Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rescue Reston announces joint news conference with RA, January 7, 10AM, RA HQ, on Golf Course Re-zoning Appeal

A grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Reston's open space

S.O.S. (Save Open Space)

Breaking News!  Joint News Conference to be held Wednesday, January 7, 10 am at RA HQ

Rescue Reston/Reston Association Press Conference
Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 10:00-11:00 am
Reston Association
12001 Sunrise Valley Dr
Reston, VA 20191
Learn what to expect at the upcoming rally and BZA hearing


Rally to Save Open Space
Saturday, January 10, 2015, 2:00-3:00pm
Hughes Middle School Cafeteria
11401 Ridge Heights Road
Reston, VA 20191
Join other Rescuers to send a loud, clear, message to Northwestern Mutual. Listen to Community leaders and hear the latest news on what to expect at the critical Jan. 21 BZA hearing. Pick up yard signs & t-shirts (pre-order info below).

It’s the holidays and folks being preoccupied is exactly what Northwestern Mutual and their attorney were counting on when they asked for a BZA hearing at this time of year. The future of Reston's recreational open space depends on your participation.  Share this email with a friend - many folks still don't know or aren't seeing these emails. The McCrea family generously donated the cost of a half page ad in the Fairfax Times - watch for it on January 16, the Friday before the BZA hearing. Thanks to them and to the Fairfax Times for working with us on a special for the ad. Any donors out there for an ad in the Reston Connection?

Pre-order your bright yellow t-shirt and yard signs at our website store or our Facebook store. We intend to deliver at the Rally next Saturday so order NOW.

Connie Hartke & the Rescue Reston Team
571-205-8874
What does the future hold for Reston's Open Space

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

RSVP via Facebook Events

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rally to Save Open Space

2-3 pm, cafeteria, Hughes Middle School
11401 Ridge Heights Road, Reston

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BZA Hearing 

9 am, Auditorium, Government Center
12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfa
x

Learn More

Reston Impact Interview
View anytime at  vimeo.com/113940325  and showing on Comcast Channel 28 and Verizon 1981 on these dates:
  • Dec. 31 @ 8:30 pm
RCA Reston 2020 Report

What’s going on at Reston National Golf Course?

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Public Library as Economic Engine: Texas Public Libraries--Economic Benefits and Return on Investment, The University of Texas Bureau of Business Research and IC2 Institute, December 2012

This is the third in our series of posts "The Public Library as Economic Engine."  

This post presents a study of public libraries in Texas conducted by the University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Business Research and its IC2 Institute for the state's Library Commission.  We have picked it for several reasons:
  • It is a rigorously performed cost-benefit analysis of the economic effects of libraries with the complete methodology laid out and conservatively applied by the authors. 
  • At over 200 pages long, it provides case studies of literally dozens of community libraries across Texas showing the general consistency of results independent of size, demographics, economics, etc. 
  • It was conducted in a state that couldn't be more different politically than Northern Virginia and Fairfax County in particular; a state whose political focus is on private enterprise, not public spending.  Yet this report clearly reinforces the value of public investment in public libraries.
  • It may be the most comprehensive post-Great Recession examination of the economic value of public libraries in print.
Here is the report's full Executive Summary: 
Executive Summary
Public libraries in the State of Texas provide significant economic benefits for their communities. This report examines these economic benefits, and documents those activities which contribute to economic activities throughout all regions of Texas. In 2011 Texas public libraries collectively were found to provide $2.407 billion in benefits while costing less than $0.545 billion, a return on investment of $4.42 for each dollar invested.

A data-intensive research design was developed to quantify economic benefits.  Extensive data from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) were used in conjunction with the input-output economic modeling software, IMPLAN. Additional data and information from a survey of all Texas public library directors were used as inputs to the economic model.

Based on the IMPLAN model, which analyzed public libraries purely as business and organizational entities, libraries produced $1.043 billion in local economic activity.  Further, in 2011 more than 12,000 jobs in Texas were dependent on public library expenditures.

Another major component of the quantitative analysis examined services offered by most public libraries in Texas:
• circulation of books and other media;
• access to public computers and Internet;
• educational programs; and
• reference services.

Economic estimates were derived for these four services as well as for volunteers at public libraries and wireless usage.  A conservative approach was utilized that yields much greater certainty in the estimated services values. The total value of these six public library services was conservatively estimated at $1.364 billion. These values combined with the benefits of local economic activity ($1.043 billion) produce a total return on investment of $2.407 billion.

