We spoke, and the Library Board of Trustees listened. In August, RCA passed a resolution opposing the proposed “Beta Plan” that called for fewer and less qualified staff at Fairfax County libraries. The proposed changes generated an enormous public outcry; so did the library book-culling policies that caused hundreds of thousands of books in good condition to be sent to dumpsters.
On September 11th, the Library Board met at George Mason Library in Annandale to discuss the Beta Plan. The crowd that turned out was so large that it overflowed the meeting room. The Board heard testimony from several passionate speakers, including Reston’s own Kathy Kaplan, urging them to rethink the Beta Plan and come up with a better path forward, one that included input from library patrons, staff, and Friends groups.
After hearing from the public, as well as from the Board of Supervisors, the Library Board voted unanimously to suspend all aspects of the Beta Plan. Board Chairman Willard Jasper appointed an ad hoc committee to solicit input from the public and library employees and to recommend a new approach. He also appointed a separate committee to review the library system’s culling and disposal policies. The committees will report back to the Library Board before the end of the year.
This is an important victory for library supporters! The Library Board heard what the citizens had to say, and they made the right call to go back to the drawing board. But the issue isn’t over. We need to make sure that the ad hoc committees receive the public input they’re supposed to be getting. (The committee hasn’t yet announced how it plans to incorporate public input.) Also, the Beta Plan was a response to the very real budget crunch the library system faces. Fairfax County’s per-capita spending on public libraries has dropped over 30% since 2007. We need to put pressure on the Board of Supervisors to restore library funding, so that the Library Board isn’t forced to contemplate such drastic cuts.
RCA will continue to stay on top of this issue, and we’ll let you know when you need to get involved and stand up for our libraries and our librarians.