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. 

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. 

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

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