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Library source for good read, accessing electronic forms

My part-time library job exposes me to readers, many of whom suggest favorite authors. I also see users of public computers forced to master enough technology to get a pay slip or IRS forms.

Following last month's column on good reads, I'm still getting suggestions from readers like Joanne Rich of Nitro, who recommended other novels by West Virginians, among them "Child of the Mountains" by Marilyn Sue Shank and "Shrapnel" by Marie Manilla.

"In spite of the title, the latter is about a family - a grandfather who comes to live with his daughter's family in Huntington," Rich said. Certainly a timely topic.

Rich also praised "The Midwife of Hope River" and earlier memoirs by Patricia Harman and books by William Hoffman, formerly of Charleston. "No shortage of good books," she said in an email.

Rich obviously is comfortable with a computer.

Others are not, particularly those with no home computer or broadband service options.

Dial-up service is, well, only serviceable.  It is incredibly slow for complex websites and is the reason I look at social media sites or electronic greeting cards only when I'm at the library.

It's also the reason I called the federal Office of Personnel Management after we received our annual statement of pension and health insurance adjustments for my husband, a Department of Interior retiree.

We almost missed the notice on the back of the lengthy document. This year is the last we will be mailed our retiree (1099-R) statement for the preceding year. Starting next year, we'll have to get it electronically.  

What about those with no Internet service, I wondered. I called the toll-free information number I found in tiny print above the address.

The staff member who took my call told me the notification failed to state that retirees will be able to request the form through the U.S. Postal Service.

Of the roughly 1.5 million federal retirees and survivors, I'm willing to bet there are a good many in rural areas who have no computer, no broadband available or are reluctant to sign a multi-year contract for satellite Internet service.

We see an increasing number of people who come to the library to use public computers because it is the only way they can get pay slips or other financial information.

Fortunately the West Virginia Library Commission maintains good security for the Internet in the county libraries, but we understand anyone's discomfort in using a public computer and printer. Staff members strive to avoid looking at any personal information when requested to help with computer use or at data on printouts we retrieve from the printer.

Yet mastering computer use is easier than fathoming the inconsistency of Washington lawmakers who dither over pleas from the debt-ridden Postal Service to address a financial crisis due in part to the shift to electronic mail.

Social Security is axing it.

Treasury department official Walt Henderson turned to Dear Abby to get the word out, writing that effective March 1, postal delivery will halt for about 5.4 million beneficiaries now receiving checks in the mail. That includes more than 63,000 in West Virginia, Jared Hunt subsequently reported in the Daily Mail.

Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veterans and other recipients have been able to request benefits by paper checks rather than direct deposit into bank accounts, but that option is evaporating.  They all will have to convert to direct deposit or use the Treasuries Direct Express Debit MasterCard, Henderson wrote.

No choice. "It's the law," he said.

The Postal Service says it is hemorrhaging a staggering $25 million daily with the shift to electronic services and its massive payments for future retiree benefits.

To date, disagreements between lawmakers from rural and urban districts, senators and representatives, along with the fiscal policy battles, have doomed all efforts to enact changes proposed by the Postal Service.

Members from the Mountain State balked at even cutting Saturday mail (all those catalogs and ads we don't want) or, heaven forbid, closing very low-volume post offices.

It boggles the mind.  

Give me a good book to read.

Contact writer Evadna Bartlett at


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