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Monday, September 8, 2014

"Shall we just go ahead and close our libraries now?," Letter to the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees from County Librarian, September 7, 2014

From: Charles Keener <>
To: csfegan <>; karrie.delaney <>; mpkoplitz <>; pmdando <>; cutrone.michael <>; kriscabral <>; suzannelevy <>; donheinrichs <>; clements_jl <>; micseadon <>; josephsirh <>; wjasper <>
Sent: Sun, Sep 7, 2014 6:35 pm

Subject: Shall we just go ahead and close our libraries now ?

Shall we just go ahead and close our libraries now?

Dear Fairfax County Public Library Board Trustees,

This may seem like an extreme question but after year after year of watching Fairfax Libraries being destroyed through relentless budget cuts I think it is a legitimate inquiry.

Since the 2008/2009 budget cycle in which the County declared libraries as a non-essential service we have seen cut after cut after cut.

Hundreds of library staff have been terminated and entire classes of library staff have been eliminated.
Our materials budget has been slashed beyond recognition.

The declining quality and quantity of the books on our library shelves reflect this.

Fairfax County has fallen to the absolute bottom of area jurisdictions in the support it provides to its libraries.

Even County leadership has acknowledged this - admitting that the cuts have gone too far, in some cases cutting to the bone or beyond.

The Board of Supervisors recognized this and made a very modest move toward reversing the situation with a commitment of $250,000 each year for 4 years to bolster the library's material budget.

There is talk from the Trustees of rebuilding FCPL.

There is even a Staff Day theme of "renewal".

Yet all of this appears to be only empty rhetoric as here we go again with MORE CUTS to the library.- as staff and public are only now beginning to recover from the "Beta" nightmare, which was itself spawned and "justified" by this same relentless slashing of funds for our libraries.

Please let us be crystal clear: More cuts are NOT the way to rebuild or "renew" our libraries.  It is time to say NO.   It is time to say ENOUGH!

The County Executive demands yet more reductions and the library administration readily provides more staff positions to be eliminated as no longer necessary.

These are, of course, some of the very same currently vacant positions which the library administration assured the Trustees and staff would all be filled.

I doubt that the front line staff who have struggled because of these very vacancies in their branches would agree those positions are unnecessary. No doubt we can all look forward to lots more unwelcome transfers of staff to branches they do not want to go in order to spread the ever-shrinking staff even more thinly.

There appears to be absolutely no will left anywhere in County or library leadership to fight for truly first class quality libraries in Fairfax County.

Instead, all I see is resignation to yet another cut and yet another step in the downward spiral of FCPL.

Is this really what we all want?

Or are there others who agree with me that the time is long overdue for the Trustees to absolutely reject this trajectory and SAY NO TO ANY MORE CUTS?

Isn't it time to REFUSE TO COOPERATE IN ANY WAY with the further degradation of our libraries?
The Trustees should be DEMANDING an INCREASE / the RESTORATION of funds for Fairfax Libraries - NOT in any way accepting ANY more cuts going forward.

In the face of the relentless budgetary onslaught we have faced over the last several years it is hard not to just despair and just give up.

But if we do give up , I do not see a viable Fairfax library system existing in the future. 
We might as well just surrender now then - close the libraries and sell their assets.

I have no doubt the land and buildings will bring the County a pretty penny from developers.

That should please County leaders who have always given those interests far more sway in their decisions than the well-being of our libraries ever merited.

I write this on the week of my 40th anniversary working for Fairfax County Public Library.
Will FCPL survive another 40 years the way things are going?

I fear not.                                        
                       Charles Keener      September, 10, 2014

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