Five Things to Know about Fairfax County Library Changes

The Library Board has suggested fewer staffers and more cutbacks. Will that go forward?

Dolley Madison Library | Patch file
Dolley Madison Library | Patch file

By Karen Goff

The Fairfax County Public Library Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at George Mason Regional Library to discuss proposed changes to the system, which could include staffing cuts. A pilot program, which was set to go into effect in Burke and Reston Regional, has already been put on hold. Here are some of the main points to know.

1. What's the deal? 

The library board has proposed changes to the system, which, like many county agencies, has seen budgets shrink. A beta test for Burke and Reston was to include fewer staffers, a consolidation of help desks and hiring staff who do not hold Master of Library Science degrees.

That structure has been met with protest by many patrons and staffers.

The pilot program has been delayed once, and Supervisor Chairwoman Sharon Bulova says she will ask for further delay.

Read the basics here and an op-ed from Bulova here.

2. What do the opponents of the plan have to say?

Lots, in fact. Opponents of the plan have been very vocal on Patch sites, providing links to a petition and other information that concerned library users can use.

3. Did I hear something about books being thrown in the garbage?

Fairfax County Supervisor Linda Smyth heard that, too, and decided to take a look. She checked out a Dumpster near the Chantilly technical operations center, the Washington Post reported. She found stacks of discarded books, many in good condition.

After she took the books to the county government center, a directive was sent to all libraries halting the discarding of books.

Library Director Sam Clay instituted an efficiency and cost-saving measure last year in which books did not belong to one branch but rather the whole system. Under the new program, volunteer Friends of the Library groups were no longer allowed to review discards. Instead, all discards were sent to the Chantilly technical operations center, the Post reported.  

Fairfax adds about 20,000 items a month and therefore must remove 20,000 to make room according to the Post. The Friends groups are allowed to review discards again.

4. What do other supervisors have to say?

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins wrote on Patch she is very concerned about the misinformation going around about the issue. Click here for a list of responses from other supervisors.

5. What about other local groups? Where do they stand?

The Reston Citizens Association is very concerned about the changes: "Let’s throw out the Beta Plan, and draw up a new plan that contains input from all the stakeholders, including citizens, library staff and volunteers, and members of the library Friends groups," RCA president Colin Mills wrote on Patch.  "Let’s have a real dialogue about how to address changes in technology and usage of the library. Let’s come up with a plan that works for everybody, that allows the library system to move forward and meet the challenges of the 21st century."

How do you feel about proposed changes to the libraries? In the digital age, are libraries and actual books as important as they were years ago? Tell us in the comments.


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