Saturday, October 15, 2016

FCPLEA President's Statement to Library Board of Trustees, October 12, 2016

Like you, staff have been trying to understand the Community Engagement Findings and Recommendations.  I decided to look most closely at the surprises, because they are where I learn. 
Here are some of the surprises for me:

·        Lack of need and lack of time were the strongest arguments for non-use:  However much we want to succeed at our traditional role, we must respond to that reality.  We need to fill needs not satisfied by other sources and deliver services in a time-saving way.   Reinstatement of virtual reference services and options for out-of-branch holds pickup and return are needed.

·        While it is often a truism that everyone wants more of everything, when our respondents had specific requests it was for both more self-service options and more personal interactions. “High tech and high touch” is clearly not dead.

·        It is comforting -- when an adverse policy or budget constraints or training deficits threaten our performance -- to blame others around us, either above or below in the org chart.  But, leadership skills must be robust and diffused throughout the organization.  We all need to be more skilled and empowered at the point of service.  We need to own the outcomes we create.

·        We do not speak with one voice.  We haven’t found that voice and so we contradict and undermine our message.  It is critical to find that one voice and commit to a unified message.  We can’t do that without hearing the needs, fears, and hopes that we and our patrons share -- and then creating a strategic service model.

·        IF our near-term reality is a budget much the same as the current one, how do we shift its application to respond most effectively to the changes this community engagement report requires?  All of us need to look for dramatic (not trivial) efficiencies in non-customer facing processes to optimize customer-facing impact.  We cannot evade that challenge.

Just yesterday, FCPLEA Delegates from each branch and department had the chance for a long, wide-ranging conversation with Jessica Hudson at Kings Park Library. 

·        We learned more about the various systems, branches, and service experiences Jessica has had.

·        We shared concerns and hopes for maximizing our technology and collection impacts.

·        We exchanged dreams for more children’s space and programming, options for customizing service exceptions, and warnings about impending cold and snow (which Jessica cannot yet imagine). 

At Staff Day I attended a session facilitated by a moderator from the Harwood Institute.  He walked us through one brief exercise for building community understanding of local needs.  Deep conversations that help us discover our common concerns and aspirations is freeing and inspiring.  More of that experience is what we hope for from our Strategic Planning process.

Deb Smith-Cohen
President, Fairfax County Public Library Employees Association


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Library Board Finance Committee to Discuss FY2018 Library Budget October 7, 2016, 10 a.m. at Fairfax Library

Antonio Olivo has written an article about Fairfax County Public Library.  It appeared in the print edition of the Washington Post newspaper yesterday.  Included is this quote from the new library director:

Though Hudson did not rule out program cuts in the future, she said she intends to be strategic about where they are made.

“I prefer as much as possible to try and spread out budgetary cuts so we’re having impact but it’s not so painful for any one particular group,” Hudson said. “Every budget dollar that we have goes toward some value for someone.”

The Finance Committee of the Library Board will meet October 7 at 10 a.m. at the Fairfax Library to discuss the FY2018 library budget.  We should get an idea at that time of what cuts the new library director and the Department of Management and Budget have in mind.  The meeting is open to the public, but there will be no public comments allowed.

Here is a link to the entire article by Olivo:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

FCPLEA President's Statement to Library Board of Trustees, September 14, 2016

Even after as many years as most of us have been out of school, September still feels like a time to jump into new things, to buckle down on things we’ve put off during a hot and busy summer, and to be even more ambitious about learning. This year is no exception.

At last week’s Staff Day, speakers from ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries and the Harwood Institute inspired us with ideas on how to imagine, collaborate, experiment, and deliver the evolving services our communities want. Several sessions allowed us to play with new technologies and raised another set of possibilities. Some of us valued the opportunity to check out benefits options and get personal health insights. All of us were elated to spend time with former colleagues and make new friends.

We must extend this learning spirit so all of us can stretch our abilities together and dare things we’ve never tried in an environment of shared discovery and trust.

An impressive number of residents, staff, and Friends attended the Community Engagement Initiative presentation last Wednesday and staff are still taking in the formal report to sift out its gold. Finding ways to understand those insights, identify the opportunities, and assign actionable priorities will be our collective focus for the next several months.

We also look forward to learning how FCPL will translate this effort into a responsive and creative strategic plan that represents the best we can deliver to all of our library users, potential users, and stakeholders.

Finally, we must – and we will -- find the courage to address the disconnects exposed by this study together.

We need candid, transparent, and wide-ranging exchanges that engage staff at all levels in understanding and contributing to our future success. The path to a unified system and shared vision will require us to confront some thorny truths, require a commitment to mutual respect, and necessitate new ways of communicating. Staff look forward to opportunities to be part of a process that will move us toward clarity and build a culture that embraces innovation, excellence, and solidarity.

