Thursday, September 15, 2016
Statement by Dennis Hays to Library Board, September 14, 2016
The following notes formed the basis of Dennis Hays' comments to the Library Board of Trustees held on September 14th. Mr. Hays is the Chairman of the Fairfax Library Advocates.
Thank you for this opportunity to address you. Like everyone else in this room, I have been trying to digest all the material presented in the Community Engagement Report (the report) released a week ago this evening. In general, I find the report's analysis to be excellent, but several of its recommendations are unwarranted and counterproductive. As I am permitted only a very limited amount of time to speak (3 minutes), I will focus on three specific recommendations.
(1) Strategic Plan: The report notes in section 7.2.3 that "The Library Board needs to focus on strategy and policy, not operations." I fully agree. Further, the Virginia Code and the Charter of the Trustees as granted by the Board of Supervisors also charge the Trustees with responsibility for "library function, policy and direction." This is good and standard management practice - the Board develops and sets the strategic vision and policies, the staff carries out these policies. And yet, the report recommends (section 5.3.3) that a new strategic plan be developed by the Library Director. This is not only inappropriate and inefficient, it is not even possible given the Trustees charter. The Board cannot delegate its responsibility to set the strategic vision. The Board must develop the new Strategic Plan.
(2) Former librarians serving as Trustees: The report strongly condemns the service of former librarians on the Board of Trustees, saying this is a conflict of interest (section 7.2.3). This is absurd. The former librarians bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Board that would be unattainable from any other source. They are no longer active employees and thus have no conflict of interest. We are very fortunate they are willing to continue to serve our community. I also note the School Board has former teachers, the Park Authority former park employees and every other board in the nation draws on the very individuals who best know their areas of interest.
(3) Advocates for a strong healthy library system: The report also condemns "advocates" as "tarnishing" the behavior of Friends groups (section 7.3.2). This despite the fact that the report repeatedly calls for the involvement of all "stakeholders" in all aspects of the library. The report defines Friends activities as "supporting, assisting and promoting library activities." In other words, advocating.
I am struck by how often the recommendations are at odds with the analysis - when there is any specific analysis to begin with. For example, there is no, repeat no, discussion or analysis supporting any of the three recommendations noted above anywhere in the report. It is as if someone added these sections after the rest of the report had been written.
I encourage the Trustees to treat this report as a starting point for further discussion and analysis but to also remember that some specific recommendations have no basis in the analysis, good management practice or even common sense. They should be rejected immediately so that more serious issues can be considered.
Fairfax Library Advocates