Commentary: Library Reorganization Deserves More Work

Commentary: Library Reorganization Deserves More Work

— In September, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors called for the suspension of a major reorganization proposed to our Fairfax County Public Library system. The suspension was requested in order to provide more opportunity for outreach to concerned library employees and patrons so that proposed changes could be explained, evaluated and vetted among stakeholders.

As our nation and Fairfax County have struggled with the effects of the Great Recession and its lengthy aftermath, we have needed to make reductions to the many services and programs the county provides. Throughout this time, our board has sought to maintain taxes at a level that is affordable for our community. I applaud our county staff for proposing efficiencies and reorganizations during this time that have helped us maintain high quality services that also save taxpayers money.

Over the past few months, I have received a number of letters, emails and phone calls regarding the proposed library reorganization as well as the “floating collection” and issues around the discarding of books. I believe, based on the feedback I have received, that the reorganization as proposed was too much for the organization to absorb. Many of the ideas contained within the plan, however, have value and should continue to be explored. Our shared goal is to make sure our libraries continue to be the vital and vibrant places that our community can enjoy and rely upon well into the future. The quality of our collection and the services we offer should reflect the standards Fairfax County residents expect.

I would like to thank members of the Library Board of Trustees and library staff for their efforts during the past few months as they have conducted a series of discussion forums on the proposed changes. I understand the meetings have been constructive and have included some spirited debate. I especially want to thank Deputy County Executive Dave Molchany for his personal investment of time and energy to assist library staff with ensuring a thoughtful and insightful process. Our board has asked for a progress report from the Library Board of Trustees to be presented at our board meeting on Nov. 19 and I am looking forward to hearing directly from them.

During these recession years, library systems around the country have had to reduce hours, cut services or even close library branches; Fairfax County is not alone in this struggle. Libraries across the country have also been exploring innovative ways to contain costs while at the same time maintaining or even improving services to meet the needs of their residents. I am confident that Fairfax County will prove to be a leader in achieving this goal.

This issue has served to energize those in our Fairfax County community who appreciate the value our outstanding library system affords us. Thank you for rallying to support our libraries!