We thank you for the time and effort you will put into advising and approving the plans developed, and hope you too are itching to put your “pencil to paper” as we start a new season and write the bright future of FCPL.

Deb Smith-Cohen
Fairfax County Public Library Employee Association President
Statement to Library Board of Trustees
September 14, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Statement by Dennis Hays to Library Board, September 14, 2016

The following notes formed the basis of Dennis Hays' comments to the Library Board of Trustees held on September 14th.  Mr. Hays is the Chairman of the Fairfax Library Advocates.

Thank you for this opportunity to address you.  Like everyone else in this room, I have been trying to digest all the material presented in the Community Engagement Report (the report) released a week ago this evening.  In general, I find the report's analysis to be excellent, but several of its recommendations are unwarranted and counterproductive.   As I am permitted only a very limited amount of time to speak (3 minutes), I will focus on three specific recommendations.  

(1) Strategic Plan:  The report notes in section 7.2.3 that "The Library Board needs to focus on strategy and policy, not operations."  I fully agree.  Further, the Virginia Code and the Charter of the Trustees as granted by the Board of Supervisors also charge the Trustees with responsibility for "library function, policy and direction."  This is good and standard management practice - the Board develops and sets the strategic vision and policies, the staff carries out these policies.  And yet, the report recommends (section 5.3.3) that a new strategic plan be developed by the Library Director.  This is not only inappropriate and inefficient, it is not even possible given the Trustees charter.  The Board cannot delegate its responsibility to set the strategic vision.  The Board must develop the new Strategic Plan.  

(2) Former librarians serving as Trustees:  The report strongly condemns the service of former librarians on the Board of Trustees, saying this is a conflict of interest (section 7.2.3).  This is absurd.  The former librarians bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Board that would be unattainable from any other source.  They are no longer active employees and thus have no conflict of interest.  We are very fortunate they are willing to continue to serve our community.  I also note the School Board has former teachers, the Park Authority former park employees and every other board in the nation draws on the very individuals who best know their areas of interest.  

(3) Advocates for a strong healthy library system: The report also condemns "advocates" as "tarnishing" the behavior of Friends groups (section 7.3.2).  This despite the fact that the report repeatedly calls for the involvement of all "stakeholders" in all aspects of the library.  The report defines Friends activities as "supporting, assisting and promoting library activities."  In other words, advocating.    

I am struck by how often the recommendations are at odds with the analysis - when there is any specific analysis to begin with.  For example, there is no, repeat no, discussion or analysis supporting any of the three recommendations noted above anywhere in the report.  It is as if someone added these sections after the rest of the report had been written.  

I encourage the Trustees to treat this report as a starting point for further discussion and analysis but to also remember that some specific recommendations have no basis in the analysis, good management practice or even common sense.  They should be rejected immediately so that more serious issues can be considered.  

Dennis Hays
Fairfax Library Advocates

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Library Outreach Results Will Be Presented at Meeting September 7, 2012

What do Fairfax County residents want to see at their local library? The answer to that question will be revealed during a public meeting next week.

Consultants hired by the Library Board of Trustees are slated to reveal the findings of a recent public engagement project during a meeting at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway) on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.

See complete article here:


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Petition to Save API Building in Reston From Demolition

At 48,000 sq ft, the API building is big enough to house Reston Regional Library which will be bulldozed to make way for residential high-rise buildings in Reston Town Center.

The county has said they want 39,000 sq ft on the ground floor of one of the residential towers for the new library; however, parking will be limited.   The middle of Reston Town Center is not an ideal location for a regional library.  Additionally, the community will have no library during construction and that could be 2 to 4 years.

There is $10 million available in library bond funds to pay for the new regional library. 

Here is the petition which has more information on Marcel Breuer and the API building.  Please sign the petition by June 13 so signatures can be sent to the Fairfax County Planning Commissioners.

American Press Institute Building a New Home for Reston Regional Library?

Fairfax County's Architectural Review Board has asked that the county reconsider bulldozing the American Press Institute (API) building on Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston.  They believe the building, designed by Hungarian-born architect Marcel Breuer, has historic architectural significance and should not be taken down and replaced with townhouses.  API is the only building in Virginia designed by Breuer. 

This building at 48,000 sq feet is large enough to house a regional library.  It's in an excellent location.  The $10 million library bond approved by voters is enough to purchase and renovate the building.  Current development plans for the library parcel in Town Center North and for the API site on Sunrise Valley Drive need to be paused to consider an adaptive reuse of the API building as a public library.

Please write the Planning Commissioners and the Board of Supervisors as soon as possible to ask that this option be considered.

More information in RestonNow article here: