Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kathy Kaplan documents the steep decline in children's book purchases in the County's public libraries for the Board of Supervisors.

The following e-mail from Kathy Kaplan to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and others is presented in its entirety.

-----Original Message-----
From: kwkaplan
To: Sharon.Bulova ; Mason ; LeedistBOSEmail ; HunterMillBOSEmail ; DranesvilleBOSEmail ; SullyDistrictMichaelR.Frey ; springfieldbosemail ; ProvdistBOSEmail ; `Mt.VernonBOSEmail <`>; ClerktotheBOS ; BraddockBOSEmail
Cc: Jane.Edmondson ; Kiel.Stone ; Linda.Waller ; John.Nolan ; Catherine.Hanes ; Clayton.Medford ; Mark.Thomas>; Christina.Fullmer ; dave.molchany

Sent: Thu, Nov 13, 2014 11:51 am

Subject: the one book

Good Morning Chairman Bulova,

How exciting that 21 books magically appeared in the library catalog.  What a surprise!  I did look in the online catalog to check before I wrote you because I am aware that Wowbrary does not completely reflect the FCPL online catalog.   There was only one book listed Saturday night.  My grandchildren are thrilled they will soon read Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page.

Speaking of the online catalog, I wanted to give you some numbers I extracted from the online catalog.  Since I have been disallowed from having access to the FY2014 Library Materials Inventory Report or the FY15 Collection Overview numbers which I had FOIAed, I used the advance search to glean information on the collection using the FCPL online catalog.  I did not go in and count actual copies of titles as that was too tedious, but you can extract information on the numbers of titles in the system by call number and date of publication.  That does give an overview.  The information I have collected appears to show extremely low purchases of children's materials for the calendar year 2014 in comparison to previous years.  The numbers were extracted from the online catalog this morning, 11/13/2014.

Call number JR.  Junior Readers titles included in the catalog by their publication year are down 63% for 2014 compared to those in the catalog back to 2008.  (I have averaged years 2013 through 2008 for all categories).  These are books beginning readers are dependent on for practice reading.

2014      61
2013    170
2012    174
2011    168
2010    162
2009    172
2008    137

Call number JP.  Junior Picture book titles are down 79% 

2014    145
2013    576
2012    649
2011    710
2010    664
2009    756
2008    816

Call number JFIC.  Junior Fiction titles are down 69%

2014    236
2013    701
2012    802
2011    740
2010    784
2009    791
2008    807 

Call number YFIC.  Young Adult fiction titles are down 83%.  This number is not surprising as my daughter was told this summer by a librarian at Reston Regional that staff was not allowed to order any young adult books.  Perhaps the 99 titles represent the books the youth materials selector, Georgia Chirieleison, ordered last December before she left.  She told me she did pre-order as many as she could before she retired.  

2014      99
2013    440
2012    553
2011    595
2010    619
2009    649
2008    645

Call number FIC.  In comparison, adult fiction titles are down only 42%.  

2014    1465
2013    2275
2012    2498
2011    2272
2010    2576
2009    2660
2008    2944

The numbers of titles for adult mysteries show a 38% reduction.  Adult science fiction is down 44%.  So it cannot be said that children's and adult materials are being cut at the same rate.  Children's materials are not being ordered in the numbers they were in previous years.  It can be suggested that the county is broke, but the library materials budget is the tiniest sliver of the overall budget, I cannot think it makes much of an impact.  The entire library budget is only 0.07% of the total county budget and materials are only 10% of that or 0.007% of the $3.5B county budget.  

I was told by three children's librarians around the county that the failure of the county to order books was the direct result of not hiring the youth materials selector.   It is a highly technical and specialized job and not just anybody can fill in and do it.  Obviously.

I have to ask if Fairfax County is not in the business of educating its children, what is it in the business of?   

Kathy Kaplan


  1. I appreciate your dedication to the cause. What you have shared is no surprise to staff of the library system---or if it is, those staff are ignoring the way things have been moving the last several years. With each budget cut, the first instinct by the administration was to cut a portion of the collection in order to save staff. They have trimmed it down so far that it's a common, almost daily, happening to apologize to patrons for not having a new item that we would have had even a year ago.

    In regards to the comments from the Reston staff member who told you that they were "not allowed to order any Young Adult books" was, however, blatantly inaccurate. The staff member was most likely misinterpreting what is being done in Georgia Chirieleison's absence. Like always, staff and patrons have avenues to suggest titles to purchase and the Collection office does take those seriously.

    The staff in the Collection office has been stretched thin by all the changes as well as Georgia Chirieleison being out. Yes, many titles have been missed. And, quite frankly, many of the ones purchased beyond the ultra-well known authors were suggested by patrons or staff because there is currently no one in the collection office who is particularly knowledgeable about YA literature. Staff have been told that someone will be hired "soon", but we don't know what soon means.

  2. As far as the statement made to my daughter about YA books, my daughter hasn't been able to get any newly published YA books for quite some time now from FCPL. They aren't in the catalog because they haven't been ordered.

    In the response I received from Chairman Sharon Bulova last Wednesday, she writes this about the position of youth selector: "In the case of this vacancy, the Library Board has directed FCPL staff to prioritize positions in branch operations first. However, the remaining selectors in the Collections staff all hold degrees and have extensive experience building and maintaining a library collection. These staff members are working to make sure that new materials continue to be acquired for the children’s collection despite the vacancy."

    I suppose that Bulova's statement is open to interpretation, but I read it as they have no plans to fill the vacancy. Even though they advertized and interviewed for the position. And since you state "there is no one in the collection office who is particularly knowledgeable about YA literature," it would seem books aren't being ordered.

    The important thing here is to press the Board of Supervisors to restore the library's budget and stop cutting. The amount they want to cut next year is only the tiniest sliver of the county's entire 3.5B budget. I hope you saw Terry Maynard's post about the proposed FY16 cuts of 21 circulation aide positions:

    The previous cuts went through the bone, and it's time to stop cutting now.

    Kathy Kaplan

  3. In searching the catalog for YFIC published in 2014, I found 118 entries. This includes print novels and audiobooks, so there is certainly some overlap of actual titles. Not a huge number compared to other parts of the collection, but if you aren't finding titles at all I'm sure a librarian would be able to help you find some material for your daughter. I know I have personally suggested some titles through the website---some have been purchased, some have not.


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