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Federation Special Committee on Fairfax County Library Reorganization

Reorganization of the County Libraries

Contact the Committee Chair

Report on the Changes Coming to Our Libraries

Kathy Kaplan, Chairman of the Federation’s ad hoc committee on the plans for the County libraries

Kathy submitted the following interim report on her investigations (9/30/13):

  • "I think changes [need] to be made to the way libraries operate—to accommodate ways people get their information, do research and use libraries as community centers," said Sharon Bulova, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman, as quoted in the Reston Connection, Sept 28, 2013.
  • By direction of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Library Board of Trustees, the Fairfax County library system is moving away from providing traditional library services (note 1). Since 2005 books have been systematically purged to make room for open space, for meeting spaces, for community gathering spaces, to convert libraries into community centers (note 2). Most of the books purged between 2005 and 2007 were nonfiction titles (note 3). General Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal account of World War II, Crusade in Europe, is no longer in the library collection. The library insists that community libraries are not archives, but many patrons would agree that certain books are too important to be thrown away and forgotten.
  • The 2012 Library Strategic Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors provides for the transition from print books to digital books. To implement the Strategic Plan, in May 2013, Library Director Sam Clay presented his Beta Plan which was created to save $275,000 in FY 2014 (note 4). That is a very small sliver of the county's entire budget. The average salary of Library Administrators is $150,000, so removing two administrative positions would fulfill the savings requirement ordered by the County Executive (note 5). The Beta Plan calls for two libraries, Reston Regional and Burke Center, to transition to a new modality. Staff will be cut from 20.5 to 13.5 at Reston Regional and from 9 to 7.5 at Burke Center. In addition, information and circulation desks will be combined in a single service desk (note 6).
  • Youth Services will be eliminated. Children's librarians will be eliminated. Information librarians will be eliminated (note 7). A new employment classification, Customer Service Specialists, was added. Beginning library staff will only be required to have two years of junior college and two years of retail experience. Upper level positions will only need a Bachelor’s degree. Master's degrees in Library Science and Information Science will no longer be required even for the position of Library Director. Within six months the other branches will begin to transition to the Beta Plan. Removing degree requirements for library positions is only the first step. Reducing skill requirements for other jobs in county agencies that provide human services will be the next step in county reorganization. Library Director Sam Clay has said that the other county agencies are being directed to follow the library's lead (note 8).
  • At the current time, fiction books are pulled from the shelves after 12 months of not being checked out. Non-fiction books are removed after 18 months. The branch librarian can decide whether to discard the book or transfer it to a different branch. Under the Beta Plan, branch librarians will not be allowed to review culled books (note 9). Once they are pulled by young library pages, they will be discarded (note 10). To prepare for renovation to add space for community meeting rooms and space for more computers, 12,902 juvenile and young adult books were removed from Pohick Library (note 11). The books are not likely to be replaced; there won't be room for them (note 12).
  • When it was discovered that discarded books were not being made available to Friends of Library groups for resale, but destroyed, there was an uproar in the community (note 13). On September 10, 2013, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors asked the Library Board of Trustees to hold public outreach meetings to allow the community time to understand and evaluate the plans to change the library.
  • The taxpayers of Fairfax County need to attend these outreach meetings. There are questions we need to consider. What is the library for? Should we have pool tables in the library? Should we have bowling in the libraries? Should we be able to attend classes on hog butchering at the library? What about yoga classes? (note 14) The cost of providing digital books has not been fully evaluated. At the present time only two publishers lease digital books to libraries. Publishers charge $85 and the book can only be borrowed 25 times. Then the lease expires (note 15). A print book that costs $10 can be borrowed up to 50 times before it wears out. Therefore, we may find that it costs ten times more to provide digital books than print books (note 16). What will be the cost of transitioning to digital in the long term? The library's current collection of 2.2 million books cannot be replaced with digital books. Most books are not available in digital format. These books should not be discarded.
  • Currently the budget for the library is 0.7% of the county budget. The public school budget is 53% of the county budget. Yet the public schools asked the Library Board of Trustees to pay for e-readers for children whose parents cannot afford e-readers (note 17). As the books are emptied out of the library campuses, those campuses will be re-purposed for other activities in conjunction with other county agencies such as the Park Authority (note 18).
  • If the taxpayers of Fairfax County want to continue to enjoy libraries as they are, they need to speak out now during the public outreach meetings hosted by the Library Board or Trustees. Meeting times and locations are listed on the Fairfax Federation website and the Fairfax County Library website.
  • The County’s strategic plan may be found at: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/news/strategicplan.pdf. Section 4 describes the future library.
      Footnotes:
    1. See 2005 Strategic Plan, See 2012 Library Strategic Plan, and See Library Board of Trustees meeting minutes 6-13-07, pg 3. “Library as a community center….that is what Library Board is trying to do….”
    2. 2007 culling article http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/01/AR2007010100729.html and Clay letter to editor, Post, began new weeding process in 2005: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/09/AR2007010901454.html
    3. Nonfiction books being culled: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/26/AR2007012601571.html
      Quote Lois Kirkpatrick, Library Marketing and Public Relations Manager: "Kirkpatrick thought the story 'sounded like we were trashing' classic literature. Classics are a minuscule proportion of the books on our computer reports. The largest percentage is nonfiction," she said.
    4. See Library and Park Area Summary FY 2014 under Budget Trends for $275,000 figure
    5. $150,000 average salary of library administrators estimate made by Fred Costello on inspection of Fairfax County library budget documents
    6. See Beta Plan documents
    7. See Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees Meeting minutes for June and July 2013
    8. See Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees Meeting minutes for 12 June 2013
    9. Conversation with multiple librarians including Jennifer McCullough, FCPLEA rep
    10. Conversation with Jennifer McCullough, FCPLEA rep
    11. FY2010 to FY2014 FCPL Materials Inventory
    12. Description of renovation plans in press release from Fairfax County in local newspaper, more meeting rooms, less space for reading materials
    13. See Tom Jackman’s Washington Post article
    14. Wall Street Journal article as recommended reading to Branch Managers in meeting minutes: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324677204578187901423347828.html
    15. Comments from Jennifer McCullough, FCPLEA rep. Various news articles
    16. “Ten times” estimate was calculated by Fred Costello
    17. See Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees Meeting minutes for 11 January 2012, pg 2
    18. See Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees Meeting minutes for 10 June 2009, pg 1

