Biden To Be in Reston on Saturday — The former Vice President will host a roundtable discussion on workforce development Saturday in Reston along with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam. The event, to be held at Reston Town Center co-working space Refraction (11911 Freedom Drive), will highlight Northam’s jobs plan. [NBC Washington]
Police Help Young Drivers — Officers help teenage drivers learn how to handle themselves on the roadway and what to do in certain situations during the “Youthful Driver Program” every Saturday at the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Vienna, Herndon Among Top 5 Virginia Towns in Survey — A website for business professionals ranked incorporated cities and towns in Virginia based on factors including poverty level, unemployment rate and median household income. It names Vienna the “Most Successful” in the state, with Herndon coming in at No. 5. [Zippia]
County’s Fall Book Festival Kicks Off — The county’s library system is offering residents the opportunity to meet numerous authors today through Saturday as part of the “Fall for the Book” festival. [Fairfax County Public Library]
Community Center To Host Cabaret Singer — Beverly Cosham will perform Thursday afternoon at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road). [Reston Community Center]
Hot Again Today — Once again, Fairfax County emergency officials want to make sure residents are aware of the dangers of excessive heat. Temperatures are expected to again reach the 90s today, with a heat index topping 100. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Safety, Health More Urged for School Year — School starts next week, and Fairfax County officials want to make sure all the information residents need is being shared. Topics emphasized include the need to watch for stopped school buses, where to go for anxiety and stress relief, how to pack a healthy lunch and more. [Fairfax County]
‘Fake News’ Seminar Tonight — George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, along with the Fairfax County library system, is sponsoring a workshop titled “News Blues and How to Defuse.” It will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Centreville Regional Library. [WTOP]
Herndon Firm Working on Tank Protection — Herndon-based Artis is working on Iron Curtain, defense technology that would protect US Army tanks from rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles. [Business Insider]
Reston Residents Among Injured in Charlottesville Attack — Two Reston women were struck by the vehicle that crashed into a crowd of protesters during the weekend’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, a friend of theirs told a DC news crew. [NBC Washington]
No More Eclipse Glasses at Library — “Due to extraordinary demand,” Fairfax County libraries are no longer able to provide glasses for next week’s solar eclipse. [Fairfax County]
Special Eclipse Event at Herndon High — There will be an “eclipse party” Monday at Herndon High School, though, where up to 1,000 pairs of the eclipse glasses will be available. Meals will also be provided at a cost of $2 for adults, free for students. [Herndon High School]
Popular Local Blog Celebrates 10 Years — Restonian has been satirically covering the comings and goings of the community since August 2007. This week, it provides a retrospective on all that’s happened in the past decade. [Restonian]
Last Day To Vote for Business Awards — The ballot for the 2017 Best Reston Business Awards went out to our email subscribers for the final time Monday afternoon, and they have until midnight tonight to fill it out. Winners will be announced Wednesday. [Reston Now]
Specifically, Fairfax Library Advocates say a call that individual library Friends’ groups can only keep a designated amount in reserve while turning the rest over to the library system for general programming is a case of the county trying to overstep its bounds.
“All of the Friends are 501(c)(3) organizations. We’re all in compliance with state and federal laws, we all publish our financial records every year,” said Dennis Hays, a board member of the Friends of the Reston Regional Library and chair of Fairfax Library Advocates. “The county has no ability to dictate how an independent group conducts its internal affairs.”
Hays said the Friends groups have always in the past had agreeable MOUs with the Board of Trustees. The proposed MOU would require all Friends groups, even the smallest, to be subject to the same licensing and auditing requirements.
“If something isn’t broke, why are you trying to fix it?” he said, adding that some Friends groups may not survive such new rules. “There has never been, to my knowledge, any issues or problems with the Friends.”
Hays said the Friends groups have not been informed by the Trustees why this change, which would only allow groups to hold in reserve three times their annual donation, is necessary. In an interview with The Annandale Blog earlier this month, Fairfax County Public Library Director Jessica Hudson said the proposed MOU is a preventive and protective measure that will also allow the system to “find good ways to spend that [surplus] money, not just have it sit there.”
