On Friday, Jan. 20, community members gathered at the Alderson Public Library, concerned for its future.
Rumors were circulating through town that Alderson Mayor Travis Copenhaver intended to take over the library building and use the space to house the police department, and the library was full of guests for the library’s board of directors meeting.
Copenhaver was in attendance as well, flanked by city hall workers. Also in attendance were Karen Goff, executive secretary of the West Virginia Library Commission, and Ann Farr, director of the Greenbrier County Public Library.
The meeting proceeded as normal, and board members went through the standard motions of approving the previous meeting’s minutes and entering into a discussion of whether or not to authorize the use of a purchasing card (P-Card) issued by the city for library purchases and bill payments.
Board members seemed to agonize over whether to approve the use of the P-Card, which, would give the city more direct oversight over its budget.
“I just want to do what’s best for the library,” said board treasurer Beverly Walker. “I want to be fully informed.”
“I think you are concerned with (the) rumors,” interjected board member Judy Lohmeyer, opening the floor to the discussion of the mayor’s intentions for the library’s future.
At this point, Copenhaver joined the discussion.
“I think it’s time to address the elephant in the room,” he said, calling the rumors that he was going to close the library “blatant lies.”
“I’m not here to take over your operations,” he said.
Copenhaver stated that the reason he and his staff were present at the meeting was to assist the library board in cooperating with sunshine laws. The library board had been in violation of open meetings laws, he said, and the reason he was there was to educate them as to how to legally run a meeting according to “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the standard procedure manual for government meetings.
Copenhaver distributed packets containing the West Virginia Library Commission’s meeting guidelines to the board members, urging them to read the guidelines carefully and decide, as a board, whether to follow the commission rules or to utilize another set of rules as meeting guidelines.
“I’m not saying anyone’s wrong,” Copenhaver said. “We’re just fixing it, moving forward.”
Farr interjected, stating, “I think the mayor should be congratulated for supporting the library.” Her remark was met with a round of applause from the board and library director Rose Kirby.
Farr continued, stating she wanted to put to bed another rumor that has been circulating around town. “There is a rumor going around that the library commission is going to close the (Alderson) library. They can’t.”
Copenhaver agreed: “It takes an act of (city) council to open it, and it takes an act of council to shut it down. We’re not here to do that.”