See also the following items:

The Fairfax County Public Library provided this guidance on Collection Development & Management to a Library Board Committee on 24 September

Scheduled Public Library Outreach Forums

  • Sunday Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. at the SEIUVA office - 3545 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 106, Fairfax
  • Monday, September 30, 7 p.m. at Fairfax Regional Library (10360 North St., Fairfax): Library Board of Trustees Evaluation and Communication Subcommittee Meeting.
  • Thursday, October 3, 7 p.m. at Centreville Library (14200 St. Germain Dr. Centreville): Public Meeting About the Library.
  • First Monday with Supervisor Hudgins: FOCUS ON LIBRARIES, October 7, 2013, 1 to 3 p.m. at the Patrick Henry Library, Vienna. This First Monday session will focus on public libraries. In light of the library's "beta plan", Supervisor Hudgins would like to hear from you on how you utilize and value library services. You are invited to come and share your thoughts and experiences with Supervisor Hudgins.
  • Monday, October 7, 7 p.m. at Fairfax Regional Library, (Fairfax City Hall 10455 Armstrong St. Room 111, Fairfax, VA.): The Future of Our Public Libraries.
  • Monday, October 7, 7 p.m. at Chantilly Regional Library (4000 Stringfellow Rd, Chantilly): The Future of Our Public Libraries.
  • Tuesday, October 8, 7 p.m. at Lake Braddock Secondary School, Lecture Hall B135 (9200 Burke Lake Rd., Burke, VA, enter through door #1): The Future of Our Public Libraries.
  • Thursday, October 10, 7 p.m. at Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Rd., Falls Church): Community Dialogue on Libraries.
  • Wednesday, October 16, 7 p.m, at Lorton Regional Library (9520 Richmond Highway Lorton, VA): The Future of Our Public Libraries
  • Saturday, October 19, 1:30 p.m, at Kings Park Community Library (9000 Burke Lake Road, Burke, VA): The Future of Our Public Libraries
  • Monday, October 21, 7 p.m, at Great Falls Regional Library (9830 Georgetown Pike,Great Falls, VA): The Future of Our Public Libraries
  • DATE TO BE DETERMINED: Hunter Mill District: Community Dialogue on Libraries. We will have the details on this local meeting in the October Hunter Mill Highlights newsletter and on their Facebook page.
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