While the identifiable economic benefits are significant, public libraries’ economic impacts are far greater than we can estimate as many economic benefits are difficult to quantify. Case profiles were developed about specific libraries’ activities with business organizations and assistance to self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, small businesses, employees, and employers. Many  of the 40 case profiles illustrate a public library’s significant role for job seekers, job training, and workforce development.

Others highlight unique and innovative service approaches or ongoing collaborations with Chambers of Commerce. These examples describe the widespread, unmeasured economic impacts of public libraries of all sizes and in all types of locations (rural, suburban, and major metropolitan areas) in Texas.

A second set of profiles focuses on economic impact estimates for 14 individual libraries.  Four of these libraries serve fewer than 10,000 residents, seven serve between 10,000 and 500,000 residents, and three serve more than 500,000 residents.  Several of these libraries have significant capital programs underway, and there are substantial differences among the libraries regarding the proportion of purchasing that occurs locally.  Nonetheless, all of the libraries generate substantial positive returns-on- investment for their communities and cities.

Total economic benefits from Texas’ public libraries in 2011 were approximately $2.407 billion. With expenditures of $544.9 million, there was an ROI of $4.42—for every dollar invested, there was $4.42 in verifiable local economic activity. The Texas ratio compares favorably to results in prior studies of other states and cities, given the conservative approaches used in this analysis.

Yet the impacts of Texas’ public libraries continue to be underestimated. No benefits have been included in this analysis for the numerous, specific examples in which libraries have enabled business organizations, businesses, and self-employed individuals to improve their economic activities or the value of libraries’ activities that have assisted individuals to obtain employment. Nor were we able to include monetary values for the contributions of Texas libraries to a more educated workforce and higher quality of life, both of which are vital for sustained economic development.
For those who wish the read the full 224-page report (7MB), it may be downloaded by clicking here. 

Anytime Fairfax County can get a better than 4:1 return on its investment of public funds, it really ought to do so in this time of county economic stagnation.  Instead, we find the County Board of Supervisors continuing to cut the Fairfax County Public Library budget, staff, and collection year after year.  How short-sighted can they be. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No HOA or Civic Association Concerns about Friends of the Library Funds

In her e-mail to Terry Maynard of December 18, 2014, Chairman Bulova wrote the following paragraph (part of which is emphasized here):
I can assure you that the Board of Supervisors, in responding to the Federation’s request, was in no way seeking retribution against the Friends groups. Our Board values the service the Friends provide, and appreciates the significant contributions they make to the FCPL system. Having an independent review of both the internal Gift Fund and funds held by the Friends groups will help us to demonstrate accountability to the civic and homeowner associations that have raised concerns.
The highlighted part suggests that some homeowner or civic associations had "raised concerns" about the management of funds by the various Friends of the Library groups.  We have already established that the FCFCA did not make such a request; in fact, the phrase "Friends of the Library" does not appear in their letter or resolution sent to Chairman Bulova.

On Sunday, December 21, 2014, Mr. Maynard submitted an e-mail request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) for all County records showing that these groups "have raised concerns."  Today, Tuesday, December 23, 2014, he received the following response:
  • From:  Smith, Emily
  • To:  Terry Maynard
Mr. Maynard,
   Pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, Va. Code Ann. §§ 2.2-3700 to -3714 (2011 & Supp. 2014), this letter is in response to your December 21, 2014 Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for “all County records in which any Fairfax County civic or homeowner association has raised a concern about how any of the Fairfax County Friends of the Library groups manages its funds over the last five years.”  Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3704.B.3, please be advised that there are no records responsive to your request.
Emily Harwood Smith
Assistant County Attorney
Office of the County Attorney
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 549
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-0064
Telephone:  (703) 324-2421
Facsimile:  (703) 324-2665
Email:  emily.smith2@fairfaxcounty.gov
In short, there has been no request from any homeowner or civic group in the County for an audit of the Friends of the Library groups.  The decision to include the Friends of the Library groups in the Board's motion for the County to audit the Public Library was a unilateral action by Chairman Bulova, not in response to a request.

New Life in the Dulles Corridor, BisNow, December 17, 2014

This article highlights the growing potential competitiveness of the area along the Silver Line in Fairfax and Loudoun counties to compete with DC for new jobs and residents.  We highlight "potential" because a lot of things that are currently going wrong have to go right for that to happen.

