Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fairfax Library Advocates Meet with Delegate Mark Keam

This afternoon Aubrey Hamilton, Avi Dey, Ambassador Dennis Hays, and John Ball met with Delegate Mark Keam.  They discussed Virginia legislation to strengthen the educational role of the library.  Delegate Keam stated he has three libraries in his district (Tysons-Pimmit, Oakton and Patrick Henry), and noted he has been following the library issues through the e-mails the Advocates have been putting out. He is a strong supporter of public libraries and graciously offered to sponsor legislation in Richmond to officially designate libraries as "essential services" in the state of Virginia.  

Delegate Keam also was concerned to hear of the cap on the State's contributions to the Fairfax County Library System such that almost half the residents of Fairfax are not counted for allocation purposes.  He has agreed to look into this.

Delegate Mark Keam, 35th District

Aubrey Hamilton and Avi Dey from the 35th District and Ambassador Dennis Hays
of Fairfax Library Advocates

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Dialogue with Library Board Chair Charles Fegan

As part of an exchange of emails between Chairman Sharon Bulova and Reston 2020's Terry Maynard that was widely distributed last week (including to the local press and the Washington Post) regarding the December 2, 2014, Board Matter and the request by the Board of Supervisors to audit the Friends of the Library, Library Board Chair Charles Fegan responded to comments made by Kathy Kaplan.   The text of their exchange on the thread is reproduced here: 

December 20, 2014

Hello Mr. Fegan,

As always, it was a delight to hear from you.  You know I have become very attached to you the past year and a half.  Of course, we are friends. Look what we have in common--our beloved library.  Before we get to the point where there may be a misunderstanding, I wanted to comment on something you said.  You said you represent Chairman Bulova on the Library Board.  Chairman Bulova may have appointed you, but you represent the citizens of Fairfax County on the Library Board.  Once she appointed you, you became a voting member of the independent authority that governs the library.  You are independent as are all the trustees on the Library Board.  It's not a subtle point.

About the need for the audit.  The Friends' funds generated from the ongoing book sales are never touched by Friends' hands before the money goes to the county.   It goes straight to the county through the automated machines I am told are now installed in all branches.  There is no need to audit us regarding that money.  The request by the Federation for an audit was in regard to what happens to the money once the county takes possession of their part.  Friends don't contribute money to the stream that goes to the System Gift Fund.  It goes directly from purchasers of books to the county.  No Friends' fingerprints on even a penny of it. 

When we spoke at the Library Board meeting you said the board auditor would only be conducting a "small' audit.  Remember I said that a 70 or 80 year old Friend of the library opening that letter with a resulting rise in adrenalin will not notice the word small.  It's no way to treat volunteers. 

With regard to accounts husbanded by the BOS, I had to go look it up.  Husband is such a 19th century word I can't remember the last time I came across it. "To use (resources) economically; conserve."   The BOS doesn't need to husband Friends' accounts.  We're doing just fine taking care of our money.

We are independent nonprofit corporations and all the funds in our accounts belong to us.  After we give the money back to the library or buy books or furniture for the library, then it's county money or assets.  We don't need any husbanding, thank you.  For the benefit of those on this list who are unfamiliar with the MOU signed by our Friends' group, I am attaching it.

I spent the afternoon mending books at Tysons-Pimmit.  Because I have very bad arthritis in my hands, it's the only thing I can do for the Friends.  I mended 78 books in 2 1/2 hours.  Some were library discards that really did not need to be discarded.  Had I been able to repair them before they were discarded to the Friends, they would have had a much longer shelf life with just a minute or two of labor and a penny's worth of archival book glue.  That's the husbanding that needs to be addressed.  Our books need to be conserved.  Our collection needs to be husbanded.  

This attention being focused on the Friends is a distraction away from the real problems of the library:  There are too many vacancies in the branches; books are needlessly discarded, and the library needs a redirection of funds to repair what has been lost in the past decade .  Husbanding is needed, but the subject of that husbanding needs to be the library itself, not the Friends who labor tirelessly to hold things together.   We're pretty good with our money.  How the county's doing with theirs? 

