Monday, May 25, 2015

Seattle Central Public Library: Economic Benefits Assessment, July 2005

The following is reposted from the Reston 2020 blog:

The Seattle Public Library Central Library: Economic Benefits Assessment, July 2005

This comprehensive study of the economic impact of the newly constructed Central Library in Seattle highlights the diverse and substantial economic and other benefits of the new library just a year after it was completed.  As a "central library," it most closely resembles the role that "regional libraries" should play in Fairfax County, including the one to be built in Reston's Town Center North.

Unlike the analyses of the economic impact of public libraries by other cities either hoping to preserve their role in the community or to show the benefits of prospective new libraries, this analysis reports the actual results of one year's operation of a major new public library.  We expect that these impacts have only grown over the last decade.  Please see the full text for "key findings" of the report at this link:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Letter to Trustee Michael Donovan Regarding MOUs Between Library Board and Library Friends

The following letter was sent to Mr. Michael Donovan, the Chairman of the Trustee Committee looking at MOUs between the Trustees and the Friends, on May 9th.   We will post Mr. Donovan's reply when it is received.

Dear Mr. Donovan:

Thank you for your continuing service on the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees (Trustees).  I appreciate the work you and your fellow Trustees do to protect and strengthen our libraries.    

I am writing, however, to express deep concern over the direction of the proposal you appear to be making in your note of April 26th to the various Friends of the Libraries groups (Friends).  As presented, this proposal will significantly restrict the ability of volunteers to assist our hard working professional staff in making the Fairfax Library system an institution in which we can all take pride.  

My first concern is one of procedure.  You state, "After first coordinating this spreadsheet with the Library Staff, it is time to coordinate the spreadsheet with each of the Friends Groups."  This is, of course, backwards.  The relationship in question is between the Trustees and the Friends.  In fulfillment of section 42.1-33 of the Virginia Code, the Fairfax County website states, "In Fairfax County, the Board of Supervisors created the   Library Board of Trustees which is responsible for library functions, policy and direction.  As with the State Board, the local   Board appoints a Director of Libraries to administer the Board's policies and objectives."   You and your fellow Trustees set policy.  As the issue at hand is between the Trustees and Friends, the Trustees need to first discuss any concerns they have with the Friends.   Coordination with Library staff may appropriate, of course, but at the proper time -  after discussions with the Friends.  
Next, in your e-mail you state "the current MOU is inadequate."   You do not, however, say why the current MOU is inadequate.  How exactly is the present MOU deficient?   Has the current MOU caused significant legal or operational problems?   If so, may I ask how have you (the Trustees) have tried to address such problems short of tearing up existing guidelines?  The phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind.   

Third, I understand your note is a preliminary document but it has official status under State law (Sunshine Laws).   Since you include a "from the Friends" section it might be helpful to include mention of some of the things the Friends do.  For example:
--    The Friends contribute thousands of hours of volunteer services; 
--    The Friends contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Libraries; 
--    The Friends contribute administrative and material support, including everything from keeping the grass mowed to providing the chairs staff sit on;
--    The Friends sponsor many programs, such as the Children's Reading Program; and
--    The Friends undertake advocacy in support of the Library.  
Finally, from our discussions with Chairman Bulova and others I am aware the attempt to capture every conceivable action that can be billed to the Friends can be traced back to the Library Administration rather than the Trustees.  (They missed assessing a charge for any water a Friend might consume from a library water fountain - a potential source of revenue, especially during the hot summer months.)   Nevertheless, out of curiosity, how would all of this be assessed?  Who will be doing the accounting?  Who will decide if a Friends group uses a hour and 15 minutes of staff time or just an hour?   As one Friend has asked, "Will we be charged a usage fee on equipment we have donated?"  If a volunteer provides a service on behalf of the staff will they have to charge themselves?  

Mr. Donovan, my years in diplomacy taught me the necessity of speaking clearly and directly so I will respectfully be blunt.  The current framework for a new MOU will place an undue and unwarranted burden on the Friends groups.  It appears the purpose of this exercise, beyond an unfortunate expression of ingratitude, is to weaken the Friends, perhaps to drive a few out of existence.  

I speak only for myself, but have spoken to many others who share my concerns.  I know your interest in a dialogue is sincere.  If you believe it necessary to review the MOUs then tear up the spreadsheets, let us know why you believe the current MOUs are outdated and let's engage in a productive discussion.  As long as we share the mutual goal of strengthening a great institution and allowing citizens to contribute to that institution in productive and meaningful ways, I am certain we will be able to find common ground quickly.  

Many thanks and best regards, Dennis

Ambassador Dennis K. Hays (ret.)
Chairman, Fairfax Library Advocates
Board Member, Friends of the Reston Regional Library
Friend of Independent Cuban Libraries 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Duties and Responsibilities of the Library Board

On May 2, 2015, the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees was joined by Kim Armentrout, a member of the Library of Virginia staff to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the Library Board.   The following notes were taken at the work session by a member of the Fairfax County Public Library Employee Association. 

