Piedmont Library continues on despite COVID, cutbacks
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Hit hard by cutbacks and cancellations caused by the pandemic, the Piedmont Public Library has continued to work hard to offer as many services as possible for the residents of the small town.
“We had to cut down on our children’s programs,” director Paula Boggs said, noting that funding from one source alone was slashed from $12,400 to $6,491 this year due to COVID-cramped budget issues.
“We did have to cut back our hours; we operate on a shoestring budget and barely bake it year to year,” Boggs said.
The director, who has headed the library for 45 years and also now serves as Piedmont’s mayor, said monetary support from places like the Mineral County Commission are the only way the library is able to keep going.
Working on an annual budget of just $26,000, the library has traditionally been able to present am ambitious schedule of activities for the town’s children and youths, including free events for holidays, a summer reading program, pool parties, and more … until COVID hit.
“We were able to have our Dr. Seuss event last year, just before it hit,” Boggs said.
Looking for a COVID-safe alternative for their traditional Easter activities, they held an “Easter Bunny Drive-Thru” in April, but when they tried to do the same thing with Santa in December, Boggs said they were told by the health department that even that wasn’t a good idea.
“We were able to have a back-to-school swim,” she said, since the town’s pool is outdoors.
Despite the cutbacks, however, the library continued to keep its doors open for every month last year except May.
“Other than that, we operated on our regular schedule,” Boggs said “Many children came in to do schoolwork and print out papers for school. We followed the guidelines, but we did allow patrons into the library and practices social distancing,” she said.
One thing that has picked up for the library during the pandemic, however, is internet use. While the library has continued to provide computers for students to use for their school work and parents to use for research and resumes, they now offer free wifi outside the library’s building thanks to the West Virginia Library Commission’s Kids Connect program.
“The kids can sit outside in the car with their parents and do their homework, or if the weather’s warm we have a bench out there,” Boggs said.
The Piedmont Library participates with the Imagination Library, and even offers home delivery for the elderly.
“We provide a wide range of services for being a small library and with the funding we receive,” Boggs said. “We are often considered to be more like a community center than a library. Local residents continue to rely on the services we provide. There is always a need of some kind for everyone that cannot be afforded, and we are here to help fulfill these needs as best we can.”
To help meet those goals, Boggs has asked the Mineral County Commission to increase their annual support from $5,000 to $5,500. She will also be speaking with the Mineral County Board of Education and the City of Piedmont for support.
“We continue to stress how important this funding is to keeping our library open,” she said.