second-floor Technology Center will be closed because there aren't enough staff members for it. The Technology Center will only be open for "special public programs" that involve the use of multiple computers.

"These hours preserve public access to the extent possible and keep most scheduled children's programming intact, and are sustainable given current staff levels," Engelbert said in a news release. "We regret having to take these actions and hope, at some point, to be able to restore service at all branches and all departments by recruitment of necessary staff."

The library will continue its Tuesday and Wednesday morning story times, Playgroup on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month and Toddler Exploration, depending upon staffing levels.

"We believe that it is important to continue these programs due to our commitment to early literacy," Terri McDougal, head of Children's Services for the library, said in a statement.

The library has formed a "restructuring committee" to analyze where cutbacks should be made, and has met several times recently, with plans to make public recommendations to the library's Board of Directors as soon as this month, Engelbert said.

On Thursday, a library committee had plans to interview law firms to secure legal advice as it plans a layoff process.

The schedule for events and programs at the Main Library is available online at www.kanawhalibrary.org.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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