Kathy Kaplan

December 19, 2014

Ms. Kaplan,

After the Library Board meeting the other evening you were kind enough to say to me how you did agree with me on a point.  I did mention that there might be times we did not agree, but you said as friends we could discuss that matter.

After reviewing some of the correspondence between the Chair of the BOS and you, I hate to say this is such a case.  I hope that this is a misunderstanding. As you are aware I represent Chairman Bulova and I have the greatest respect for her.  I know your commitment to the library.

My own believe is the problem is the word audit.  What the BOS is seeking is certain financial information which I hope is readily available. I also believe that it is the responsibility of the BOS to husband the accounts entrusted to it.  While the books may be transferred to the Friends groups they are done so because the county believes you will use this asset and put the funds from the sale of these books to the use of the library.  It is also for this reason that a quasi-partnership exist between the two groups.

The form that is going to request the information is being simplified, the library board did ask for an extension of time for the completion of the information.  Ms. Kaplan, I do hope you see this in the way it is intended.  It is good management. You have been seeking better accountability and this is what the BOS is striving to do.

I applaud your work in seeking the Commonwealth to recognize the importance of the library.  I hope you realize the BOS is also working as a friend of the library.  Friends are what we all need.   
Charles A. Fegan

December 18, 2014
Hello Chairman Bulova,

I want to address one point you make in your letter. 

"The Friends are also 501(c)3 organizations. As part of their responsibilities, these groups assist the libraries with the disposal and sales of surplus library books"

"Because the Friends’ mission involves County assets (books) and funds flowing into Departmental Gift Fund, any comprehensive fiscal audit would require a review of both the Friends organizations as well as the Gift Fund, which is what the Board of Supervisors has directed."

During the LBOT Floating and Discards subcommmittee meeting this summer, Trustee Liz Clements made it very clear that once the library gives books to the Friends, the books become the property of the Friends.  They are no longer considered county property.   They are no longer a "county asset."  I believe the County Attorney also added input to that clarification.  And as the books are no longer county property, there is no justification for an audit. 

With regard to the funds flowing into the Gift Fund, that money is collected by FCPL cash registers and the new automated machines that are now being installed in the libraries.  The audit would need to focus on the entity that has possession of the funds which are co-owned by FCPL and the Friends.  The Friends never have possession of funds for ongoing book sale books, the county has possession until the time that disbursements are made to the Friends.  Once the Friends have the money from those book sales, the money belongs to the Friends, is owned privately, and can no longer be considered public property.  And, as such, those funds are not subject to county audit. 

I recall Liz Clements saying that FCPL does not discard books.  The books are given to the Friends and the Friends either discard, sell or donate books which were formerly county property.  That's my understanding of what she said.  Again, no reason to audit the income generated from the sale of books that are "formerly county property."  Because once they are signed over to the Friends with three staff signatures, the books are the private property of the Friends.

There are a number of issues you raise in your letter.  You say that there is a materials inventory done every year.  Using Freedom of Information Request in August, I asked for the FY2014 Library Materials Inventory Report.   I was told by Library Director Sam Clay's office that it did not exist.   So if you could get FCPL to produce this report, I would appreciate it.  It would help fill in some holes in my documents. 

You say you are not seeking retribution from Friends groups.  At the Fairfax Library Advocates meeting last Saturday, the term "witch hunt" was used by one of the many Friends of the Library who had come from all over the county to talk about the audit you requested in your Board Matter.  Many of the Friends are very angry. This is no way to treat volunteers who have faithfully served the county library system for many years.  And without their labor and time, the Youth Services part of the library would not be funded.  Without their backbreaking work moving books during booksales, there would be no Summer Reading Program. 

I don't think audits of the Friends are appropriate and with no evidence of wrongdoing, they are probably illegal, but since I am not an attorney let's just call that my non-legal opinion.   There are other issues in your email I would like to address, but one at a time works best for me. 


Kathy Kaplan

Chairman Sharon Bulova's December 18, 2014 letter to Terry Maynard:  

Terry Maynard's response December 19, 2014 to Chairman Bulova: 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meeting Summary, December 13, 2014, Fairfax Library Advocates

The Fairfax Library Advocates held their second formal meeting last Saturday at the Reston Regional Library.  Around twenty individuals from all over the county participated,  bringing with them their perspectives from the library staff, employee organizations and service on various Friends of Library groups. 