Here are some excerpt's from the article:
The road from Tysons to Loudoun once was the heart of the DC region’s tech community. But with tech startups migrating to DC and closer-in suburbs, and the government sector shrinking, it may be taking on a whole new identity.
Gurus tell us the Silver Line is poised to draw a wider mix of companies and bring back some of the tech. EDGE Commercial Real Estate regional manager Scott Rabin says not only are mixed-used TOD projects sprouting around new and future stations, but the whole Corridor has become more competitive for existing buildings. Many landlords are renovating common areas, beefing up amenities (like food trucks), and modernizing vacant spaces with fewer offices and more collaboration spaces. Office vacancy rates range from the low teens to low 20s depending on the asset class, but repositioned properties, new buildings, and those with good amenities and close to public transportation are outperforming others. . .
But with all the silvery hopes and dreams of Metro comes concern. Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh attorney Andrew Painter wonders how housing, retail and office in Loudoun and Fairfax will fit into the Silver Line picture long-term. Andrew says Metro will offer opportunities for both counties to compete with closer-in jurisdictions. But it will take more than rail to turn commercial corridors into dynamic economic development engines. NoVa's office market may struggle to bounce back with federal contractors diversifying away from government work. Plus, mixed-use development is becoming the new standard for office and retail, and most of Loudoun and Fairfax have traditional, single use. 
Andrew says both counties should focus on attracting new residents since housing has driven demand for retail and local-serving office uses in recent decades. They also need to figure out their brand identities and consumer marketing programs to address the needs of seniors and attract the creative class, which has traditionally flocked downtown hot spots like 1776, seen here. 
Mr. Painter appears to have a firm grasp on what it will take to make the potential of this corridor to become a reality.  As he suggests, we believe the key to success is attracting households to the transit station areas.  The fact of the matter is that the County has not made it easier in its planning for Tysons and Reston, having put their plan emphasis on locating and emphasizing space for workers rather than residents.  A couple of examples:
  • A lack of balance in housing vs. employment that discourages new residents:  Both plans effectively call for a four-to-one ratio of jobs to residents, and most of the residential space is on the 1/2-mile periphery of the station area.  The huge focus on office space runs directly against the general business drive to shrink office space per worker into more collaborative, open work spaces as described in this article.  The bottom line is, under the new Tysons plan, the area has the potential for about 400,000 jobs instead of the plan's intended 200,000 jobs if the office space trend continues.  The potential number of residents is 100,000.  In Reston, the station areas will accommodate more than 200,000 office workers under the plan amendment approved last year while the number of new residents should peak at about 50,000, most of them more than a 1/4-mile for the Metro stations. 
  • A lack of much needed public infrastructure (schools, libraries, open space) that new residents will require:  In this case, Reston fares worse.  In Reston's station areas, in particular, virtually no new open space is planned for the 50,000 new residents with the exception of development of 5 acres of existing park land in North Town Center.  The County is now looking at re-locating Reston Regional Library somewhere besides its current Town Center area location.  Moreover, it is not planning any new elementary (or other) schools north of the corridor where the bulk of the population will live.  Open space, good libraries, and great schools are vital features for attracting households to a mixed-use area, and the County has failed to make appropriate plans.  In Tysons, a few small new parks are planned, largely serving as links among Tysons sub-districts.  Two new elementary schools are called for in the plan.  A new library "may" be needed--and co-located with a community center or performing arts center. 
The day has long since passed when simply constructing an office building in Fairfax County will mean hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs and added tax dollars for County coffers.  The County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission need to appreciate that the jobs won't come if people don't move here and have ready access to important public facilities.  New residents will lead to new jobs in the post-commute regional economy, not the other way around.  The County's plans for Tysons and Reston's station areas are good plans for the late 20th Century, not the 21st.  Until the County provides better public amenities and a more balanced approach to development around its station areas, it will continue to lag other counties in the region--and even Washington, DC.

The rest of the BisNow article is available here. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Public Library as Economic Engine: So Much More: The Economic Impact of the Toronto Public Library on the City of Toronto, Martin Prosperity Institute, December 2013

This second report in on our series "The Public Library as Economic Engine" is a recent case study of the economic contribution of the public library in Toronto, Canada, a city of 2.6 million people.  It's bottom line:  "Toronto Public Library delivers $5.63 of economic impact for every $1 Spent."

The Public Library as Economic Engine: Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development, The Urban Institute, January 2007

This post is the first in a series of posts about the importance of public libraries in driving community economic growth.  It is intended to inform the people of Fairfax County and, more importantly, its Board of Supervisors and the role our public libraries in stimulating economic growth.  This is especially important at this time because Fairfax County is going through a period of economic stagnation as a result of Congressional cuts in spending, sequestration, and the occasional capricious federal government shutdowns.  Fairfax County can no longer live alone off the generosity of the federal government and must invest its tax revenues smartly to assure the future growth of our county and its multitude of communities.  

