After a year-long waiver, libraries once again seeking funding

Ronda Wertman
Special to the News Tribune
With a fresh coat of paint, the Burlington Library continues to serve the local community, while joining all the branches of the county library system in seeking needed support for continued programming and operations.

KEYSER - With opportunities and activities for all ages making the libraries in Keyser, Burlington and Fort Ashby vital parts of the local communities, the library system is once again having to reach out to those communities for financial support.

The board of directors for the Mineral County Public Library system recently explained that, in 2020, the library was given a waiver from its required match for state funding due to COVID-19 limitations.

“This waiver from the state made it possible for the system of libraries to continue offering as many services as possible during a national pandemic,” said the library board in a letter to local businesses.

Each year the library system is allocated state funding to assist in its operation; however, in order to receive funding, the library system must match the amount with local funds.

The letter gives this illustration, “If state funding is $90,000 but our local tax (city, county, and BOE funding) and local non-taxed (donations, fees, and fines) income is only $60,000, then the library didn’t make the match. Since the match has a dollar-for-dollar penalty, the following year the state funding would only be $60,000.”

The deadline for the match is June 15, 2021.

“Any cuts to the library budget would be devastating. No one wants to have to cut open hours, staff hours, or staff. All of those things directly affect all the great services the libraries offer to the community,” says Heather Haynes, director of the library system.

During the pandemic, the libraries have been innovative. Once the closure was lifted, staff offered curbside services for patrons and continued to perform vital functions for community members, including making copies, sending faxes, and completing free public notary services.

The libraries also opened their wireless internet to be available without a password and became a Kids Connect hotspot for students. The Keyser staff packed lunches through the summer and gave them to children in the community.

“All the libraries worked diligently to offer wonderful virtual summer reading programs last year,” said Haynes, adding that plans are underway for a more hands-on event this year.

“All in all, the libraries worked persistently to maintain accessibility amidst much turmoil,” said the board of directors, who are now reaching out to businesses and others to help continue this mission.

With spring, the hours are expanding and new programs are opening up, including the May Mystery Program underway at the Keyser branch.

Fort Ashby has regular programming for children and adults. The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) club meets every second Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Junior Book Club meets every third Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., and the Lego Club every fourth Tuesday at 4 p.m.  The Fort Ashby Readers, a book club for adults, meets every third Tuesday at 11 a.m.  

The Burlington Library story time gets underway each Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and they are gearing up for the Summer Reading Program.

The librarians work hard to provide great service to the community. Residents can stop by any of the three libraries and give their donation to the librarians at the front desk, or mail donations to the Keyser Mineral County Public Library. The address is 105 North Main St. Keyser, WV 26726.