Fairfax County Library to Stop Tossing Books, Put Brakes on Streamlining Staff

Trustees of library system said they were blindsided by proposed changes. County supervisors voted Tuesday to implement the trustees’ recommendations.

Books found in a trash bin near the library's Chantilly operations center; Patch archive contributed photo
Books found in a trash bin near the library's Chantilly operations center; Patch archive contributed photo
By Mary Ann Barton

The trustees of the Fairfax County Public Library want the county to spend more money on books, stop throwing them away and get rid of a plan to streamline staff and services, the board chair, Willard O. Jasper, told county supervisors Tuesday.

Tossing out books? Back in September, Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence) had heard that books were being tossed and decided to take a look. She checked out a trash bin near the Chantilly technical operations center, the Washington Post reported. She found stacks of discarded books, many in good condition.

Fairfax County supervisors voted Tuesday to implement the trustees’ recommendations and asked the trustees to give them a timeline on Jan. 14.

The library trustees said Tuesday they didn't know about the proposed changes in the library’s operations, by Sam Clay, library director. They found out about the library's discard policy when they read about it in the media, the Washington Post reported. 

“The board establishes policy,” Clay told the Post. “How you implement the policy is my job.” 

The strategic plan for the library system can be found here.

The trustees delivered two reports to the supervisors Tuesday: 

In the report, they recommend surveying the public about their use of the libraries. 

"There is broad concern from both the public and staff that reductions to the materials budget in recent years are eroding the first-class library system desired by the community," the report states. "This concern is reflected in partially empty shelves, reduced children’s and non-fiction materials and, in general, more dated collections."

The trustees asked the Fairfax Board of Supervisors to improve spending on library materials, which they said fell from $6.33 per capita in 2000 to $2.11 per capita in 2011, far below the U.S. average of $5.90.

Here's a comparison of 2010 spending, per capita:

1. Washington, D.C.: $67.78

2. Arlington County: $56.01

3. City of Alexandria: $45.78

4. Montgomery County: $40.91

5. Fairfax County: $34.11

6. Prince William County: $32.60

7. Prince George's County: $32.46

A per-person library materials expenditure comparison for the same time frame shows:

1. Arlington County: $5.78

2. District of Columbia: $4.92

3. Prince George's County: $4.51

4. City of Alexandria: $3.85

5. Montgomery County: $3.69

6. Prince William County: $3.61

7. Fairfax County: $2.92

8. Loudoun County: unavailable

Also read: Five Things to Know About Fairfax County Library Changes

What improvements do you think need to be made to your local library?


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