Hays said that in Reston, where the Friends group has close to $1 million saved, money is being held for a rainy day that is just over the horizon.
“Part of the reason we have a big surplus at the moment is, as you know, we’re looking at a renovation of the library,” he said. “That could last, if worse come to worse, three or four years where we will have to operate off our existing funds if we want to continue to support the library.”
Funds collected by the Friends through donations and events such as their book sale go toward supporting designated projects at the library. The proposal from the Library Board of Trustees to dip into those funds, Hays said, is all about control.
“For the county to try to come in and micromanage these things doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I think they’re headed down that path, and I think it’s a destructive path. I’m hoping that they see the light and back off a little bit on all this.”
Hays has presented an alternative MOU, which he says has been “ignored.”
“What we understand is they are working on their version, which will be presumably released at some point and then we will have to deal with it,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to work with the County. This is what we do.”
In her interview with The Annandale Blog, Hudson said the work of the Friends groups is valued.
“We would not do anything to egregiously harm the Friends groups,” she told the blog. “The Friends are wonderful people who work very hard.”
There are 23 library Friends groups across Fairfax County.
LeAnn Rimes Headlining Tysons Concert Series — Nine concerts are planned in June and July at The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center. Highlights include LeAnn Rimes (July 28) and James Arthur (June 22). [Tysons Corner Center]
SLHS Sports Teams Have Big Week — Boys tennis and boys soccer both have playoff matchups tonight, while varsity baseball and outdoor track and field have their regional events later this week. [Fairfax County Public Schools]
New Herndon Official to Start June 1 — Tammy L. Chastain has been hired as the town’s new deputy director of Public Works. [Town of Herndon]
Real Estate Professional Marks 40 Years — Carol Welsh marked the anniversary with Long & Foster’s Reston office last week. She is an active member of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. She is a lifetime member of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors’ Million Dollar Sales Club and Top Producers Club. She is also a member of the Founder’s Club of the Long & Foster Gold Team, and she is an accredited staging professional. [Long & Foster]
County Libraries Sharing Backpacks — The packs include a parking pass for Virginia State Parks, items to help kids explore the outdoors and much more. There are 32 available for loan from the county’s library branches. [Fairfax County]
What do Fairfax County residents want to see at their local library? The answer to that question will be revealed during a public meeting next week.
Consultants hired by the Library Board of Trustees are slated to reveal the findings of a recent public engagement project during a meeting at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway) on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.
The public engagement project, which began last December, collected input regarding “perceptions about the library; the types of services that will meet current and future community needs, interests and concerns; and how the library can better communicate its value to the residents of Fairfax County,” according to officials. County residents provided feedback through telephone and online surveys, community forums, focus groups and interviews.
The meeting will include time for attendees to speak or ask questions about the initiative and its findings.
For those who can’t make it to the meeting, the program will be streamed live and televised on Fairfax County Government Channel 16.
A Fairfax County Public Library spokesman said claims that library employees are being censored are coming from one employee upset that an intraoffice blog now has moderated comments.
“We support freedom of opinion and free speech,” said Mary Mulrenan, marketing director for the FCPL system. “No one here would ever support censorship.”
Earlier this week, the Fairfax Library Advocates distributed an email to supporters that said library administration was censoring contributions and comments to its “FCPL in the News” blog that were critical of library administration. FLA said “this is wrong and fundamentally against our basic beliefs in regard to freedom of thought and opinion.” The group also put up an online petition saying censorship has no place in the library system.
Mulrenan said the censorship accusations are the result of one employee upset that the blog now has moderators.
“This one employee’s posts were impairing other people from commenting,” she told Reston Now. “There were a lot of posts of a political nature. We have guidelines, such as you cannot post anonymously or of a political nature. So now the software is helping us stick to the guidelines.”
Meanwhile, Mulrenan said she appreciates FLA’s efforts in advocating for more money for libraries from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The FLA is planning a rally Wednesday afternoon at the 2016 budget meetings at the Fairfax County Government Center.
