Sunday, March 1, 2015

From Reston 2020: The Comparative Mediocrity of the Fairfax County Public Library System

The Fairfax Library Advocates note the diligent work of Reston 2020 in researching and analyzing the current state of library services in Fairfax County.  We greatly appreciate their work and reproduce here their latest publication.

The Comparative Mediocrity of the Fairfax County Public Library System

For more than two years now, Reston 2020 and the Fairfax County Library Advocates have been pointing out the deterioration of the Fairfax Pubic Library system including declining budgets, staff, and materials.   We try here, using national data published by the American Library Association’s Public Library Data System, to show the people of the County how the County Library Administration, the Library Board of Trustees, and the Board of Supervisors have been driving the library system further downward into mediocrity and worse. 

Using the PLDS data, we have compared the FCPL system with all public library systems nationwide wide that are within a half-million people in population of Fairfax County’s 1.1 million population in FY 2012 (the latest year for which PLDS information is available).  We have also compared it to all the eight other area public library systems, many of which are in jurisdictions that have significantly smaller populations.  With the exception of Loudoun County, none of these area jurisdictions are as wealthy as Fairfax County.
The picture is not pretty and we all know that the budget cuts since FY 2012 will have made the comparison only worse.  As a general statement, we can say that, by most measures, the FCPL system (yellow highlighted line) is in the middle of the pack at best and usually below average compared with comparably populated jurisdictions.   In fact, it is noteworthy that Fairfax County spends 32% per capita LESS than bankrupt Detroit does on its library system.  Moreover, it is less committed to providing the resources and services expected of a public library system than ANY public library system in our area (see the green highlighted lines).  In fact, to make it easier for readers, we have included the key “average per capita” values for the entirety of the data set in the bottom row of the table.
So where does FCPL “excel?”  The short answer:  Hardly any place. 

To see the rest of the post from Reston 2020, click here:

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