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Library Lines

If you’ve visited the libraries recently, you may have seen a community survey on hand. We’ve been collecting information from our patrons on what they like, and what they don’t like about our libraries here in Pocahontas County. Reading through the responses is always gratifying and interesting; gratifying because we receive lots of positive feedback, and interesting because people have some good suggestions.
The problem with anonymous surveys is that I can’t respond to the individuals who ask questions. Why don’t you buy this title in audio format? Why aren’t you open on Saturdays? When will you offer computer classes? I didn’t foresee this frustration when we created the survey, and I’ve decided that my best option is to address some of the questions or comments that were on the surveys here in Library Lines. Hopefully the people who asked the questions will see my answers here—or perhaps other folks have the same questions. Either way, here goes!
The majority of the requests involved more materials: more books, specific books, and specific titles in audio. First, not every book is also produced as an audio book, so there is that restriction when it comes to buying audio books. The number of materials that we purchase is also restricted by our budget. It’s a sad truth that all library operations and services depend upon funding. Our operating budget for the current fiscal year is $299,917 for the five libraries in the county, a very tight amount with which to work. The majority – 55 percent – of our budget comes from the County Commission distributing a percentage of the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax to the library. There is no levy to support the library, and so we hope for lots of “heads in beds” and good skiing, just like the many other groups who receive funding from this tax. What happens if Snowshoe has a bad season, or no one comes to the Autumn Harvest festival? We have to scramble and cut expenses.
Some people mentioned the need for weekend hours. We did have Saturday hours during the summer months – June through September/October – but paying for staff and extra utilities all year round for all five branches isn’t possible at this point.
I recently found out that West Virginia state law is very specific about only paid library staff having access to patron records. Once I understood this, I felt I had to come into compliance with the law, and no longer use volunteer help to circulate materials. I know this made some people unhappy, and that some people feel there must be a way around this, or a different way to interpret the law. As the director, it’s my responsibility to staff the libraries, and I feel that I need to follow state law. Privacy laws are very important, and in my years in public libraries, I have seen firsthand some very serious consequences of violating a patron’s confidential information.
I’m running short on room here, but if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to discuss this or any other issue with you. I can be reached at director@pocahontaslibrary.org or 304-799-6000.
In the end, our surveys showed an overwhelming vote of confidence for the libraries, and for that I thank you.

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