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For years, the number of books in the Fairfax County Public Library system has steadily decreased, as the library budget has fallen and the system has tried to make room for other activities besides reading. Fairfax now spends, by far, the lowest per capita amount on its libraries of any jurisdiction in the Washington area.
The net loss of more than 440,000 books in the past decade has alarmed a group of ardent Fairfax book lovers, who have banded together to stop the library’s perceived decay. They want not only to preserve the collection — some of which has been replaced by e-books and databases — but also to fill dozens of long-vacant jobs in the libraries of one of America’s wealthiest counties.
“The reason we formed,” said Dennis K. Hays, head of the Fairfax Library Advocates, “is because we want to keep doing everything to preserve our libraries. The reality is enormous numbers of books are being taken off the shelves and destroyed . . . With limited budgets, why would you cut down on the variety and availability of books?”
Similarly troubled by the shrinking collection, the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations has formally demanded an audit of the library collection, saying the system is so disorganized that there are discrepancies in the amount of books the county has and that officials can’t say how many books they have in the system.
Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) and Library Director Samuel Clay insist the library is stable and thriving, but the relationship between the government and the library advocates is getting more contentious as budget season approaches. . . .