Recent developments include a meeting between members of the Advocates and Library Director Sam Clay and his deputies and the initial set of meetings with elected and appointed officials.  During the meeting with Director Clay, the Advocates stressed their desire to work collaboratively on areas where we can agree, but noted there were other areas where we had significant differences.  Specially, the Advocates object to the continuing destruction of books and materials through the process of culling books not checked out for two years, a time period not used by any other known library system.  The Director stated he had implemented the two year culling program and he felt this was needed to "weed" the collection.  The Advocates challenged this, stating that many of the destroyed books were of great value and were often used in the libraries without being checked out.  Specially, many art, history, religion, architecture, poetry, etc., books were being lost.  

Further, the increasing number of vacancies among Library staff is causing a deterioration of service and great hardship on the remaining librarians who must work long hours of overtime to keep the system running.  On staffing, one of the deputies stated that no qualified candidates were applying for the jobs.  The Advocates strenuously refuted this, noting there were numerous examples of hiring qualified candidates and a long line of potential applicants were available if they looked for them.    

Recent meetings with elected officials included visits with State Senators Chap Petersen and David Marsden and State Delegate Marcus Simon.  All the officials reaffirmed their commitment to strong local libraries and offered assistance. 

The Advocates expressed appreciation for the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations' motion to urge our officials to endorse the proposals for the State of Virginia to declare libraries "Essential Services" and to lift the cap on resource allocation for State funds for libraries (at present Fairfax only receives support based on a population of 600,000 rather than the actual population of 1.1 million). 

The Advocates discussed the misinformation recently disseminated to the effect that the Federation had asked for an audit of the Friends expenditures and income.  This is not the case.  The Federation had instead asked for an audit of the "Gift Fund" that the Library Administration runs.  This is money received from daily sales by the various Friends and amounts to perhaps $100,000 a year.  This fund has never been audited. 

The Advocates were encouraged to make available new information and analysis available on the Advocates website so the public would know which programs and library services are supported by Friends of the Library groups.   FfxLibraryAdvocates.blogspot.com 

Attention must be paid to two upcoming initiatives - one on a system wide review of library use and desired services and the second on establishing the criteria for the search for a new director. 

The County Administration's proposed budget for next year is expected to be released on February 17th.  It will then go to the Board of Supervisors.  This underscores the need to reach out to and inform the Supervisors about the current state of the library.  The Advocates are expected to seek the formal opinions of various elected officials prior to the County and Statewide elections in 2015. 

The next meeting of the Advocates will be in approximately two months.

Individuals interested in learning more and helping should subscribe the Fairfax Library Advocates blog.   FfxLibraryAdvocates.blogspot.com 

Ambassador Dennis Hays, (ret.)
Acting Chair, Fairfax Library Advocates

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An article from Terry Maynard, Reston Citizens Association

Terry Maynard of Reston Citizens Association had an op-ed piece published in RestonNow about the Fairfax County Public Library on December 11, 2014.  He has reprinted it on the Reston 2020 blog with additional graphs to illustrate his points. 

This is the link to the Reston 2020 blog version:


Since the article was published, the closure of the second floor of Sherwood Regional Library has been put on indefinite hold.  Part of the reason for the closure was the lack of staff.  We haven't heard how that will be resolved.  Supervisor Hyland of Mt. Vernon District was adamant that the meeting rooms and computer labs had to remain open.  When they heard about the closure, members of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation wrote that closure of the meeting rooms and the computer lab was "not conducive to economic development."

We applaud their efforts and the efforts of the Mt. Vernon Council of Citizens' Association and the Sherwood Friends of the Library for their prompt action that got this ill-conceived change to the library reversed. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fairfax Library Advocates Meet with Senator Dave Marsden

Meeting this morning at the Swiss Bakery in Annandale with Senator Dave Marsden and his Legislative Assistant Brent McKenzie, Fairfax Library Advocates John Ball, Marcia McDevitt, Kathy Kaplan, and Dennis Hays discussed the impact additional staff cuts will have on the Fairfax County Public Library and the need to preserve our libraries for our evolving 21st century community.  We also discussed state legislation to designate libraries as essential services and to remove the population cap when calculating state aid to FCPL.

