Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Thursday, August 29, 2013

UPDATED: Supervisor Linda Smyth stops destruction of County library books

UPDATE:  Official word has been sent to county libraries not to destroy more books per the following e-mail:

From: Prasher, Janet H.
Sent: Friday, August 30, 2013 2:47 PM
To: LIB-Mgmt Teams
Cc: Clay III, Edwin S.; Molchany, Dave; Gates, Karen
Subject: Disposal of Library Materials

Effective immediately, please do not put any discarded FCPL materials in the 
dumpster at your branch.  No books or any other materials purchased with county 
funds should be put into the dumpster regardless of condition.  This includes 
any discarded library books given to the Friends for their ongoing sales that 
have not sold and books that are damaged. We will be sending instructions on 
what to do with these items as soon as possible. In the interim, please hold 
them at your branch.  If you have questions, please let me know. Thank you.

Jan
Janet H. Prasher
Support Services Associate Director
Fairfax County Public Library
703-324-8337  Government Center
703-222-3133  Technical Operations

Reliable sources tell us that Linda Q. Smyth, Providence Mill District Supervisor, was upset when she heard reports that the Fairfax County Public Library was destroying books.  She decided to check it out.

First, she went to the Chantilly library "technical operations" center and checked out the dumpster.  She found many books in very good or excellent condition, including a paperback Newberry Honor book in the dumpster.  She took a camera and took photos.  She was very upset.

She  returned to the dumpster and filled her car with large art books and reference books.  They were all in good condition.  She went to the government center and showed County Executive Ed Long and David J. Molchany, the Deputy County Executive who oversees the libraries and archives, what was going to be destroyed.  Sam Clay, director of the County library system, was called in to the office and ordered to stop destroying good books.

Hopefully, that ends this inexcusable County activity.

And, on behalf of all library and book lovers everywhere, especially those of us in Reston, thank you very much Supervisor Smyth.  It's nice to know that at least one of our county's supervisors cares about our public libraries.   

The Fairfax County Public Library budget story and its impact on library use in charts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Fairfax County taxes and density will go up while services decline

An article in Bloomberg News from last October notes that Fairfax County has seen its pension portfolio perform better than any other large pension fund in the United States--a 19.3% AAGR since 2009!--but it has still added $1.5 billion in pension reserve shortfalls since 2005.  That is a $1.7 billion dollar shortfall on the County's principal retirement fund valued at $3.6 billion (i.e.--a 32% shortfall) and more than a half-billion dollar shortfall in its school system pension fund.  And those shortfalls are for the BEST performing big pension fund in the country!

To start meeting the shortfall, last year the Board of Supervisors "agreed to boost the funding ratio to 91 percent over the next 15 years from about 70 percent now. To close the gap, Fairfax County is counting on investment results rather than bigger contributions." 

Well, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. . . ."

I'd count on higher taxes, more density (especially in the "urbanizing" areas of the county--whether you want it or not), and fewer services.  Tysons density increases and tax hikes--and maybe the same in Reston soon--and County library and park funding and service cuts are indicative of the trend. 

The article is a fascinating and infrequent glimpse into the state of the County's financial affairs.  I strongly recommend you read it.   Check it out!

RCA Stands Up Against Library Cuts, Colin Mills, Reston Patch, August 28, 2013

The proposed "Beta Plan" means fewer staffers and fewer books in County Libraries. RCA thinks that's a bad idea. Find out how you can help.