In putting this series together, we will try to present independent studies we believe are balanced and comprehensive, including those that may suggest public library spending is not a good investment.  We will specifically try to avoid studies by libraries and library advocacy groups--even if their methodologies and findings are balanced.  For the most part, the studies we will present here will come from governmental, non-profit community, and academic research studies.  

It is our goal to inform the discussion about Fairfax County's decade-long dismantling of our public library system in the hope that our leaders will see the shortsightedness of this policy and will begin, once again, to invest in our public library system. 

Below is our first contribution to this series:  a qualitative 2007 study by The Urban Institute that shows how public libraries make cities (and presumably counties) economically stronger.

Rescue Reston Action Items before the Hearing on Reston National Golf Course

Follow on Twitter Friend of Facebook
A grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Reston's open space
S.O.S. (Save Open Space)
5 weeks until the BZA Hearing - action items:
  • Order your bright yellow Rescue Reston t-shirts and 12x12 yard signs.
  • Rally to Save Open Space - Mark your calendars!
    • When: Saturday, January 10, 2015 from 2-3 pm
    • Where: Hughes Middle School Cafeteria
    • What to bring: family, neighbors, friends
  • Have you put in for the morning off work yet? The BZA hearing is January 21 at 9 a.m.
    • Watch your in-box for an eventbrite invitation. Responding to this will help us coordinate & communicate to those specifically planning to attend the hearing.
  • Write a letter or email the Board of Zoning Appeals.
  • Talk to your friends
    • Live on the golf course? Tell people why you need them at the 1/21 BZA hearing.
    • We've had a great response from golfers all over Northern Virginia - they are spreading our news at local golf stores!
    • Reston Runners - you run through and around Reston's golf courses - talk about it!
    • WHO can YOU talk to?
    • Going to a party or office luncheon in the next two weeks? Print some flyers and share!
  • Share our story via email and social media
More updates coming weekly as we count down to the BZA Hearing. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.

Connie Hartke & the Rescue Reston Team
571-205-8874

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rally to Save Open Space

2-3 pm, cafeteria, Hughes Middle School
11401 Ridge Heights Road, Reston


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BZA Hearing 

9 am, Auditorium, Government Center
12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfa
x

Learn More

Reston Impact Interview
View anytime at  vimeo.com/113940325  and showing on Comcast Channel 28 and Verizon 1981 on these dates:
  • Dec. 24 @ 8:30 pm
  • Dec. 28 @ 8 pm
RCA Reston 2020 Report

What’s going on at Reston National Golf Course?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Maynard's reply to Chairman Bulova regarding Fairfax County Libraries, December 19, 2014

The following is Terry Maynard's response to Chairman Bulova's e-mail yesterday

From:  Terry Maynard




 
Dear Chairman Bulova,

Thank you for your e-mail.  At the risk of taking too much more of your time, let me respond to some of the points you made. 

Customer Satisfaction

Let me start by looking at the first paragraph that notes the Library's 95% (and occasionally better) customer survey satisfaction rate.  You and I and everyone on this e-mail distribution knows that the validity and utility of such a survey is only as good as its design and its execution.  This paper survey, given to and generally returned quickly by a few hundred rushed adult library users annually trying to leave the library who are willing to fill one out hardly represents an independent, systematic, balanced assessment.   In fact, at the Board’s direction more than a year ago, FCPL is going through the process of developing a new customer satisfaction survey that may actually be useful in measuring customer satisfaction across all media and customer bases. 

In the meantime, as the County’s Department of Community and Neighborhood Services reported in a 2012 presentation (p. 6), "A customer's satisfaction with a product or service has virtually no bearing on his or her likelihood to return to buy from that company again—unless the customer is made to feel “totally satisfied,” “wowed,” “exuberant” or “elated.”"  
As that brief suggests, the decline in library usage—a decision not to return—as reflected in the Library's annual budget "dashboard" and other departmental  performance metrics gives a much more accurate view of the library's performance and customer satisfaction than the current survey.  Based on my compilation of that County Library data going back to FY2000 (and in the face of shifting metrics), here is what I have found out about Library usage over the last decade:
  • "Contacts per capita"--the broadest gauge of County Library interaction with the county's residents--has dropped by 31% from its peak in FY2010 and 10% from FY2004 through FY2013;
  • "Library visits" per capita has dropped by 20% from its peak in FY2010 and 12% from FY2004 to FY2013;
  • "Circulation per capita" has dropped by 14% from its peak in FY2009 and remained constant from FY2004 to FY 2013;
  •  "Library website page views per capita" has dropped by 54% from its peak in FY2009 and 29% from FY2004 to FY2013.
  • Maybe most alarmingly, the percentage of the County population that is registered users (cardholders) of the library system has dropped 42% from its peak in FY2004 to FY2013 in a generally steady downward spiral unaffected by either the boom or bust of the latter half of the last decade. 
Although only a sampling of the Library performance metrics, these data show that people are voting their dissatisfaction with Fairfax County Public Library by not linking, borrowing, visiting, or even contacting the Library in ever larger numbers as the Library's budget, staff, and materials inventory have eroded in the last decade.   (Note:  I have attached a small set of charts to this e-mail that reports the library’s self-reported performance in all these metrics and other points made here to help you visualize my comments.)

