Two Southwest Virginia libraries in danger of closing

SMYTH COUNTY, VA (WJHL) – In the last 24 hours, hundreds of people have signed a petition to keep a library in Southwest Virginia open.

Because of proposed budget cuts in Smyth County, two of the regions libraries are in danger of closing.

“Not only important but necessary,” Words Matt Prater used to describe a library’s presence in a small town.

Prater grew up using the Saltville library, now he’s fighting to make sure others get the same chance.

“Summer camps, educational opportunities, going to extra literacy programs, going to after school programs that’s not always an option when your parents jobs aren’t salary jobs, working second or third shift,” Prater said. “You have to have something where you’re at.”

He said for many local kids, “If they don’t have this resource cannot replace it with something else.”

But now that resource is on the chopping block.

Smyth County funds 89 percent of the Smyth-Bland Regional Library system with libraries in Chilhowie, Marion, Saltville, and Bland County.

“Recently we were contacted by the county administrator’s office, and told that the library would be potentially cut, 97,000 dollars, and the library board met to consider what that could mean now nothing was done officially,” Pat Hatfield, library director for the system said.

To fund Chilhowie and Saltville libraries this year it will cost almost 104,000 dollars.

So with a 97,000 dollar proposed cut from the county to the system, those branches may have to close.

“You can’t say to the power company we’re not going to pay the power bill because you know what happens then, so you have limited places you can look to take the money and we have cut and cut and cut programs but we’ll be looking again,” Hatfield said.

In the meantime people in Southwest Virginia like Prater are fighting so this won’t be the library’s last chapter.

“When we say ‘save Saltville library,’ we’re not just saying that what, we’re saying is we and I’m pointing the finger at myself here have to stop being complacent about how we think about resources in small towns,” Prater said.

There is a public hearing scheduled for June 9th in Smyth County.

After that the Board of Supervisors will vote on the budget for the year, and decide if they will re-instate that 97,000 dollars to the library system.

Copyright 2015 WJHL. All Rights Reserved. 

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