In a statement published in Reston Patch and other local newspapers, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins called on the public to “take another look at the facts.”
Let’s do that.
Supervisor Hudgins states: “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has not approved any changes in library services. Yes, there are ideas and possibilities being circulated but that is all.”
That is not what the FY2014 budget says. It says: “. . . the Board approved a proposal to accelerate planned organizational efficiencies originally intended for FY 2015 to generate an additional countywide savings of $1.0 million in FY 2014.” That sure sounds like it approved the “beta project” now being readied for test implementation on Reston and Burke libraries. In fact, it appears the Board has not only approved the library restructuring, but is trying to ram the “planned organizational efficiencies” into the library system as quickly as possible.
And where was Supervisor Hudgins in this process? In an April 23, 2013, Hunter Mill Highlights e-blast from Supervisor Hudgins states,
“Supervisor Hudgins championed/helped usher the following items through the budget negotiations and approval process:The FY2014 cuts are only the latest action by the Board to erode the capabilities of a once-great public library system. The Board has been cutting the library’s budget for years.
- Accelerated planned organizational efficiencies to generate savings including the reorganization in the School Age Child Care (SACC) program, library services and other programs. “ (p.2)
The library budget peaked in FY2007 ($33.8 million) in both nominal and real terms, and staffing (FTE/SYE) peaked a year later (485/457). Through 2012, nominal spending has been cut more than 25% and constant dollar spending cuts have reached 32%. The number of positions (FTE) has been cut 15% and staff years 12% in the same timeframe. That means on a per capita basis:
- The remaining library staff workload has increased 24% on a staff year (SYE) basis and 30% on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis.
- Spending per capita has dropped 32% on a current dollar basis, 38% on a real dollar basis.
- “Contacts”—the broadest measure of library service to the community—are down two percent and registered users declined by seven percent.
- Library visits are down 11%.
- Circulation is down six percent.
- Even library website page views are down 31% as the library tries to move into the digital age.
- An 11% cut ($374,237) in “materials acquisition.” “This reduction will result in fewer titles and copies being available to library users. . . This reduction will widen the gap for the materials allocation from FY 2000 to FY 2013 which is currently at approximately 50 percent. . . .”
- A $275,000 cut in staffing requirements. This follows a $324,359 cut in staffing in FY2013, which a County budget document states is, “inhibiting the agency's ability to redirect positions to customer service activities. Further, vacant positions may need to be held open, causing customers to experience longer lines and other delays in services system-wide.”
This reduction impacts customers and employees by offering fewer hours of service at both regional and community libraries; less equipment troubleshooting; fewer youth and adult programs (dependent on the new hours at each library); and a shorter summer reading program. In addition, customers will need to learn new hours of operation among the various types of libraries and find alternate meeting sites. As part of Library Access Services, approximately 300 disabled customers will not be able to order library books for home delivery via USPS (they will have to physically visit a library to pick up books); and 35 deposit sites at senior living facilities, nursing homes and adult care centers will no longer receive rotating collections of library books. Full-time employees will be required to work every Saturday and/or two evenings per week. The reduction of service hours and the elimination of positions will reduce the number of customers served and challenge overall customer satisfaction.That followed a $5.7 million and 32 position cut in the FCPL budget for FY2010 vs. FY2009 with a list of capability and service cuts too long to list. And so it has gone for a half-dozen years.
So those are the facts as written in official County budget documents. They reflect a series of decisions by the Board, including the apparent regular “yea” vote of Supervisor Hudgins, to cut library service in Fairfax County and Reston going back to 2007. It’s not something new, and the Board has approved all the cuts. It is much more than “ideas and possibilities.” It is lost budget dollars, library capabilities, and skills and experience. And with that, library users are disappearing too.
If you find these facts unsettling, I encourage you to continue to express your grave concern over the decimation of the County’s library resources and staff by communicating with the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Hudgins, and the FCPL Library Trustees. Please also sign the e-petition calling for a pause and reconsideration in the implementation of the “beta project” scheduled for Reston Regional Library and Burke this autumn.
Thank you for listening to these facts, and acting accordingly.