by RCA Board Member - Dennis Hays
On September 14th the Friends of Fairfax Libraries held a Forum to discuss ways to better advocate for the preservation and strengthening of the County's twenty-three libraries.
Various speakers urged advocates for the libraries (1) to learn the facts about the state of our libraries, (2) to seek allies willing to support common sense actions, and (3) to have specific proposals rather than just complaints. Multiple individuals noted the libraries serve a great variety of individuals and groups, not all of them immediately obvious. These groups should be sought out and enlisted in the effort to save our libraries.
The event drew over 60 participants, including a significant number of representatives from local government, employee organizations and social activism groups. County Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence District), who has taken a personal interest in library issues, explained the County's budget process and how best the public can make its voice heard. Also present were members of the Library Board of Trustees and representatives from the offices of Chairwoman Bulova and Supervisors Foust and Hudgins. Groups present included the League of Women Voters, the Federation of Citizens Associations, the Fairfax County Government Employees Union, the FC Public Library Employees Association, the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, the Virginia New Majority, the Alliance for Human Services, the American Federation of Teachers and SEIU Local 512.
Other speakers focused on the cutbacks the libraries have endured and felt that they were under a continued “assault,” including the recently shelved "Beta Plan" proposal that could have diminished the entire library system and done away with children's and young adult programs. Participants also expressed great concern about large scale destruction of books in good condition and questioned the failure to fill over 60 vacancies even though the Fairfax Library system had been provided the budget to hire qualified librarians and fully staff libraries to improve the quality of the services and support provided. The Fairfax Library system was recently ranked 15th out of 19 districts in our region. This is unacceptable in one of the most prosperous counties in the Nation.
RCA supports efforts by the public to reverse the diminution of one of the most important pillars of our society. Individuals are encouraged to contact their elected and appointed county representatives and urge that:
1. Books not be wantonly destroyed or sold for pennies on the dollar.
2. The Fairfax Library system be scoped and staffed according to best practices and national benchmarks for library systems across the nation and use the available financial and other resources fully and effectively to enhance the library system to support a growing and prosperous county.