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Book lovers should rally to the library

READING really is fundamental. It's the foundation stone of education, the threshold to a lifetime of learning and decades of enjoyment as well.

The people who throng to the West Virginia Book Festival know this, as do the board and the staff of the Kanawha County Public Library. The loyal, capable, inventive people who serve at the library's facilities pour their hearts into the festival.

Still, it was a bit of a shock to find that the library has been spending $100,000 on the book festival.

That's a lot of money, and suddenly, the library doesn't have it.

The school system and the library system are joined at the hip by history. But the state Supreme Court recently ruled that forcing the Kanawha County school system to give part of the money it gets through the state school aid formula to the library - when other counties are not forced to do this - is unconstitutional.

The court made the right decision, but the ruling cost the library about $3 million - almost 40 percent of its operating budget.

In the short term, the library board has asked the Kanawha County Board of Education to continue providing $2.5 million voluntarily. Continuing some funding might indeed be the right thing to do.

As for the long term, legislators and members of the school board are trying to help find a long-term solution to the library's funding problem.

In the meantime, however, the library must cut costs. No more Sunday hours at the St. Albans and Charleston libraries. And no book festival this year.

It was a very painful decision for the library board.

But the used book sale that has been part of the festival will continue.

That gives people who love books a chance to show their support in a tangible way. Here's hoping the public rallies around that event in a big way.

Public libraries are valuable to communities. The Kanawha County Public Library system needs and deserves the support of those communities now.


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