I love libraries.  Anyone who knows me can attest that I’m a big-time bookworm, and I have been since I was a kid.  The library was my candy store: all those books, representing the wealth of human knowledge, all mine to read for free. 
I remember going to Carter Glass Library at Lake Anne as a kid.  (Looking back, it’s amazing how tiny it was!)  Ever since Reston Regional opened, I’ve been a faithful customer.  My library card is a little dusty and cracked, but I always keep it close by.
As a fan of libraries, I’ve been alarmed by news about the “Beta Plan” proposed by the County library system.  And I’m proud that at our Board meeting on Monday, RCA passed a resolution opposing the Beta Plan and supporting the future of our libraries.
If you’ve been following local news lately, you’ve probably heard about this plan.  In case you haven’t, here’s a summary: The Beta Plan will demonstrate proposed changes to the operations of Fairfax County’s library system.  These changes will implement the Library Strategic Plan, passed last year, which is supposed to help the library system evolve to meet the needs of the future.  The Beta Plan changes will be implemented at two libraries (one of which is Reston Regional), and after several months will be rolled out across the system.
What sort of changes?  That’s where it gets ugly.  The Beta Plan would reduce the number of staff positions at Reston Regional by almost 35%.  (Library officials claim that they can achieve the staffing reductions without employees losing their jobs, which is hard to believe.)  The plan would eliminate specialized positions dedicated to children’s literature.  And it would change the job descriptions for librarians and even branch managers so that a Master of Library Sciences degree was no longer required.  Essentially, the plan sets up a future where our library needs will be served by a much smaller, less qualified staff.  This is progress?
At least we’ll still have the books, right?  Well, there’s bad news on that front, too.  The number of items in the library system’s collection declined by 250,000 since 2005. That’s a reduction in collection size of more than 10%.  What’s happening to the books?  Reports are that they are being destroyed, rather than sold or given away.  The idea of destroying that many books make me mad.
Fewer librarians, fewer books… seems like the library will feel pretty empty, doesn’t it?  But fear not: there may be fewer books, but there will be more computers, WiFi access points, study carrels, and meeting rooms.  As someone who plans meetings and community forums, I can attest that more meeting space is welcome.  But there are quite a few potential meeting venues in Reston, just as there are plenty of WiFi hotspots.  There’s only one place to go in Reston to borrow books, and this plan makes it that much harder.  Between this and the Barnes & Noble closing, it’s been a bad year for book lovers in Reston.
If these changes would make our libraries worse, why are library officials backing them?  Sadly, these changes may well have little to do with evolving for the future, and a lot to do with dramatic declines in library funding.  RCA’s Terry Maynard shared the grim facts about library funding last week in Patch.  Here are the lowlights: On a per-capita basis, County funding of libraries has declined by over 30% since 2007.  Sure, you might think, but we’ve been in a recession since then, and a lot of the areas of the County budget have been cut during those years.  Then consider this: the share of the County budget devoted to libraries has dropped by one-third since ’07.
Those are tremendously steep cuts, and it’s no surprise that the library system has had to take drastic measures in response.  A few years ago, they tried scaling back operating hours at library branches, which infuriated users.  Now, after years of additional cuts, they’re planning to serve the public with fewer books, fewer staffers, and less qualified librarians.
RCA believes that libraries are an essential County function, and they should be treated that way.  We believe the Beta Plan changes will move the libraries backward, not forward.  Changes in technology are real; people are moving toward e-books and online media, and the library system will need to evolve and adapt to those changes.  But gutted funding and slashed services don’t qualify as evolution.
So let’s throw out the Beta Plan, and draw up a new plan that contains input from all the stakeholders, including citizens, library staff and volunteers, and members of the library Friends groups.  Let’s have a real dialogue about how to address changes in technology and usage of the library. Let’s come up with a plan that works for everybody, that allows the library system to move forward and meet the challenges of the 21st century.  And while we’re at it, let’s restore the library’s share of the County budget, so that we’re making changes to meet the demands of library users, rather than the demand of ever-shrinking funding.
If you agree that libraries are a key function of the County and that the Beta Plan is a mistake, you can help.  There’s an online petition calling for the plan to be paused and re-evaluated.  And the Library Board of Trustees is meeting on September 11th at George Mason Regional Library in Annandale to discuss the Beta Plan.  If they see a room packed with library users who don’t support the plan, they’ll reconsider the direction they’re taking.
And while you’re at it, drop a line to Supervisor Hudgins about library funding.  She’s stated that she thinks library budget cuts have “already gone too far” and that she is “not in favor of additional limits to library services.”  Let’s make sure that her actions back up her words.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some books to return.  Before it’s too late.

Fairfax County Grapples With Huge Silver Line Costs, Martin DiCaro, WAMU 88.5, August 28, 2013

Fairfax County transportation officials say they are confident the necessary funds will be secured to pay for three facilities—two parking garages and a rail station—that are part of Phase II of the Silver Line Metrorail project to Dulles International Airport, sparing county taxpayers an additional burden as the $6 billion commuter rail extension is constructed.
As part of an agreement with then U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Fairfax and Loudoun counties pledged to fund the construction of parking and station facilities “outside the project,” a move designed to placate LaHood’s wish to reduce the overall cost of the Silver Line, which is being largely financed with toll revenues from the Dulles Toll Road.
In an interview with WAMU 88.5, Fairfax County Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny said planners are pursuing several avenues to fulfill the county’s commitment to building parking garages at the future Herndon-Monroe and Rt. 28 stations and the station stop at Rt. 28/Innovation Center, all of which will cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.
“Obviously we want to keep the total cost of the project for all of the funding partners as reasonable as possible. One of the beneficiaries of reducing the cost of the project obviously is the toll road users. Other beneficiaries are the taxpayers,” Biesiadny said. . . .
The enormous sum of $235 million Fairfax County estimates it will need to build the two parking garages and rail station currently is factored into the Silver Line’s overall budget. Those costs will remain “inside the project,” to be shared by all the funding partners, unless the county finds money to build them on its own.  . . .
Click here for the full article and recording.  

