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Monday, November 18, 2013

Library board to present critical reports to Board of Supervisors

One of the major complaints from the public: The libraries are getting rid of too many books, resulting in empty shelves.
Everyone who supports the Fairfax County Public Libraries—and opposes proposed changes to gut the system—is urged to come to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday morning, Nov. 19, when the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees will present two critical reports.

“We believe it is essential that library supporters be a visible presence at that presentation,” said Charles Keener, an employee of the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library and an ardent opponent of the FCPL administration’s plans to restructure the library system.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hear the library board’s report at 10 a.m. in the Board Auditorium at the Fairfax County Government Center. Library advocates are encouraged library advocates to wear purple. Buttons and stickers with the slogan “I Support Quality Libraries” will be available.

Library Board Chair Will Jasper will present two reports to the BoS: One report, by the Library Board’s  Evaluation and Communications Committee, focuses on gathering public and staff input on the proposed “Beta plan” and the desired future direction of Fairfax County libraries.  

The other report is by the committee that focused on FCPL’s policy for weeding, discarding, and floating books. There have been lots of complaints following the scandal over hundreds of thousands of library books discovered in a dumpster.

The two committees were created in response to a BoS directive to put the proposed changes on hold and conduct a series of public outreach meetings. At a meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School last month, lots of people expressed outrage over the FCPL policy of throwing out good-quality books, budget cuts, attempts to downgrade staff, and much more.

The last of a series of public outreach meetings on the library system will be held tonight at George Mason Regional Library in Annandale, at 7 p.m.

“Both committees endied up making very constructive recommendations based on the input they received,” Keener said. “The Evaluation and Communication Committee came out very strongly against the Beta plan and the proposed ‘customer services’ series which would downgrade and devalue library staff.”

Keener is concerned, however, that in spite of those positive developments, BoS Chair Sharon Bulova is still trying to push the destructive Beta plan. In a commentary she wrote in the Connection newspapers, Bulova says that the Beta plan contains many ideas “of value” that she says “should continue to be explored.” Among other things, the Beta plan called library staff to become more like customer service clerks rather than professionals who can help library uses with research and eliminated the requirement for a master’s degree in library science.

“When will Bulova recognize that it was a bad plan which was soundly rejected by staff and public alike?” Keener says. “What is worth pursuing about lowering educational requirements for library staff and eliminating the expectation that there be any actual librarians in our libraries or in eliminating staff specializing in service to children?”

“Our libraries suffer from years of budget cuts and staff reductions,” he says. “The library budget has been gutted by 25 percent over the last few years and the materials budget has been slashed by two-thirds. No misguided search for further ‘efficiencies’ will rectify that situation.”

During the public comment period at the most recent meeting of the Library Board, Nov. 13 at George Mason Regional Library, Steve Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, spoke against the Beta plan and in support of increased funding for libraries.

Marcia McDevitt of the Reston Citizens Association spoke about the “lost books” that will never be replaced. She also said “Fairfax County has the power to transform to keep our image as an economic powerhouse. It is an economic imperative that we usher in a new era where libraries are viewed as central to our county’s education infrastructure.”

At the meeting, the Library Board approved a motion to seek a $1 million funding increase. 


  1. Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova sent a letter to library advocates Nov. 18 to clarify her comments in the Connection.

    “We seem to have a major misinterpretation here and I want to take this opportunity to respond,” Bulova wrote. “My article was submitted as an ‘Open Letter to the Library Board of Trustees’ and was meant to say ‘thank you’ and to acknowledge the excellent work of the Library Board, library staff, and patrons for what I understand has been an outstanding community engagement process to address the proposed reorganization of our Fairfax County library system.”

    “My understanding is that the outreach process has been extremely constructive and has validated concerns expressed by the community and professional staff,” she continued. “I understand that the objectionable issues associated with the reorganization have been taken off the table. I am prepared to accept the recommendations of the Board of Trustees tomorrow, to include requesting that an increase in funding be incorporated into the library budget for the next fiscal year.”

    “I’m not sure how what was meant to be a positive, supportive letter was interpreted to indicate that I am somehow repudiating the good work of the groups. The opposite is the case,” she wrote. “Please remember that I was one of the patrons of the Board Matter approved by our board in September that called for the suspension of the reorganization and the establishment of a community/stakeholder outreach effort to review and come back to the Board of Supervisors with recommendations on the proposal.”

  2. I have to say that when my kids were younger I took them to the library here in Annandale and was sorely disappointed with the racks and racks of empty shelves and deficit of resource books. I had more books on certain scientific topics than they did. Granted, I have my own library room at home and now a huge online Amazon library at my disposal, but I was seriously disappointed. Took my sons to four different area libraries - Annandale, then Alexandria, then two in Arlington before they could even find books and magazines on their topics. Was about to head over to the Library of Congress with them. So much for requiring non-Internet references.