County Employees: ‘Community Support for Strengthening Our Libraries, Not Cutting’

Reston Regional LibraryLeaders representing Fairfax County employee groups have written to the county library board pointing out the overwhelming community support for abandoning a proposed “beta plan” that would cut library jobs, services and programs.

Earlier this year, the Fairfax County Library Board announced a strategic plan that would help the system deal with declining budgets and need for new technology. Among the suggestions: cut staff positions, eliminate need for a Masters of Library Science for head librarians, and shift the duties of children’s library specialists. Reston Regional Library was slated to be a beta test location.

But after much public criticism — and the revelation that the library had been discarding thousands of books rather than recirculating them to branches — the board said in September that the plan was on hold until more information could be gathered.

The library board said it hopes to have a revised plan to present to the Board of Supervisors by Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins will host a community meeting featuring members of the Library Board of Trustees tonight at 7 p.m. at Hunters Woods Elementary, 2401 Colts Neck Dr.

The letter from the employees groups says “there is deep and overwhelming support for strengthening our libraries, not for cutting services or jobs” and that “each library should reflect the needs of the community it serves.”

The entire text of the letter, first posted on the Reston 2020 blog, appears below.

October 29, 2013
Dear members of the Evaluation and Communication Committee:
On behalf of the dedicated employees of Fairfax County — librarians, engineers, deputy sheriffs, mental health professionals and more — we are writing to share our perspective on the recent round of public forums to discuss the future of our libraries. As you know, these forums were intended to elicit public and employee comment on library reforms, after the library board voted unanimously to suspend the “beta plan.” These forums mark an important first step in the effort to engage the community in strengthening our libraries for generations to come.
As you prepare your draft report for the full library board, we hope that report will include the following key findings from the public forums:
(1) The “Library Customer Service Specialist (LCSS)” job class must be abolished. The LCSS position disregards the rigorous education and experience that professional and paraprofessional librarians bring to their job, and it disregards the essential and critical role of circulation staff in maintaining excellence in our libraries. This makes it harder for Fairfax County to recruit and retain the best and the brightest.
(2) There is deep and overwhelming community support for strengthening our libraries; NOT for cutting library services or jobs. As you have heard from nearly every speaker at every one of the public meetings, there is overwhelming support from local residents, families and small business owners for maintaining and strengthening our excellent library system.
(3) Youth services departments, with librarians and assistants, are needed at every branch to provide educational support and resources to the community. Concerned residents at every public meeting have spoken out about the need to retain MLS-degreed youth services librarians in every branch to provide reader’s advisory and homework research help to children. Local families will suffer if youth services librarians are cut. County residents expect and deserve strong youth services departments that focus on all the needs of the youngest library patrons, and which support our local education system.
(4) We need much more public engagement on a broad scale. Despite the overwhelming support for libraries at the public hearings, we believe that the process so far has failed to engage sufficient numbers of the general public. The forums were organized quickly, and we applaud the committee for their effort. However, there was insufficient advance notice or communication, with most residents unaware that any changes are being proposed to their beloved libraries. We believe that deeper and broader engagement will result in better outcomes.
(5) Each library should reflect the needs of the community it serves. The proposed “beta plan” contained both negative and positive reforms. However, we reject the “one size fits all” approach. We believe that each library should reflect the needs of the community it serves. As such, some elements of the beta plan may be well implemented in certain libraries (such as an adequately staffed single-service desk at a small library, and increasing promotional opportunities for all staff), but not others.
We thank each of you for your time, effort and commitment to our wonderful public libraries.
We know that you feel as we do: that our libraries and librarians foster an unparalleled love of learning and sense of community, which helps move our local economy forward. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that Fairfax County maintains its wonderful library system for generations to come.
David Broder
SEIU Virginia 512
Jennifer McCullough
Fairfax County Public Library Employee Association
Paula Woodrum
Fairfax County Government Employees Union, SEIU Virginia 512

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