WHEREAS there are discrepancies in county documents between 2006 and 2014 regarding collection holdings . . .
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations requests a complete collection inventory of the Fairfax County Public Library . . . .
The official summary of the Board's discussion about this matter reflects Chairman Bulova's comments on an inventory audit this way:
Fairfax County Public Libraries conduct an annual inventory that reflects holdings by audience and item type. She attached to her written Board Matter a sample page from the 2013 inventory.
In short, she rejected the FCFCA's idea that the county needed a complete collection inventory audit. It was not included in the resolution approved by the Board.FCPL staff can also provide daily records of check-ins, checkouts, transfers, new items added, and items removed from the collection. Staff run regular reports to verify holdings and help identify items that are missing or lost. She attached to her written Board Matter a copy of the Circulation Priority reports. Staff also regularly reviews material that has high circulation and low activity to determine its status.
Yet annual inventory records made available under Freedom of Information Act requests suggest FCPL has a substantial problem in keeping track of how many items it has in its collection inventory.
We can check the accuracy of the county's collection inventory by looking at two ways it counts how many materials it has in its collection:
We conducted those two small arithmetic tasks for the years fiscal years of data we were provided. The results show major discrepancies in the counts between the two inventory approaches. In fact, over the eight years of data we were able to obtain, the average discrepancy is 61,369 items or 2.4% of the average inventory over the period.
- The annual Collection Materials Inventory, which is the document Chairman Bulova showed the Board of Supervisors. This inventory is an actual end-of-month computerized count of many items of various types exist in the collection system. The types include several categories of books as well as a more diverse list of non-book materials. The inventory shows totals for each as well as a grand total. Subtracting the total for the previous year from the current year, e.g.--FY2010 minus FY2009, should show you the growth or shrinkage in the collection over the year.
- The annual Collection Overview. This overview provides a count the additions to the collection as well as the discards during the year by branch. The net of those two numbers should show you the growth or shrinkage in the collection over the year as well.
Given that the FCPL system is computerized, a 2.4% discrepancy between the two approaches is unacceptably high. While we can't expect them to match perfectly, an error over one percent--or more than 20,000 items--would seem to be unacceptable.
From a taxpayer's perspective, the Library's inability to track its community assets suggests that more than $600,000 worth of materials is unaccounted for each year. In fact, in this eight-year period, some 552,318 items valued at a minimum of $5.5 million are unaccounted for.
This is what Board Chairman Bulova referred to as "efficiency" of the library system in last weekend's Washington Post report.
Do you believe that is an effective inventory system? We don't.
And now the county won't make available the Materials Inventory for FY2014 more than six months after it ended because FCPL is developing a new system consistent with its "floating" inventory system, ie--books "float" throughout the system rather than being owned by a single branch.
How effective do you believe this new inventory system will be if it's built on the kind of inventory data the Library has been compiling? We don't think it will be effective either. Garbage in, garbage out.