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Letter to the Editor: Support Funding Public Libraries

To the Editor:

I am writing to urge support for important elements of the proposed FY14 City budget as it pertains to the Alexandria public library system. It contains some heartening news:

  • The proposed general budget includes $57,744 in funding for a contract for night-time cleaning services three days a week at Beatley Central Library and the Barrett, Burke and Duncan branches. Due to previous budgetary stringencies, the previous cleaning contract had been cancelled, the results of which were all too apparent to anyone who

visited these libraries! The proposed budget is a positive and welcome move toward resolving the problem and providing a cleaner environment for library patrons and staff.

  • The proposed Capital Improvement Budget includes $341,000 for carpet replacement and $244,000 for treating wall system water penetration problems. These are important steps in addressing the serious deterioration of Beatley Central's infrastructure, which is a result of

both initial structural shortcomings of the building and insufficient funding in previous years for necessary structural maintenance.

  • The proposed Capital Improvement Budget also includes an additional $150,000 to replace carpet at the Barrett branch, and the water chiller system, so as to improve internal climate controls, at the Burke branch.

These are all very welcome proposals that should be supported by Mayor Euille, Vice-Mayor Silberberg, and the City Council.

However, the news is not all good:

  • The proposed general budget provides for a decrease of $56,000 for the purchase of books (including e-books) CDs, and DVDs. These funds should be restored. The Alexandria public libraries provide important and effective support to a school system, which we all know is facing significant challenges, by providing additional resources for students,

as well as a safe place to go after school hours. As well, my own observation over many years is that the collections at the Alexandria public libraries are markedly inferior to those of other local library systems, such as those of Fairfax and Arlington.

  • To offset some of the budget increases, it is planned to cut opening times by two hours per week at the Barrett, Burke and Duncan branches. This will undoubtedly undermine their ability to provide the support so needed by students, as noted above. The cuts in opening times should not take place.

I urge all Alexandria residents to contact Mayor Euille, Vice-Mayor Silberberg, and City Council to voice their support for full funding for the Alexandria's public libraries.

Charles Ziegler

Vice-President

Friends of the Beatley Central Library