The public library is the world’s university.
That is how Jackson County Library Director, John Faria, describes the purpose of the library system he has led since 2017.
“We are the source for so much information,” Faria said. “Anyone who has health questions, wants to do a job search, or research any topic, can find what they need at the public library.”
For children and teenagers the library is a safe place said Faria.
“It expands the world for children,” he said. “And for both teens and children we are a place of safety. They are valued here.”
To be able to provide that safe place, that research center, that source of popular and unique reading materials, funds are needed.
The Library Levy, which was approved in 2004 and took effect in July 2005, has been renewed three times. It is up for renewal once again in the primary election on June 9. A 60 percent positive vote must be achieved for passage.
The levy generated $237,561 in tax revenue in 2019-20 for the main library in Ripley and the branch in Ravenswood. Predicted revenue for the duration of the four-year levy, if renewed, is $255,337 annually.
Assessed property values determines the amount Jackson Countians will pay. The rate will be the same as in previous years.
In the past large projects paid by the levy were the new addition to the Ripley branch, renovations, and new roof. At Ravenswood, major renovations to restrooms and other areas, along with a new roof, were provided by the levy.
Building maintenance is still a large part of the levy’s purpose. But according to Faria, the levy does much more than that.
“We get a Grants in Aid (GIA) funded by the West Virginia Legislature as all public libraries do,” Faria explained. “That will bring in $148,807 in this fiscal year via the West Virginia Library Commission. Those monies are used for salaries.”
The library system has four full-time employees and 10 part-time.
“We actually need one more part-time at Ripley,” the director said. “And we’ll be replacing one who is leaving.”
The levy, which comprises approximately half of the library’s budget, pays for a number of things that are vital to the library. Those include staff benefits, books, magazines, e-books, all utilities and supplies, databases, computer software, interlibrary loans, and all programs.
“We are a library that offers a great many programs that are free to the public,” Faria said. “We have a fantastic summer reading program, Halloween activities, historical presentations, and much more. Probably our biggest event is our Mini-Con. Hundreds of people come to that. These are all levy-funded. And we have a large number of groups that use our meeting rooms.”
Even with the levy, state GIA and local funding, Faria still watches expenditures closely.
“We are fiscally responsible,” he said. “In fact, we’re now part of the West Central Library Cooperative which allows us to have vendor discounts and sharing of programs.”
Being able to update computers is an upcoming objective.
“We’ve been holding back some funds to be able to do an upgrade,” Faria stated. “It’s been a good while since that’s been done. It’s part of our strategic plan.”
Faria, who graduated from the University of New York with a master’s degree in library science, has always wanted to work in a small rural area.
“The library board and I have dreams for the Jackson County Library,” Faria said. “We want to have a reading garden at Ripley, give long-overdue pay raises to every employee, and a new roof for Ravenswood. The biggest aspiration is a bookmobile. That’s a long time down the road but it may be possible.”
For information about the library call the 304-372-5343 or 304-273-5433 or visit jack.park.lib.wv.us.
Program attendance 67,028
E-books circulation 12,835
Reference questions 24,284
Computer usage 7,262
Funding (projected 2019-20)
Levy $237,561 (projected)
City of Ripley $5,000
Oil/Gas revenue $4,000
Library Board (appointed by County Commission)