And there really isn't any reason County residents should be satisfied with the County’s public library system as it currently operates.  In a 2014 survey, Fairfax County's library system ranked 15th out of 19 public library systems in the Washington Metropolitan Area, earning no quality "stars," according to the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service (as reported by the Washington Post).  Moreover, the County's 361 points in that "scoring" is based on much the same factors as discussed in the preceding paragraph.  Overall, the County’s score was less than one-third that scored by "five-star" public library systems in Falls Church and Howard County and one-half or less than that of "three-star" Loudoun and Arlington counties.  

That said, I appreciate interest in following up on the concerns of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations although it does not appear that you have done so fully.  In particular, you note that the County's own audit staff looked at the library’s business processes last year and found no reportable findings.
  • First, I'm sure you would agree that an examination of business processes isn't a "comprehensive fiscal audit."  It provides absolutely no "fiscal" information.  In fact, the Audit staff's report is five paragraphs long on one typewritten page.  It is by no means "comprehensive."  If there is a more thorough audit document behind that brief memo, it should be made available to the public.
  • Second, you probably also understand that the County's audit staff, while it does a commendable job (as I've tracked on Silver Line construction), is not "independent" although it may have been sufficient for the FCFCA's purposes.  From my perspective, "independent" means that the audit is performed by an entity outside the County government, presumably a private CPA firm or possibly the state auditor. 
The Library Inventory

On the question of the adequacy of the Library’s inventorying processes, many of us concerned about the decline of the County library have requested--and received--editions of the library's annual materials inventory report, the one you showed at the Board meeting last week.  Unfortunately, none of us have been able to obtain the FY2014 report, a fiscal year that ended more than five months ago.  Last week, I submitted a VFOIA request for the data based on your remarks on the library's inventory at the December 2nd  Board meeting.  Here is an excerpt from the e-mail I received yesterday in return from FCPL:

The FY2014 Materials Inventory report you requested is being revised and is in development.  Changes are being made to reflect the transition to floating where its guiding principle reflects system wide ownership versus branch ownership.  All reports, therefore, must be revised and will be a snapshot in time reflecting the collection on the day the report was generated.

 Changes to this report were discussed during the Floating and Discards Ad-Hoc Committee meetings and with the resulting focus groups.  At the present, we are still working through the data parsing and accurate data retrieval from the catalog.  When the report is running and has been adequately verified, it will be available for review.  We hope to have these new and improved reports ready early next year.

I would add that nothing in the past materials inventories indicated that the items "belonged" in a particular library, merely where the materials were at the end of the fiscal year.  I and others always presumed it reflected a count of what was in a library branch or Tech Ops--"a snapshot in time reflecting the collection on the day the report was generated"--not what should be in that branch based on "ownership." 

So the complexities of the floating library inventory seem to be overstated.  In fact, I am concerned that we are being stonewalled by FCPL in obtaining the FY2014 materials inventory because the County's library materials inventory shrunk significantly again last year.   That said, I will wait to see just how “early next year" I actually receive the inventory I requested, in particular, whether it arrives in time to play a role in your FY2016 budget discussions.

I agree absolutely with FCFCA than an audit of the library's material inventory is needed based on my own analytical experience with various FCPL reports trying to document what the library possesses, acquired, discarded, and where those items are.  For example, I have found significant discrepancies between the county-wide Materials Inventory, the Collection Overview, other records of acquisitions and discards, etc., that have been made available to me in the last year.   
Let me give you just one example for FY2013:  The year-end total of items in Materials Inventory for FY2013 less the same value for FY2012 shows a net loss of 107,000 items.  On the other hand, the year-end Collection Overview shows a net loss of 38,000 items (items added minus items discarded).  That’s a 69,000 item discrepancy. 

