Library board scraps proposed changes after public outcry

Chldren's books in a library dumpster. (Linda Smyth photo via Reston 20/20).

Chldren’s books in a library dumpster. (Linda Smyth photo via Reston 20/20).

Fairfax County libraries will stay as-is, at least for now, after the Board of Supervisors accepted a recommendation from the Library Board of Trustees that proposed changes be stopped, pending further study and public input.

“Libraries are a very important part of our community and hold a special place in many … residents’ hearts. Changes made to the county’s library system need to be done carefully and with a great deal of public input,” said Braddock District Supervisor John C. Cook in an email to his constituents. “For this reason, there was great public unease when the library system unveiled a new vision for the library that changed services and the roles of some librarians without fully consulting the public.”

A public uproar began in September when Tresa Schlecht, a member of the board of the Friends of Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, complained to Providence Supervisor Linda Smyth about the destruction of children’s books; she supplied photos of discarded books that she contended could have been donated to schools or early-reading programs.

Criticism was also leveled at a number of proposed changes in library staffing and operations. Cook and Supervisor John W. Foust asked the Library Board of Trustees to take time to present the strategic plan to the public, allow for comment, and then report back to the Board of Supervisors with their findings.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the trustees presented their findings and recommended that most of the initial proposals be stopped. The Board of Supervisors accepted their report and also passed a motion recommending additional study of potential change to the library system and that the County Executive consider an increase in library funding for his proposed FY 2015 budget, which will be first presented in February 2014.

“What does all this mean?” Cook asked. “Libraries everywhere are changing as new technology changes the nature of information gathering. Fairfax will slow down the pace of this change in order to consider it more carefully. Our libraries will continue to be staffed by trained librarians. Used books will not be discarded but will be made available for community use. Libraries will continue to examine ways to do more with less, since Fairfax County’s budget situation is unlikely to change much for the better in the near future, but they must respond to constraints in a way that respects and incorporates the thoughts and suggestions of their users — residents of Fairfax County.”

 

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.