CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bridget and I made our way to the early voting place where voters were welcomed with smiles. It was a happy task to vote for the Kanawha County school/library levy.
But it was not to be. By a large margin, the voters marked "against" on the paper ballot. The people have spoken.
But have they truly spoken? Levy voting yields small numbers, and it may be that those most enthusiastic about their position tend to vote. In this situation, I believe that those on the "for" side may have skipped voting, feeling that surely the good people of our county would affirm the need for our library, and for increased support of the county schools.
For me, and for many, a town without a library is deficient. In my earliest days as a minister, I lived in a rural county where the library was an ill heated and never cooled old store building with the nicest librarian who would bring me things on the bookmobile that she drove.
Subsequent libraries became newer and more efficient. At the helm of each was a person who loved books, and who would often forgive my fines. When I was in Welch, the library occupied part of the old train station, converted into a city building with places for the fire trucks. Ms. Hicks, the librarian, surely had a small budget, but the shelves were loaded with books I had not read. I served on that library's board, and designed the first outside book drop that proved quite handy.
Now, here in Charleston, I am a regular user of the Main Library in Charleston and another in South Charleston, which is independent of the county library system. What pleasures await me when I enter the doors of each! Take a look as you enter the downtown library, and view the well-arranged shelves, people using computers, lovely quilts and most helpful people behind the desks. Since I am 78, I am not assessed fines, but make every effort to return my bag of books timely.
Even with all that praise for the library, is it not true that the libraries are dying?
Libraries are not dying, but they are changing. The idea that one could turn on a computer and do research or just view some recent comic strips was inconceivable to me in the 1960s. There is no doubt that these innovations cost money, but at the library, the new technology is available to ordinary people, and not just the wealthy or well fixed.