The failure of the county's various inventories to match closely suggests that an audit of the actual inventory and how the library conducts that process would be helpful for everyone.  It seems especially timely because the County library is now changing how it counts materials in its annual materials inventory.  What's the point of changing a system that is seemingly error-filled without correcting it and resolving--and communicating--the differences between the two inventory methods.  Ideally, this would include a spreadsheet “crosswalk” between the two inventory methods that makes the changes absolutely transparent and validates the new methodology.

Auditing the Friends of the Library Groups

I will admit that there may be some confusion in the FCFCA's request for an audit of the "System Gift Fund."  The few references I have found to this fund on the County’s website, going back to an FY2006 audit of the library, state consistently that the Friends will split the revenues from book sales 50/50 with the County, the County’s half being deposited in the Library System Gift Fund.  Nothing more is said anywhere in the County website about this fund.   I believe this fund is what you called “the Departmental Gift Fund” in the Board’s discussion of this matter.  I know that the FCFCA is interested in an audit of this fund, and the Board has directed that audit in its resolution.  I’m confident FCFCA finds this responsive.    

That said, I can not understand why you insist that the FCFCA requested  that the Board include the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library groups as well as the Departmental Gift Fund in its audit.  Nothing in my discussions with involved FCFCA volunteers suggested they were seeking an audit of these private, outside groups despite your public assertions to the contrary.    More importantly, nothing in the FCFCA resolution or its letter to you indicates that it is remotely interested auditing either of these entities.  If for whatever reason you want to audit these entities, own it; don’t say FCFCA asked for it.  That said, I have no doubt that the Board’s decision to audit the Friends of the Library groups will put a chill in public support for the library and the Board over this matter. 

The Library Budget, Staffing, and Inventory Cuts

The library’s General Fund adopted budget in FY2015 is the same as it was in FY2005--$27.9 million—and, on a real spending basis, has declined by 28%.  That sum accounts for less than 0.8% of the County’s General Fund budget.  Actual Library General Fund spending peaked in FY2007 at $33.8 million during the height of “the bubble” and has declined steadily since.  Meanwhile, the County’s General Fund adopted budget in total has increased by nearly a billion dollars over the same time frame to $3,716,363,975, remaining general constant in real dollar terms.   So while the County’s budget has grown, the library’s has not and has resulted in reduced library purchasing power.

Similarly, library positions have been cut over the last decade while overall County positions have increased.  Library positions in FY2004 were 458 and, in FY2013, it had dropped to 402, a decline of 14%.  In contrast, County-wide regular positions (excluding schools) increased from 11,443 positions in FY2004 to 12,281 in FY2013, an increase of seven percent.    

Most disconcerting from the perspective of library users has been the steady decline in the available materials over the last decade.  According to Library documents, the inventory peaked at 2.8 million items in FY2005 and has since slid to 2.3 million items in FY2013, a 16% reduction and a net loss of 444,000 items.  That includes the loss of more than 500,000 books offset by the addition of about 77,000 “non-book” items. 

I am unaware of any other County department or agency that has suffered such disproportionate losses in funding, staffing, and critical material resources over the last decade, although they may exist.   At the same time, because of the very small role the Library plays in the County’s budget, the reduction in library resources has had--and will have--virtually no effect in County spending and staffing, which continue to grow.   In fact, the County could close the entire library system next year and not cover a third of the $101 million revenue shortfall the County Executive has forecast for FY2016. There are other huge departments and agencies in the County that could be trimmed modestly to great effect on the budget and minimal effect on their ability to perform their mission.  And there is always the option of raising property tax rates, an admittedly unattractive option in a Board election year.  It will be a challenge, but the Library should not be made a sacrificial lamb again.

Comparing Library Systems

I am disappointed that your e-mail discounts my comparisons of library spending, particularly library spending per household, by suggesting they are not comparable.  Let me take a short look at that assertion.

Montgomery—and other Maryland counties—receive much larger state subsidies for their libraries than Fairfax and other Virginia counties do.  The fact of the matter is that those subsidies are paid for by state taxes, just not local taxes.  It does not come from money minted in Annapolis.  The impact on households and businesses is essentially the same even though the routing of the money is different.  I suspect that the state aid is proportional to county population, which means there is no difference from Virginia on a gross basis, the money just follow a different route.  Virginia just shifts the funding opportunity more toward the counties.  On the other hand, Maryland’s library subsidy may favor the less affluent counties in the state, a situation Fairfax County doesn’t meaningfully confront with the limited state aid it receives.  The issue for affluent Fairfax County then is to step up and fill the gap in state funding for our residents.