The Advertised Fairfax County Budget for 2016 includes $27,612,745 for public libraries. The 2015 budget included an adopted budget amount of $27,828,497, but an additional $2 million was later allocated. Read a detailed explanation of the 2016 library and parks budget on Fairfax County’s website.
Mulrenan said the contracting library budget has affected the system in recent years. The system has had to cut library hours, materials and staffing since 2008, she said. The FCPL has recently eliminated 14 positions by attrition, she added.
“Every agency in the county is facing budget cuts,” she said. “The library continues to take a cut and it hurts. I encourage people to advocate on the library’s behalf.”
(Updated, Tuesday 3:43 p.m. with correction on date of rally).
Advocates for Fairfax County’s public libraries, who will be rallying at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors’ 2016 budget hearing, say the library staff is censoring its employees.
While library budget cuts have been in the news for more than a year, the group, Fairfax Library Advocates, now says library administration is also preventing staffers from speaking freely about changes in the system on an employees-only blogs.
Fairfax Library Advocates said in an email to supporters:
There is no room for censorship in a public library system.
Despite this commonly held belief, library staff themselves are being censored here in Fairfax County. Staff have traditionally been encouraged to share any and all news about our library system with each other on the “FCPL In The News” site. Recently library administration has censored stories and comments that may seem negative toward the current administration. This is wrong and fundamentally against our basic beliefs in regard to freedom of thought and opinion.
Fairfax Library Advocates have joined a coalition dedicated to advocating around budget issues. Invest in Fairfax is a broad coalition of businesses, non-profits, human service providers and advocates dedicated to the proposition that Fairfax County, Virginia is an excellent place to live. Libraries are an essential part of Quality public services in Fairfax County. The members of the Invest In Fairfax Coalition believe that Excellence is at risk in our community.
The FLA is gathering in Rooms 2 and 3 between 4 and 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax. Several members will be speaking to the supervisors in support of quality libraries and services in Fairfax County.
The group also has a petition supporters can sign.
The Advertised Fairfax County Budget for 2016 includes $27,612,745 for public libraries. The 2015 budget included an adopted budget amount of $27,828,497, but an additional $2 million was later allocated. Read a detailed explanation of the 2016 library and parks budget on Fairfax County’s website.
Questions? Contact [email protected]
Now that the new Fairfax County North County Government Center is getting ready to open on Cameron Glen Drive, the county is taking initial steps to start the process for a new Reston Regional Library as part of the makeover of Town Center North.
Tentative plans for a new library in Reston have been in place since 2012, when voters approved a $25 million library bond, with $10 million of it allocated for a new Reston Regional Library.
The remaining money will fund renovations at Pohick Regional, John Marshall Community and Tysons Pimmit Regional libraries.
A new library plan is set to proceed despite a tumultuous last few years for the county library system. Critics have pointed out that the Fairfax system spends less per capita than any other surrounding jurisdiction; has been caught discarding books rather than recirculating them; slashed its budget; and nearly went ahead with a “beta plan” at Reston Regional and Burke libraries that would have cut staff and resources.
In the County Executive’s FY 2016 Advertised Budget, announced on Tuesday, Fairfax County Public Libraries will receive $27,612,745 — about 7.7 percent less than in 2015.
A new plan is still in the works, though. Reston Citizens Association group Reston 2020 recently obtained the timeline for the process. Some of the details:
The new library was included in the Comprehensive Plan Amendment that was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2014.
The county is expected to rebuild the library and the Embry Rucker Community Shelter on its current 6-acre site on Bowman Towne Drive, called “Blocks 7 and 8” in county documents.
The county is expected to issue a Request for Proposals from companies interested in developing the new library. The RFP will go through June 2015.
The county is expected to select a developer in September 2015.
Proposals will be for the library and shelter, as well as “additional county uses,” according to the documents.
The RFP will also determine “highest and best use of the land,” in keeping with the Reston Master Plan and construction costs, among other details.
The project will then go through a rezoning, as well as approval process by the county planning commission and board of supervisors.
