Friday, April 8, 2016

FCPLEA President's Statement to Board of Supervisors at Public Hearing on Budget

Fairfax County Public Library Employee Association President
Statement to Board of Supervisors
April 7 1  2016

The drama of this year's  budget season, for better or for worse, seems to be how to support the quality of education for children in this county  and our broader quality of life here with limited resources and growing local demands. And yet, I  don't want any of us to the overlook the  real benefits, not only to the K-12 residents  of this county and their  parents, but to all  residents  of services  provided  by our library

What are the missions of a public library?  To serve, even anticipate, the  needs of residents of all ages, all backgrounds, all means, all interests for:

     information  and learning,
     literacy development,
     technical and professional  skill building,
     the gifts of imagination, self-discovery  and empathy found  in works of fiction,
     opportunities to engage  with neighbors,
     a clean, well-lighted space  where  each  person can explore,  be attended to, be a part of the community.

Staff at our library branches  are among the first adults  with whom children interact autonomously, asking for books on dinosaurs,  superheroes, fairies, detectives, game worlds, a favorite  character, a book recommended by a friend or teacher..

We help those  new to current technologies set  up an e-mail account, apply for a job, learn to borrow ebooks, check out an electronic magazine  issue, compare consumer products and services, find small business tools, research  investments.

We help you check out an audiobook or DVD, purchase  a used book, make photocopies or printouts. We ask you
about your day, hear your concerns, see you.  In short,  libraries and library staff are ever-present in the community.  Present  to the 458,000 who have active library cards, and to those  without a card who regularly sit on our couches and in our study carrels or gather  in our meeting  rooms.

We are present to the  person who asks for another great  mystery suggestion, another  book on home improvement or cooking or travel, assistance finding government information, resources for managing their  health challenges,  parenting  challenges or work challenges.

According to the 2016 Pew Study for Information  and Technology on Libraries presented at the
American Library Association Midwinter Conference this past January:

l!     85% of those  surveyed  said libraries should definitely offer free literacy programs to help children prepare for school.
o      FCPL provided over 2,100 preschool   programs  in the  last fiscal year.

     85% said that  libraries should definitely coordinate more closely with local schools to provide resources for students.
o      FCPL has initiated  increased  coordination with FCPS to build better information exchanges on homework  assignments, leisure reading options,  school tours  and adaptive learning opportunities.

     78% said that  libraries should definitely offer programs to teach  people, including kids and seniors,  how to use digital tools including computers, smartphones and apps.
o       FCPL offers group classes, volunteer tutors, and real-time staff support, as well as relevant  referrals to community  resources to maximize awareness and access to technology's benefits.

     73% of respondents described  themselves as lifelong learners. They believe it is critical to make an effort to learn new things to improve their job skills, knowledge of current issues, community awareness, hobby or other  personal  skills.  They read, attend meetings  or conferences, or take classes (including online courses) for personal  enrichment.
o      FCPL hosted  programs that  attracted over 219,000 attendees and  provided  meeting
space  to community groups  with over 263,000 attendees in the  past year.

Libraries both deliver and  refer customers to content and  programs that  address these learners' interests in diverse and creative  ways- whether it is a Duplo storytime, a Zen coloring program, a device "petting zoo", a local writers'  exchange, or live-streaming  of the latest TED conference.

And yet, our 380 staff, 2.5 million borrowable items, and 22 branches represent less than 0.7% of this county's nearly $4 billion budget.  We are, frankly, a phenomenal bargain, but continuing cuts cannot help but threaten our viability, our impact, and our potential.

Soon, we will have a new Director, who must help us dream,  experiment, and deliver the future of library services that  this county deserves.  In order  to do that,  we must have a budget that  enables that aspiration, staff who trust  their  best ideas to be respected, supported, and acted  on, and communities that  are actively engaged in the process, who expect and receive the  best we have to offer.

To those  ends,  I  ask you to remember that  the county objectives  of funding literacy, learning, economic success, quality of life and community growth  can only be achieved  by continuing  to invest in a public library that serves all of them.

Thank you.

Deb Smith-Cohen

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