Metro stop on Silver Line short of funds, Washington Post, August 27, 2013

Fairfax County hasn’t found enough money to help pay for one of the Metro stations on the second part of the new Silver Line — possibly leaving the county and other players to help pay for more of the project’s roughly $3 billion price tag. . . . 
On the second phase of the Silver Line, Fairfax had promised that it would try to find private partners to help pay for the Route 28/Innovation Station. But Fairfax has been unable to find anyone to share the estimated $90 million cost of the station.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has promised $41 million to help pay for the Route 28 station, and Fairfax has applied for a $20 million federal grant. That leaves the station about $29 million short of what it is expected to cost to build it. Fairfax has until July 1, county officials said, to find more money to pay for the station.
“We’ll continue to look for ways to fund that gap,” said Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax Department of Transportation. “We said we would use our best efforts, and our best efforts means just about anything we can come up with.”
As part of a deal negotiated by former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, Fairfax had agreed that if it couldn’t find a partner to pay for the Route 28 station, it and the other funding partners would pay for the station as part of the project’s overall cost. . . .
Three-quarters of the funding gap will be filled by increased tolls on the DTR if Fairfax County does not find other funding.  The roughly $21 million more (plus interest) that DTR users will have to pay is small in comparison to the more that $3 billion (plus interest) they will have to pay for over the next 40 years or so.  Right now, full one-way tolls are projected to go to $18 by 2050.  With this addition and cost overruns, the tolls could reach $20 each way by then. 

Click here for the rest of the WaPo article.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RCA Board of Directors opposes Library "Beta Project;" calls for a new plan involving community inputs, August 26, 2013

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, August 26, 2013, the RCA Board of Directors approved by a vote of 10-1 the following resolution after a lengthy discussion.  The counter-themes in the discussion were whether the "Beta Project" was being driven by County budgetary concerns or by technology advances.  Virtually all of the Board members believed the "Beta Project" was merely an extension of the substantial decreases in the FCPL's budget share of the County's budget over the last six years, especially in the face of continued County population growth.  The County's decision to destroy in large numbers books paid for by County taxpayers rather than sell them or give them away was especially objectionable to all RCA Board members.  


 



Resolution of
The Reston Citizens Association regarding
Library Operations and the Proposed “Beta Plan”

August 26, 2013



Whereas, world-class libraries are essential to Fairfax County’s economic competitiveness and attractiveness to potential residents and businesses, and,

Whereas, Fairfax County spending per capita on public libraries dropped over 30% between FY 2007 and FY 2012, and library spending as a share of the County budget has dropped by one-third over the same period, and,

Whereas, per capita usage of County libraries, both online and in person, has dropped during the period that library budgets have been cut, and,

Whereas, the number of items in the library system’s collection had declined from 2.5 million in 2005 to 2.24 million as of August 2013, and,

Whereas, the proposed “Beta Plan” under consideration by the Library Board would:

  • Reduce the staff positions at Reston Regional Library, the County’s largest and busiest library, from 20.5 to 13.5;
  • Remove specialized positions dedicated to children’s literature;
  • Eliminate the Master of Library Sciences (MLS) degree as a requirement for librarian and branch manager positions; and,

Whereas, the Library Strategic Plan approved in September 2012 proposes a transition from print books to digital “e-books,” and calls for a reduction in the proportion of library floor space devoted to books in favor of expanded space for computers, Internet access, and meeting rooms, and,

Whereas, there has not been adequate time for community input on either the Beta Plan or the Library Strategic Plan approved last year,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

The Reston Citizens Association –

  • Strongly opposes the proposed Beta Plan, and calls for it to be cancelled.
  • Calls for a new Library Strategic Plan to be developed with full participation of all library stakeholders, including citizens, staff, volunteers, and members of library Friends groups, that includes metrics and standards for success that are agreed to by the community.
  • Calls for library funding as a share of County expenditures to be restored to at least FY 2007 levels.
  • Endorses the position that libraries should be considered a core responsibility of the County.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What the Board of Supervisors has done to County libraries in three charts


 

Data presented are "Actual" quantities as reported in annual Fairfax County budgets, except as noted.  Population data is from the American Community Series annual reports.