CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The upcoming levy in Kanawha County is vital for our schools and libraries.
Libraries are not just relics from the past, and statistics show they are utilized and very much needed by those less fortunate to have access to current technology.
More than 35 percent of West Virginians do not have computers and less than 60 percent have Internet access. Libraries across the state work to provide high-speed Internet access and computers plus wireless at nearly all facilities to those who do not have access or can't afford it. In many areas, the public library is the only place to go for high speed, free Internet access. Adults and youth use the libraries' computers to access information, complete schoolwork, review medical needs and apply for jobs and scholarships.
Access to technology is the way the world functions these days. Those who do not have access at home need the libraries. Otherwise, how can they apply for jobs online or keep up with schoolwork vital to education and their future? Due to the proven statistics regarding lack of access and computer illiteracy in West Virginia, it is vital to have the Kanawha-Charleston Library and others in the county bridging the gap.
The Charleston Gazette published two articles recently, "Report: W.Va. fourth-graders not reading proficiently" and "Mayors oppose school excess levy." I find it troubling and ironic that with our young children not being able to read proficiently, anyone would question the need for a levy to support libraries and schools?
* More than 50,000 books are available for use in elementary school libraries and/or classrooms from the children's deposit collection.
* The library staff prepares, on request, collections of materials on any topic for teachers.
* Libraries provide study rooms for tutoring and testing.
* Kanawha Communities that Care, a countywide drug prevention coalition, meets regularly in the South Charleston Public Library meeting rooms. This meeting room is decorated with artwork from a Children's summer reading group. The teen volunteers loved illustrating the stories they were reading this summer. The South Charleston Library provides meeting space for community groups, summer reading programs and opportunities for teens to give back to their community. Programs such as this happen in the libraries all across Kanawha County.
* Our educators need the libraries and our children need the libraries to learn and be competitive in this world where the odds are definitely not in their favor.
Just this small list I have shared shows that the idea that libraries are relics from the past or that they are not used is incorrect!
We must support this levy and encourage more support for the Kanawha County Public Library. It is the right and necessary thing to do for all of our children. Reading, after all, is fundamental!
Friend is a United Methodist minister and youth advocate in Charleston.