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Monday, June 2, 2014

Public input crucial in design of survey on future of libraries

Participants at the June 3 meeting will have a chance to see whether there are still a lot of empty shelves at the Oakton Library.
Everyone who cares about the future of Fairfax County libraries in encouraged to attend a public meeting June 3, 7 p.m., at the Oakton Library (10304 Lynnhaven Place, Oakton).

The meeting has been convened by the Fairfax County Library Board’s Ad Hoc Communication and Evaluation Committee to discuss plans for a survey to determine the future of the libraries. The June 3 meeting will be the only public meeting held by the committee.

For several months last summer, library advocates ignited public opposition to the director of the Fairfax County Public Libraries’ Beta plan, which called for a major restructuring of the library system and a de-professionalization of library staff.

Hundreds of people came to a Library Board of Trustees meeting last September to oppose the plan. The board voted to suspend the Beta plan and created the Communication and Evaluation Committee to seek public input on the future of the library system and develop an alternative to the Beta plan.

There is concern, however, that the committee might not be taking its mission seriously enough. For example, the presentation at the June 3 meeting will be given by library staff, opportunity for public comment will be limited, and library administrators, rather than an independent research firm, will carry out the survey. Some advocates believe the FCPL administration’s ultimate goal is a much smaller library system with a lot fewer books.

Library advocates, with strong public support, were successful last year in getting the county to pull back on the Beta plan, so a large turnout at the June 3 meeting could again show the power of public support for the libraries.

1 comment:

  1. Ellie, as usual, you comments were right on target. Despite public protest at the June 3 meeting, the Beta Plan Gang are in charge of the survey. It will be conducted online and there will be no hard copies available for review. From a memo handed out at the meeting, "Results will be distributed in a CONTROLLED manner." There is a widespread suspicion that the future plan for the library has already been written and the survey is just a supporting fluff piece.

    The most interesting fact I learned at this meeting is that overdue fines do not go back to support the library. They go to the school system. Do you have the resources to determine an accurate total for fines. Estimates range between a half million and one million dollars per year. Redirected back to the libraries, this could go a long way to solving their problems.