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Despite cancellation of Kanawha book festival, annual sale seeing record donations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Though Kanawha County Library officials have scaled back some aspects of the annual book sale, the selection of books won't suffer one bit.

In fact, the library system has received more book donations for the sale this year than ever before.

That's welcome news for the library system, which has found itself struggling to make ends meet after a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year created a significant budget gap.

Officials are forging ahead with plans for the annual sale, despite the forced cancellation of the book festival that normally is held in conjunction with it.

The library's board of directors voted in March to withdraw support for this year's West Virginia Book Festival. That was one of a string of costcutting measures made after the high court decision that stripped about 40 percent of its operating budget.

Justices found that a 1957 law forcing the county school system to help fund libraries is unconstitutional. That decision freed the school system from a relationship with the library that it had long argued was unfair, but left library officials scrambling for about $3 million.

They decided to keep the sale - a staple of the annual event - largely because it makes money for the library.

The sale will be Oct. 19 at the Civic Center - for one day only, instead of the usual two, as a cost-saving measure. Terry Wooten, the library's marketing and development manager, said the Civic Center is "the only place that's large enough" to house all of the books that will be available.

Wooten said the decision to lose the festival was as difficult on library employees as it will be on the public.

"It's an event that we all loved working on and we loved being there that weekend," she said. "The community really loved it, too, I think, and it was hard to let it go."

Wooten said library officials have heard from a number of community members who are disappointed or confused by the changes. Luckily, book donations haven't tapered off at all, she said.

"We just have so many books," she said.

Last year's sale raised more than $30,000.

Officials expect to save more than $100,000 by canceling the festival, which brought author lectures, vendors and book signings to the capital city for 12 years.

They hope that, if the library's funding is restored, the book festival will go on next year as usual.

That all rests with the fate of a proposed excess levy voters will be asked to approve at a Nov. 9 special election.

The proposed property tax would benefit both the Kanawha County school system and the library. It would raise $24 million in fiscal year 2014-15 - $21 million for the school system and $3 million for the library system, restoring it to its former funding level.

This year, the book sale will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then reopen at 3:30 p.m. for the box and bag sale, where people buy books in bulk for a reduced rate. (In years past, the book sale ran all day Saturday, and the box and bag sale ran on Sunday.)

The library is still looking for volunteers for festival weekend. To volunteer call Wooten at 304-343-4646, ext. 1287, or email terry.wooten@kanawha library.org.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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