With great pleasure, honor, and admiration, I nominate Kathy W. Kaplan for RCA’s 2013 Reston Citizen of the Year for her exceptional work in stopping a Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) Strategic Plan to undermine its libraries in the name of organizational efficiency. As one of two “guinea pigs” for this strategic plan, Reston Regional Library was ground zero for this degradation. The key features of the ill- considered County library strategic plan included:
- Reducing the County library budget by a third over the last six years;
- Culling books throughout the system, a quarter-million of which had already been destroyed;
- Drastically reducing the library staff, including plans to reduce the Reston staff by one-third;
- De-professionalizing library staff requirements by replacing certified librarians with “customer service specialists” who may or may not be knowledgeable of library science; and
- Eliminating Youth Services—librarians and collections—throughout the library system.
Without Kathy’s leadership, unswerving dedication, and perseverance, the County’s libraries would likely still be on a downward spiral with the Reston Regional Library as a “guinea pig” in that effort. Kathy’s extraordinary efforts were singularly consistent with Reston’s goal of providing a high quality of life for people of all backgrounds and was, in fact, an inspiration for an August 2013 RCA Board of Directors resolution calling on the Board of Supervisors to abandon its wrong-headed FCPL Plan.
Among her activities beginning this summer and fall:
- She identified and began to work with County librarians and other library friends deeply concerned about implementation of the County strategic plan;
- She wrote letters and e-mails to County officials, community organizations, and media (including an interview with the Washington Post) noting the planned decimation of the libraries;
- She encouraged residents to sign an online petition calling for the County Library Trustees to stop and re-evaluate the Strategic Plan before implementing the “beta plan” for Reston, a petition that ultimately garnered more than 2,000 signatures;
- She acquired and shared photographs of the books thrown in a central library operations dumpster that led Supervisor Patty Smyth to personally visit the site, bring back several current books in good condition, which she showed to senior library and County officials whom she told to stop destroying books
- She conducted extensive research on the County library’s plan and activities, including a review of eight years of County Library Trustee minutes
- She acquired through FOIA requests at considerable personal expense important FCPL documents detailing the destruction of more than a 400,000 books in recent years
- At the request of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations (FCFCA), she drafted an FCFCA report on the FCPL Strategic Plan that detailed the Strategic Plan and its impacts; and
- She met with senior County staff and elected officials several times to learn more about the strategic plan and to share the results of her research.
As a result of her efforts and the efforts of those she worked with, the Library Board of Trustees recommended and the County Board of Supervisors approved on November 18, 2013, a resolution “to eliminate the process that led to the trashing of hundreds of thousands of books and also throw out a controversial plan to reduce the number of librarians and children’s services in county branches.” The Trustees are to come to the Board with their further recommendations early next year.