|The Woodrow Wilson Library in Bailey's Crossroads has been beautifully renovated this year, but according to Fairfax Library Advocates, has 40,000 fewer books than it had in 2004.|
Even worse, reports Terry Maynard in the Reston 20/20 Blog, “the board does not intend to find one promptly.”
Maynard reprints in his blog post a Nov. 6 memo from Library Board Chair Charles Fegan, stating: “We had a thorough process in place to identify the right candidate not only for our library system, but also for our staff, customers, and community. While we identified and interviewed several viable candidates during the process, some elected to withdraw. An offer was made to the selected candidate, but unfortunately, the offer was declined.”
After meeting with Deputy County Executive Dave Molchany and human relations staff, Fegan continued, “it was determined not to immediately proceed with launching a new recruitment search for the library director. However, we would like to reassess the current situation and work on the next step after the New Year.”
“That could well leave Clay in charge of the library,” Maynard says. “Over the last decade, he has led the destruction and demoralization of the county’s library system.”
Maynard lists some “low lights” over the past decade:
- The library’s budget has been cut by more than 22 percent in the past 10 years.
- Library spending as a share of the county budget has been cut by 30 percent and now is less than three-quarters of 1 percent of county spending.
- Library staffing per capita has decreased by more than 23 percent, and open positions are not being filled.
- The county’s book collection has been cut by more than 20 percent, or more than half a million books, despite continuing growth in the county’s population.
- Fairfax County Public Library ranks 15th among the 19 public library systems in the metropolitan D.C. area, according to the Library Journal.
Clay, the Library Board, and the Board of Supervisors “have driven our public libraries into such a budget and management hole that no qualified candidate apparently wants to take on the job of leading it,” Maynard charges. “To prevent further destruction of a vital county asset, Clay must go.”
When Clay was interviewed on Kojo Nnamdi’s radio show last winter, he stated emphatically that the Fairfax County library system was not for education, but rather for recreation, says Kathy Kaplan of Fairfax Library Advocates and co-chair of the Fairfax Federation of Citizen Associations’ Library Committee.
“This attitude has led to county libraries with empty shelves and a decimated nonfiction collection for both adults and children,” Kaplan says. “Every day that passes without a new library director to move us in a better direction, our collection continues to suffer unnecessary losses.”
Kaplan calls it unacceptable for Molchany to delay hiring a new library director until 2016. “This library collection cannot sustain another six months of losses. We need new leadership now.”
“Our libraries can and must be a key foundation stone on which we build an educated and successful society,” says Dennis Hays, chairman of Fairfax Library Advocates and co-chair of the Federation’s Library Committee.
The county’s inability to hire a library director after a year of trying to do so may be because “first-rate candidates want to come to a library system where the role of the library is recognized and supported by elected and appointed officials,” Hays says. “That has not been the case in Fairfax County for many years.”