Last week, a land deal was announced that will allow the Fairfax County Park Authority build a 90,000-square-foot recreation facility at Reston Town Center North, pending public hearings, a park authority board vote and procurance of millions of dollars for construction.
Part of the deal also includes a 2.6-acre Town Greene to be built on the same block as the new North County Government Center on Fountain Drive.
The Reston comprehensive plan amendment says the Town Center North area is “planned for up to a .90 FAR for non-residential uses, which should include office, public, institutional, medical care, hotel, and retail uses, and a minimum of 1,000 residential units. The public uses may include public safety uses, libraries, shelters, schools, a recreation center, government offices, a performing arts center, and institutions of higher education.”
Fairfax County’s decade-long war to dismantle our public library system has reached new depths: First, the County is planning a partial closure of its Sherwood Regional Library in Alexandria beginning in January.
Second, the Board of Supervisors is pursuing an audit of the “Friends of the Library,” which has occasionally and diplomatically criticized the Board’s oversight of the County public library system.
The move to close the second floor of the Sherwood Regional Library for all but 20 hours per week because of budget cuts is only the latest insult to the people of the County who have seen their County library budget cut by more than 20 percent as overall County spending has increased by 15 percent in the last 10 years.
Now, the second-richest county in the country spends less per capita on its library system than any other area jurisdiction — a third less per household than Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Prince William counties, and much worse compared to others, including only about 39 pecent of what Washington, DC, spends per capita.
And that is only part of the story. During a decade when the library system should have been conserving its assets as budgets shrunk — especially the books and other materials it has already paid for — it has thrown out more than 2.5 million items in its collection.
It is, in fact, throwing out taxpayer property for petty and contradictory reasons. For starters, books get thrown out because of minor damage from use — and thrown out after two years if they are not used and, therefore, undamaged.
With new purchases limited by the budget cuts as well as administration intent, the library system has had a net inventory loss of more than 440,000 items over the last decade, with small increases in the non-book (DVDs, CDs, etc.) and young adult books offset by the loss of more than 400,000 books for adults and more than 100,000 books for children. That’s a 27percent reduction in library collection items per capita in the last decade.
The deterioration in the library materials collection has had the expected result: Fewer people use our County libraries now than they did when it was better funded, better staffed, and had a reasonable variety of materials. County data shows that the collection materials inventory peaked in 2005 at 2.8 million items and the budget peaked in 2007 at $33.8 million. Lagging behind the budget and collection cuts, library usage grew, especially during the Great Recession, but now things have changed.
“Contacts” — the broadest gauge of library use — dropped from a peak of 50.8 per million residents in FY2010 to an estimated 35.7 per million FY2014, a more than 40-percent reduction in overall library use. The number of library cardholders (“registered users”) dropped by 37,000 people in just three years from 495,000 cardholders in FY2011 to an estimated 458,000 in FY2014. Combined with the declining availability of materials to actually use in-house or borrow, circulation has dropped 17 percent, from 13.4 items per capita in FY2009 to estimated 11.5 items per capita in FY2014.
The library is even experiencing huge declines in its online contacts with Fairfax County. In this Internet age, County library website page views have dropped by more than 60 percent from 22.0 million in FY2010 to 8.4 million in FY2014, according to County budget documents. Specifically, the library budget shows page views dropped by 25 percent in FY2011 and 46 percent in FY2012 over the preceding year. It estimates smaller declines in the last two years–and doesn’t dare show the totals (but we can do the arithmetic). So much for the vaunted “digital public library of the future!”
Now the county is taking direct aim at the libraries and those who use and support them. The partial closure of Sherwood Regional calls for closing the second floor of the library except for four hours Sunday-Thursday afternoons because of a staffing shortage. (And, yes, the county has reduced full time library positions 14 percent over the last decade and left many vacant positions unfilled for months.)
The county’s move not only reduces community access to books, it also cuts access to Sherwood’s computer lab often used by the community’s less fortunate, especially their children. It also closes all the library’s public meeting rooms except four hours, five days per week. And it also limits community access to the offices of a non-profit seniors program office, Mount Vernon at Home, on the library’s second floor.
