On County Libraries: We Should Know Better

On County Libraries: We Should Know Better

To the Editor:

I am the assistant branch manager at Patrick Henry Library in Vienna. I also worked at Reston Regional Library for four

years. I got my MLS 25 years ago while working part-time in engineering firm libraries in Boston. My first job after getting the degree was in an Army Corps of Engineers Library and I spent several years working for an association information center downtown before it became clear that the commute didn’t work with having a child in elementary school, and I joined FCPL.

Not surprisingly, I read a lot and widely. I read book reviews, professional journals and blogs. I keep up on technology, management trends, and instructional techniques. I can help you find another good book based on what you like. I can walk you through the eBook process or help you use our public computers if you have questions. If you are a student, I’ll point you to fun books or homework resources at the right grade level, including facts for your science fair poster on saliva. I do programs in the branch and in the community on consumer, small business & investment databases. I develop instructional handouts for use throughout the county. I coach and train my colleagues to do the same. I am a librarian, and my CV is not unusual in Fairfax County—for the time being.

Professional training and expertise matter. When I use a county service, I rely on the person helping me to have the necessary credentials: I want county health services to use degreed nurses. I want county legal services to feature attorneys with appropriate specializations. I want financial services managed by CPAs. I want the teachers in our schools to have more than minimal qualifications to teach my children, and I want the agency directors, trustees, and

supervisors in this county to have my back when it comes to defending those expectations.

Staff dissent on the library’s reorganization is widespread, but it is not at root self-serving or change-phobic, however others try to characterize it. (Since the job class downgrades would only affect new hires, they don’t impact current staff directly.) Rather, it is principled, informed and passionate advocacy for a profession and community that we love and serve with pride.

The continued library de-funding and proposed staff reorganization are wrong on many levels, but one of the biggest ironies is that it makes an argument against the value of knowledge and literacy in a county where so many residents earn a living based on higher education & professional credentials. We owe it to our patrons and ourselves to do better than this.

Deborah Smith-Cohen

Oak Hill