Library Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Fegan opened the work session of the Board on Saturday May 2.  All Trustees were present except for Michael Cutrone (Hunter Mill District) and Darren Ewing (Dranesville District.) Mr. Fegan extended a special welcome to the two newest members of the Board, Fran Millhouser, representing the Mason District, and Miriam Smolen, representing the Providence District.  He noted that the Library Board has become a focal point in the community at large – and this is not a bad thing.  In his view the Board needs to listen and respond to the concerns of citizens as the Library needs the goodwill of its patrons.  Mr. Fegan reported that he and Library Board Vice Chair Karrie Delaney traveled to Richmond to speak with a member of the staff of the Library of Virginia, Ms. Kim Armentrout, a specialist in assisting local library systems. Arrangements were made for Ms. Armentrout to conduct a training seminar for the Trustees entitled “Ensuring Trustee Success” at their work session planned for May 2.  Ms. Armentrout was joined at the work session by her Library of Virginia colleague Cindy Church who presented the second part of the training, “Hiring a New Library Director.”

Ms. Armentrout gave a detailed explanation of the duties and responsibilities of Boards of Trustees.  A Board’s most important responsibility is to employ a qualified competent library director and maintain an ongoing performance appraisal process.  The Board determines the mission and goals and objectives of the library and adopts written policies governing the library. It secures adequate funds to carry out the library’s program, assists in the preparation of the annual budget and officially approves budget requests.  The Board ensures that the library has a long-range planning process that considers the library’s strengths and weaknesses, a process that can be implemented and evaluated. Ms. Armentrout said that libraries are required under the Virginia Administrative Code, 17VAC15-110-10, to submit five year plans to the State Library Board; a library’s strategic plan also needs to be filed with the Library of Virginia.  Strategic plans typically cover a period of less than five years.  For the five year plan, an annual revision is required. Community input is recommended – otherwise, how relevant is the library to the community?  Mr. Fegan noted that the Library Board is preparing to conduct a public survey as a prelude to developing a long-range plan. 

The Board also has a duty to be familiar with local, state, and federal library laws.  The Virginia Library Association has a Legislative Committee that can be a resource to help.  VLA’s website has a link to CQ Engage which enables the monitoring of key bills and key votes in Congress and enables the user to contact legislators.  VLA’s web site also has a page entitled Legislative Action Center with policy tools at

Trustees have a responsibility to attend all board meetings and see that accurate records are kept on file at the library.  Agendas and minutes should be produced in a timely manner.  Trustees should attend regional, state and national trustee meetings and workshops.  This allows them to talk to their peers and get ideas.  Trustees have a duty to report regularly to the governing officials and the general public.  People want to know what is going on; such reporting allows trustees to talk about their successes.

Ms. Armentrout said that a trustee should consider it his/her job to support the library and the library director, to support the community and citizens he/she represents, to support the local governing body, and to support appropriate library legislation.

Library boards should have a thorough knowledge of the allocating authorities responsible for library funds (meaning, find out where your money is coming from).  They should have an awareness of supplementary sources of revenue - Ms. Armentrout mentioned grants as an example.  Library boards should have a clear understanding of the current financial needs of the library and a strategic plan for helping to obtain funds to carry out the goals and objectives of the library.  They should have an understanding of the legal regulations and accountability required for library funding.  They should have a willingness to support actively requests for increased funding.  Ms. Armentrout said that Friends groups can be supportive of these requests.

Ms. Armentrout reviewed how to advocate:
o   Participate in public relations events
o   Be vocal, visible, and well-informed
o   Use the library and spread the word
o   Listen to the community
o   Talk to individual groups about the library’s progress, plans, and policies
o   Work closely with local officials according to the library’s plan
o   Tell people what trustees do, who they are, when they meet, and how they can be reached
o   Sell the philosophy and merits of high-quality library service
o   Support the Friends of the Library and recruit members

The next section of her presentation covered FOIA, also known as the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  A public meeting under FOIA occurs when 3 members of a public body are gathered and they are discussing library business.  The place where this occurs does not matter.  There are rules in the Act that govern conference calls.  What are public records under FOIA?  Any writing, images or recordings in any format that are prepared or owned by or in the possession of a public body or its agents in the transaction of public business.  Ms. Armentrout said that notes taken during a meeting are public records until the final version of a public document is issued.  At that point, when business is done, meeting notes may be discarded.  She went over retention schedules.  Governing boards must retain minutes.  The Chairman retains his records permanently; when he leaves office, he turns these over to Library Administration.

Ms. Armentrout reviewed e-mail basics as they apply to record keeping.  Trustees are responsible for managing their sent and received e-mail as it relates to library business.  Requests from the public must be honored the same as any other public record request.  E-mail must remain accessible during the entire retention period.  She suggested that each trustee set up a separate e-mail account for library business so that personal e-mail does not get intermingled with library business e-mail.

Ms. Armentrout discussed trustee self-evaluations.  She said that this is a healthy component of being a Board.  It gives trustees an opportunity to discuss, as a Board, how are we doing?  It is beneficial for each trustee to self-evaluate and answer this same question.  Such self-evaluation could be done at a board retreat.

Respectfully submitted
Janice Kuch, FCPLEA Secretary

Friday, May 1, 2015

Inside Scoop Washington with Cesar del Aguila: Part 2

On March 30, 2015 Cesar del Aguila hosted a discussion about the proposed cuts to the Fairfax County library budget.

Guests included:  Kathy Kaplan of Fairfax Library Advocates,  David Broder, President of SEIU, Jennifer McCullough, President of the Fairfax County Public Library Employees Association and Dennis Hays, Chairman of the Fairfax Library Advocates.

This is a link to a video of the show:

Welcome New Library Board Members!

On April 28, the Board of Supervisors confirmed new representatives for the Library Board of Trustees. 

Fran Millhouser, a retired FCPL staff member with nearly 19 years of service, will represent Mason District. 

Miriam Smolen, an attorney with public and private sector experience, will represent Providence District.