This brings me to the claim that other nearby Virginia counties are also not comparable to Fairfax County.  In particular, you cite Prince William County as having a much smaller population.  That’s true, but that also means they have a much smaller tax base and we also know that Prince William is not as affluent as Fairfax.   Their County Board just recognizes the value of its library system in the county’s quality of life and is prepared to invest more heavily in it on a per household basis.   The fact that Fairfax County’s circulation rate is greater than Prince William’s simply shows that there is a greater demand for library services here, services that are not now likely being met given the reduction in library resources.  More County resources devoted to our library would likely increase the circulation rate—and that’s a good thing. 

And you didn’t even mention Arlington or Loudoun counties, counties that are more comparable to Fairfax County in both population and affluence.  And yet these counties are willing to spend about twice as much per household on their library systems as Fairfax County.    In fact, both systems earned “three-star” ratings as evaluated by the national Library Journal. That is a goal worthy of the Fairfax County library system.

Closing

Let me thank you for your interest in our library system and this opportunity to respond to your e-mail.  I believe that the library system has deteriorated terribly over the last decade without having any significant impact in relieving the County’s increasingly significant economic challenges.  It is time to quit using the library as a way to address broad County fiscal problems if for no other reason than it comprises such as minimal part of the County budget. 

Let’s work together to enhance the library system so that our County becomes a more attractive place to live, work, and play, which in turn will help stimulate the County’s economic engine.   I look forward to the opportunity to discuss our library system with you at your convenience.

In the meantime, I wish you and your family, and the many other recipients of this communication the best of the holidays and a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Sincerely,
Terry Maynard
Reston, VA

Below is the graphics package attached to the above e-mail.

Chairman Bulova's e-mail to Terry Maynard re Fairfax County Public Library

From:  Chairman Email  
Dec 18 at 10:45 AM
Subject:  Message from Chairman Bulova regarding Fairfax County Libraries

Dear Mr. Maynard,
I read with interest the recent articles you wrote regarding the Fairfax County Public Library system. I share your feelings about the importance of having a quality public library system in Fairfax County and very much appreciate your advocacy. Annual surveys of our library patrons from the last 10 years have shown a satisfaction rate higher than 95% so clearly we are doing something very right even in these challenging times. I do feel however that it is necessary to respond to some of the claims you make in your articles.
First, the Fairfax Federation of Citizens Associations requested an “independent comprehensive fiscal audit of the Fairfax County Public Library,” a "complete collection inventory," as well as an “audit of the system gift fund.” I have taken their concerns very seriously and have agreed to follow up on their concerns. I was able to let them know that the FCPL’s business process was reviewed by the Office of Internal Audit in October 2013 and there were no reportable findings. The audit can be viewed by going to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/audit/pdf/reports/2013reports/13-12-14_fcpl_final_report.pdf
 
