Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Clarifying a Few Facts in Library Story

This letter was written in response to an article by Kali Schumitz in the Fairfax Times, March 26, 2015.

Dear Editor,

Kali Schumitz's article, Fairfax Library Cuts May Mean More Overtime for Employees (March 26, 2015), highlights the budget cuts facing local libraries. However, we are concerned that those cuts, which are devastating, are being understated.

County Executive Ed Long’s budget proposal includes a net loss of 45 staff positions across the county, not 93. The libraries represent less than 1% percent of the county budget, yet are being asked to take 31% of the county staff cuts (14 positions). Once these positions are eliminated, funds for overtime will be reduced by one-third. Not only will we not have the staff we need to keep library branches open, we will not be able to use overtime to fill the gap. 

Furthermore, paying overtime is a costly way to staff our local libraries.  One key statistic in the article needs to be corrected. The amount anticipated to be spent on overtime this fiscal year is $300,000, not $30,000, as stated in the article. Retaining our high quality, permanent staff makes much more sense than a Band-Aid approach of using overtime, which is both unsustainable and inefficient. 

We know that our community values our libraries. From literacy programs for children to technology assistance for older adults, from tax help for local families to providing space for community groups, libraries are vital to strong communities. 

Yet, this year’s budget would continue a decade-long trend of relentless cuts to our local library system. Library staffing has plummeted, services have been reduced or eliminated, and the library collection has shrunk as the budget for new and replacement items has been slashed.

Fairfax County ranks at the bottom among local jurisdictions in library funding. This is foolish given the fact that libraries add far more value to a community than they cost.  As one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, Fairfax County should be a leader in ensuring quality libraries instead of slowly starving them with inadequate support.

Kathy Kaplan
Fairfax Library Advocates

David Broder
President, SEIU Virginia 512

Dennis K. Hays  
Chairman, Fairfax Library Advocates

Jennifer McCullough,  President
Fairfax County Public Library Employee Association


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