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W.Va. Closes Book on Law Libraries

Volumes of state’s legal tomes to be given away

May 20, 2011
By SHELLEY HANSON Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Because of a lack of use, West Virginia's regional law libraries are being closed - including a facility in Ohio County.

Steven Canterbury, administrative director for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, said work already is under way to close the law library at the City-County Building in Wheeling. Judges in the 1st Judicial Circuit, which includes Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties, had first pick of the books, located on the fourth floor, he noted.

Canterbury said it took the court three to four years to decide whether to close the law libraries. After conducting a study on the Huntington law library, it was determined after a three-month period that not one person used that library. The main law library in Charleston will remain open. Its librarian is Kaye Maerz.

The reason for the low use, he said, is because most law case books can be accessed via the Internet. And most law firms use Internet-based services to read case laws online, in addition to using their personal law libraries.

''They're a victim of technology,'' Canterbury said of the libraries. ''Originally they were established to be a great equalizer for one-lawyer shops. ... They wouldn't be outgunned if they didn't have the materials.''

He estimated the total cost to run the regional libraries at about $110,000 a year. Nancy Chatlak previously served as librarian in Ohio County. She now works for Judge Arthur Recht.

''There may be a couple who are sad about it going away for sentimental reasons,'' Canterbury said. ''It's not an easy thing to do, but it's the right thing to do.''

Canterbury said a local community college is interested in using the Ohio County books for its paralegal program. He hopes the school decides to take all the estimated 10,000 books. There would be no charge to the college. Those not taken will given to the state Agency for Surplus Property, where the books will be sold for a $1 a pallet. Those not sold will likely end up as pulp and recycled into other materials, such as boxes.

''Taxpayers more now than ever before want their money to be used efficiently and effectively,'' Canterbury said.

The state's other regional law libraries are located in Parkersburg, Beckley, Clarksburg and Martinsburg.

The Huntington law library has been closed. Canterbury noted it will be up to county commissions to decide how to use the space left behind. In Ohio County, several department heads often ask commissioners for extra space for recordkeeping, including Circuit Court Clerk Brenda Miller.

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