Senator Dave Marsden, 37th District, and John Ball, President, Tysons-Pimmit Friends of the Library

 Ambassador Dennis Hays, Legislative Assistant Brent McKenzie, and Marcia McDevitt

Brent McKenzie and Marcia McDevitt

 Ambassador Dennis Hays

Senator Dave Marsden and John Ball

Reminder: Library Advocates Meeting Tomorrow

Fairfax Library Advocates will be meeting December 13, 2014, at Reston Regional Library 10 am to 12:30 pm in Meeting Room #1.

The joint meeting of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the School Board was held and it appears the county budget shortfall is much greater than anticipated -- $100M for FY16 and $79M for FY17. County Executive Ed Long's Advertized Budget will be made public February 17, and there are things that we need to be doing now.

We look forward to seeing you December 13.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fairfax Library Advocates Meet with Delegate Marcus Simon

A change in the language of the Code of Virginia that pertains to libraries would make a big difference to the future of Fairfax County Public Library.  This morning we discussed designating libraries as essential services with Delegate Marcus Simon.   Marcia McDevitt, Kathy Kaplan, Dennis Hays, and John Ball met with Delegate Simon, and we also covered removing the population cap on calculating state aid to our library.

We touched on how libraries can improve the successful launching of small businesses: 

American Libraries Magazine article on how libraries contribute to small businesses:  http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/how-public-libraries-are-boon-small-business

Delegate Marcus Simon, 53rd District

 John Ball, President of Tysons-Pimmit Friends of the Library, and Ambassador Dennis Hays, Acting Chair of the Fairfax Library Advocates, meeting with Delegate Marcus Simon.

Ambassador Dennis Hays, Friends of Reston Regional Library

John Ball, President, Friends of Tysons-Pimmit Library

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

County to Audit Friends of the Library

Please see the Reston 2020 post.


Meeting Rooms and Computer Lab to Close at Regional Library

This message was received yesterday from the President of the Friends of Sherwood Regional Library.
(Please see UPDATE at bottom of post)

To:   Friends Groups at Fairfax County libraries
From:  Friends of Sherwood Regional Library
Re: Sherwood Regional Library, second floor changes

We have just been informed of a proposed action at the Sherwood Regional Library that will adversely affect the community.    

Starting in January the library will be closing its second floor, except for limited hours on Sunday through Thursday (1 to 5 PM). The second floor conference rooms will be permanently closed.  This adversely affects the general community but especially the neighborhood populations who use the computer lab and other resources on the second floor.  It also adversely affects the income that the Friends of Sherwood Library get from their ongoing book sale, the profits from which directly support the library.  

In addition, it limits seniors from visiting the offices of Mt Vernon at Home, the increasingly important non-profit that provides ways and means to seniors to remain in their homes as they age.

Library management has framed this action as the result of a new security issue related to staffing cuts, but we are prepared to work with them to find ways to preserve access.

Furthermore, this proposed action has been initiated without the opportunity for public input.

We understand that there are resource limitations that the library must consider but believe there are ways and means to ensure that these critical services/functions are maintained for the community.

As you know, the library serves a diverse community including low income and minority customers, as well as numerous non profit groups, civic groups, churches, and educational institutions who regularly use the library conference rooms (all of which are on the second floor) for their meetings.  

These groups include among others,  MVAAC, local neighborhood associations, home school and preschool groups, athletic associations, study groups, ESL learning activities, and Girl and Boy Scout groups.

We would be glad to provide additional information but are bringing this to your attention now in hopes that you can help resolve this unfortunate situation before it becomes a reality.  Public input is vital. Please inform your community leaders and keep alert for similar unilateral actions at your libraries. 


President of the Friends of Sherwood Library

NOTE:  A comment was posted to the FairfaxNet by Mary Mulrenan, the FCPL Public Information Officer, at 3:12 pm. on 12/9/14 in response to the letter from the President of the Friends of Sherwood Library.  Mulrenan writes:  "These changes have been put hold hold pending further review and input."