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Jeremy Brannon: Libraries and education go hand in hand

WHEN I heard the Kanawha County Public Library was going to lose funding from the Kanawha County Board of Education I was outraged.

Sure there was a fairness factor involved in the State Supreme Court's ruling, but $2.9-million dollars is a lot of money to yank from such a highly valued community treasure and resource during these turbulent economic times.

All I could think about for weeks after the Supreme Court's ruling was less hours, less current library material, and longer waits for books.

Objectors of library funding believe the Internet is a replacement for libraries. More and more young people are obtaining information for reports and papers from the Internet, in particular, the website Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is not a scholarly peer-reviewed journal. It's an open source online "encyclopedia" filled full of opinion, broken reference links, some facts, and gossip. Anyone can provide content to that website. Yet young people, even adults, cite Wikipedia as if the content is credible and source material fact. Facts need to be reliable and current.

Many of our school libraries' books are dated. When I was in elementary school I did my science and history fair project on ghosts. The books at Marmet Elementary on the subject matter were 10 to 15 or more years old. I can only imagine how ancient their books are today.

The Kanawha County Public Library had the books I needed to finish the project. They were current. I didn't win an award for my project, but it was unique and thought provoking.

Dated books were also a problem at West Virginia State University's library. It's pathetic when you have to get an interlibrary loan to complete an important time sensitive assignment.

When I wrote a paper and gave an accompanying jaw dropping speech on the history of cuss words in 2006 for my Power of Language Class, I had to get several interlibrary loans. The information I needed to complete the paper could not be found in the school library, online peer reviewed journals or anywhere on the Internet.

The Kanawha County Public Library fosters learning through many different mediums besides physical books, such as e-books, playaways, books on cassette and CDs, magazines and newspapers, documentaries on VHS and DVD, and offering Internet access to patrons.

Kanawha County Public Library also fosters learning through free live online tutoring to aid young people with their homework, access to hundreds of online academic databases, the yearly Art Fair, West Virginia Book Festival, and Summer Reading Club; writing workshops, and offering free Microsoft in-person software tutoring, which I received last year to update my Excel and Access skills.

With the exception of two branches, the Kanawha County Public Library offers the public a free meeting room for public and organizational meetings.

This is not a time to be voting against young people with high school dropout rates being on the rise, and college retention and graduation rates on the decline. Young people deserve every resource we can offer them to help them get from point A to point B in their lives.

We need an educated workforce to attract the right kind of industries to this state that won't use and abuse the worker, destroy the communities they occupy leaving them high and dry once they've gotten the goods, and leaving all of us with the clean up bill.

This has been this state's reality for far too long. Shortsighted ghost town economy thinking is keeping West Virginia impoverished.

I've been a loyal Kanawha County Public Library patron since I was seven. The books I've checked out over the years enriched my life and grew me as a person.

I will be voting for the excess levy come Nov. 9 and hope others do the same. The excess levy adequately funds the Kanawha County Public Library, and also increases funding to Kanawha County Schools.

Education and libraries walk hand in hand, providing life-long learning to young and old. Both are a great investment. A vote against the excess levy is a vote for ignorance and poverty.

Brannon is a Charleston resident.


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