On Dec. 2, Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova directed county staff to conduct an audit of the “Friends of the Library,” who have been mildly critical of the Board’s oversight of the County library system. The Friends are independent organizations linked to a specific library branch. They are private, volunteer 501(c)3 organizations required to file federal tax returns. They are not County government entities.
While it remains unclear what authority Chairman Bulova has to order an audit of these private enterprises, those audits ought to put a crimp in Friends of the Library criticism of the Board and County administration for its dismantling of the library system as well as cut their much-needed donations to the local public libraries.
In the process of ordering the audit, Chairman Bulova essentially rejected a letter and resolution by the County Federation of Citizens Associations (FCFCA) calling for an “independent comprehensive audit” (not another pro forma inside County staff exercise) of (a) the county library’s finances and (b) the library’s collection inventory (books, DVDs, etc.), agreeing only to (c) an in-house audit of the Departmental Gift Fund. These entities, of course, are county government enterprises that Chairman Bulova doesn’t want exposed to criticism through an independent outside audit. Reportedly Chairman Bulova has claimed that the FCFCA asked for the audit of the Friends of the Library, although that is clearly not the case. What Chairman Bulova means is that the FCFCA was really asking for it for putting forward a call for an audit of the library.
The actions of the Board of Supervisors and County and Library administration, including misleading the passive and trusting Library Board of Trustees — which is supposed to protect and advance the County’s library system under state law — are unconscionable. Even now, the Fairfax County Public Library system ranks in the bottom quarter of the region’s public library systems according to the national Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, and it’s getting worse every year.
The Board of Supervisors must begin re-investing in our county’s libraries, restoring its budget, its staff, and its collection to respectable numbers for the country’s second-wealthiest county. Maybe then patrons will return to our public libraries and we can have a county worthy of one that presumes to be generous to the less fortunate, a center of learning and knowledge, and a place to raise families.
Until then, the Board’s war on our public library system is misguided, cynical, sickening, and worthy of retribution in the 2015 Board election.
The Fairfax County Public Library Board of Trustees said on Tuesday the county should reject the proposed plan that would bring big changes to county libraries, including Reston Regional.
The supervisors voted to implement the trustees’ recommendations and asked the trustees to give them a timeline for implementation on Jan. 14
Speaking at Tuesday’s Fairfax County board of Supervisors meeting, trustee chair William Jasper showed the supervisors two reports and a list of recommendations about the libraries’ future. He also said the board was not kept up-to-date on the proposed changes — which included a reduction in the number of librarians — or on the procedures that led to thousands of books being thrown out rather than sold to benefit the library.
The proposed beta plan — in which Reston Regional was slated to be a test branch — was introduced last spring. The plan called for reduced staff, consolidated service desks, and an elimination of the requirement that branch managers have master’s of library science degrees, among other features.
“There is no sentiment on the Committee, the Library Board of Trustees, staff, or the majority of public commenters to move forward with the Beta Plan, including its reclassification of positions,” the trustees said in their report.
“We found that converting to a Customer Service Specialist Class was demoralizing to staff, and that such a conversion would likely cause those with a Master of Library Science degree to apply for positions in other jurisdictions – not Fairfax County. This would potentially create a future in which there were nearly no professional librarians in any branch.”
There has been significant public backlash, and in September , the supervisors told the library trustees to re-examine the plan. They came back with the list of recommendations Tuesday.
The report also called for creative community partnerships as as a way to increase funding for the libraries, which have seen a significant reduction in funding recently.
“From a budget of over $34 million just a few years ago, the Fairfax County Public Library is now down to a budget of about $27 million,” the report stated. “These cuts have led to a more than 50% decrease in funds for library materials, and the impact has been noted by the public.”
Leaders 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, 2013Dear 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.Sincerely,David BroderSEIU Virginia 512Jennifer McCulloughFairfax County Public Library Employee AssociationPaula WoodrumFairfax County Government Employees Union, SEIU Virginia 512