CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Information is power. Education is power. And in our digitalized global economy, access to high-speed Internet is power.
Yet one in four West Virginians are without Internet in their homes. Without access, West Virginians cannot apply for many jobs. They cannot start up a small business in their homes, or even apply for a small business license, much less tap into more lucrative web based markets.
Without Internet access, their children cannot complete some of their homework assignments, use databases for research, prepare for standardized tests, or fill out applications that will enable them entrance into vocational and technical schools or colleges and universities. Without Internet access, countless West Virginians will not become adept at the computer skills required by most jobs today.
For these one in four West Virginians, libraries are not just a luxury. They are an absolute necessity. Libraries provide free information, yes. They provide expanded educational opportunities, yes. But most important for the one in four West Virginians without, libraries provide free access to the World Wide Web and high speed Internet.
Today, libraries are far more advanced than the archaic stacks of books, magazines, newspapers, journals and microfiche of yesteryear. True, you can still come to the library to be entertained or self-taught through an endless array of books, e-books, audible books, videotapes, CDs, and DVDs. Libraries are still safe and warm places where children and teens can complete homework assignments after school.
But today, libraries also provide children with computers, educational software, Internet access with family friendly filters, databases, homework help and more.
Libraries are still places where adults, young and old, can come to check out books and videos, but also where they can search for and apply for jobs on-line. Where they can check their email, learn and practice computer related job skills, receive help with their taxes and access databases. The newest and most modern libraries offer wireless technology, community resource rooms, and other high tech hand-held equipment such as tablets. These modern facilities expose adults and children alike to the newest cutting edge digital and multimedia technologies available.
On Nov. 9, a very important election is being held in Kanawha County. If the educational levy is not passed, a levy that includes funding for 40 percent of the Kanawha County Public Library's current budget, some of Kanawha County libraries will have to shut their doors, and others will have to truncate their hours and reduce services.
Please help keep information free, expanded educational and job-training opportunities free, and high-speed Internet free for Kanawha County's citizens.
Say YES to the libraries and the educational levy on Nov. 9. If we shut the doors of our libraries, we will lock thousands of West Virginians out of the middle class and out of the American dream. We need to empower West Virginia's work force, not shackle it to under-education, illiteracy and an endless cycle of poverty and unemployment.
White, of Charleston, is a West Virginia Library Commissioner, a member of the Steering Committee for Friends of the Kanawha County Library, a mother of five grown children and a longtime library and Read Aloud volunteer.