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Election season comes to St. Clairsville

Library’s five-year, half-mill renewal levy on the ballot

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Voters will decide whether to renew St. Clairsville Public Library’s operating levy on Nov. 2.

Library Director Doug Walsh has been promoting the levy to the public, and he spoke during Monday’s Meet the Candidates Night at the city recreation center.

“It’s a half-mill levy,” Walsh said prior to the meeting.

The five-year levy would remain at the rate it was when voters first approved it in 2017, and the cost is $1.46 monthly for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Walsh said library funding comes from two sources: the local levy and the state, which began cutting support less than 20 years ago. Since 2018, the St. Clairsville library has had the levy’s support.

He said the library has about 75,000 visits in a typical year, and people receive help with research, employment and technology about 3,000 times a year. He said 2,000 adults attend the library’s educational and recreational programs annually, and people borrow 70,000 books and materials.

Walsh added the library has given out more than 2,000 test kits, distributed on behalf of the state.

Walsh said prior to the levy, the library spent $25,761 for new books and materials in 2017 compared to $92,611 in 2001.

“When we got the levy, we doubled that amount, and we’ve been increasing it every year since,” Walsh said. “We’re getting a lot more materials. We’re buying a lot more and that takes staffing to research what materials we want to purchase, that will speak to the people in our community. All those materials have to be catalogued.”

New materials purchased with levy dollars now have a sticker on the inner cover crediting the levy for their purchase. Walsh pointed out new materials available at the library’s lobby for greater convenience.

Walsh also emphasized community outreach.

“The number of programs that we offer is really important. We are service-oriented, customer service-oriented and that takes staff,” he said. “We want to continue improving our customer service and keep responding to the community’s needs.”

He said more improvements are on the horizon. The library’s board of trustees recently modified the strategic plan after getting input from the community and staff.

“We kind of winnowed it down to a set of bold, new steps for the library,” he said. One future project is a permanent “story walk” created in cooperation with the city. It may be installed in fall or winter and launched in spring. “It’s a multi-year plan, but there was a grant available.

“Another big initiative is to outreach to the underserved and we’re looking at different ways we might do that, whether it’s home-delivery of materials, working more with the senior residences. We’re still kind of shaping that. Another one is to have an overall plan for the facilities, that we’re doing maintenance on a regular basis and taking care of the building as it needs to be taken care of.”

Should the levy fail, Walsh said these endeavors are in doubt.

“The levy is now over 30 percent of our overall budget, so it’d be a 30-percent cut,” he said. “An older building like this, it’s almost 100 years old and takes some care and maintenance just to keep it going. We would still be able to do the basic level of maintenance, but as far as updates to make it more energy efficient, to approve the flow and layout. … Before the levy, we had a roof leak and the foundation had to have multiple fundraisers to help us pay for that roof leak.”

The library was also able to repaint the library ceiling quickly when paint was peeling.

“Those are the kinds of things you would see perhaps not being done if we did not receive the levy funds. We would probably look at the number of staff and the services we have. We would have to cut back to bare minimum. As far as school programs and reaching out to senior residences and the number of programs we offer. The summer reading programs might be reduced in size. The number of items that we purchase, we purchase a lot of e-resources. We have a lot of people in our library for our size…borrowing ebooks and e-audiobooks online and we would have to cut back on purchasing those materials as well.”

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