I was glad to be able to report that our Library system does conduct an annual inventory of materials. They are able to provide daily records of checkins, checkouts, transfers, new items added and items removed from the collection. These reports help identify items that are missing or lost.
On the financial aspects of their request, in my response to the Federation and subsequent Board Matter (both attached) I explained the three entities involved in the finances of FCPL: the Fairfax Library Foundation, the FCPL Departmental Gift Fund, and the Friends of the Library groups.
The Library Foundation is a separate 501(c)3 that is audited annually by a private firm. Audit reports for the last three years, as well as its fund management policies can be viewed on the Foundation’s website at http://www.fairfaxlibraryfoundation.org/aboutus/
The Departmental Gift Fund is governed by strict County fiscal policies, as I more specifically describe in my attached response to the Federation's letter. The Gift Fund was a part of the above mentioned audit. However, I thought the Federation's request for an audit was appropriate and therefore included it in my Board Matter.
Our library branches are fortunate to have the help and support of Friends of the Library groups that augment library services and activities. The Friends are also 501(c)3 organizations. As part of their responsibilities, these groups assist the libraries with the disposal and sales of surplus library books. Space is provided for the Friends in each branch for storage of books and materials. They each operate under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Library Board of Trustees and provide a stream of revenue into the Departmental Gift Fund through the sale of books.
The MOU does require the Friends to maintain financial records and to comply with open record requirements. I do not believe the Friends groups conduct audits. Additionally, their reporting practices are not consistent among different branches and they do not adhere to a single set of best practices. Because the Friends’ mission involves County assets (books) and funds flowing into Departmental Gift Fund, any comprehensive fiscal audit would require a review of both the Friends organizations as well as the Gift Fund, which is what the Board of Supervisors has directed.
I can assure you that the Board of Supervisors, in responding to the Federation’s request, was in no way seeking retribution against the Friends groups. Our Board values the service the Friends provide, and appreciates the significant contributions they make to the FCPL system. Having an independent review of both the internal Gift Fund and funds held by the Friends groups will help us to demonstrate accountability to the civic and homeowner associations that have raised concerns.
The Office of Financial and Program Audit (OFPA) is also known as the Auditor of the Board. The auditor’s work program is approved by the Board of Supervisors and monitored by an Audit Committee made up of four members of the Board of Supervisors and two private citizens. All of the OFPA audit reports from 1998 to the present can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/boardauditor/. Meetings are held quarterly and open to the public. If you or your readers have evidence of fraudulent activity involving the Departmental Gift Fund, or any other matter, you may report it to the Fairfax County Fraud Hotline at 703-787-3243.
To your concerns regarding budget cuts to our Library System, I know you recognize the effect that the Great Recession has had on our community. The Board of Supervisors has had to make difficult decisions across the entire spectrum of County services since 2008 as we’ve struggled to maintain quality programs with less revenue. Recovery from the Recession is slower than anyone expected. Like all County agencies, FCPL has been asked to hold open vacancies and do more with less. I appreciate and value the hard work and dedication of all Fairfax County employees, and believe they all provide a wonderful service to Fairfax County.
Nationally, public libraries were on a decade-long upswing in circulation and visits until the Great Recession, when these two measurements peaked and have since declined, according to a study by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Public library systems across the country have been faced with the same challenges we face in Fairfax County. Still, in FY2013, the most recent survey, customer satisfaction remained high at 96%.
I found your comparison to our neighbor jurisdictions interesting. Looking at the Montgomery County library budget, I see it receives between $4,000,000 and over $5,000,000 annually in state funding for its library system while Fairfax County has received $532,949 each year for the past two years. I also noticed that their annual per capita circulation rate is well below Fairfax County’s despite having a larger per capita budget.
In Prince George’s County, state aid to its library system in FY2015 was more than $6.7 million and accounted for 25.5% of its entire budget. Similarly, their circulation per capita rate (6.05) in 2013 is far lower than Fairfax County’s despite having a larger per capita budget. While I am hesitant to compare Prince William County to Fairfax due to the large difference in population, I will point out that their system also has a far lower circulation rate (around 8.2 in 2013) than Fairfax County despite having a larger per capita budget.
With regard to the collection, following my Board Matter in September 2013, FCPL staff adopted new discard procedures. The changes included independent decision-making at the branch level with a documentation process for noting the reason for the discard. The new process includes multiple levels of review and, after they are withdrawn, materials are offered to the Friends of the Library Groups.
Library materials declined by the Friends go to the Department of Purchasing and Supply Management through the county surplus property and disposal process. In January 2014 FCPL began generating discard reports by type: condition, accuracy, demand, magazines/newspapers and leased material.
Library administration believes that “Floating” our collection will continue to assist with lowering our discard numbers, since it is customer driven and library materials goes to where they are in demand, giving the material new life versus being discarded. Details on these changes can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/news/floatingcollectionstimeline.pdf.

While there is no question that the library collection does not look the same as it did 10 years ago, you may be interested to know that since FY2006, FCPL has added over 2,742,569 physical items and also provides access to over 1 million online resources. Since 2007 Fairfax County has opened, equipped and staffed three new libraries, Burke Centre (2008), City of Fairfax (2008), Oakton (2007), and has completed renovations on Dolley Madison (2011), Martha Washington (2010), Richard Byrd (2010) and Thomas Jefferson (2010) and is scheduled to complete the renovation of Woodrow Wilson in 2015.
Lastly, regarding the decision by a branch manager to limit the hours of the second floor at Sherwood Regional Library, I have spoken with Library Director Sam Clay and understand that this is being worked out.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to respond to the concerns you have raised. I, too, am hopeful that our economy will begin to improve and that we are able to more fully invest in all County services. Fairfax County is the best place to live, work, play and raise a family, and I remain committed to keeping it that way.
Sincerely,
Sharon Bulova
CC: Members, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Members, Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees
Ed Long, County Executive
Dave Molchany, Deputy County Executive
Tony Castrilli, Director, Office of Public Affairs
Claudia Arko, Legislative Director (for distribution to General Assembly members)
Tom Jackman, Washington Post
Karen Goff, Reston Now
Ellie Ashford, Annandale Blog
Tim Thompson, President, Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations
Kathy Kaplan, Library Chair, Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations
Charles Keener