Nearly two years after budget cuts led Fairfax County’s public library system to cut its hours to facilitate lower staffing levels, several county supervisors say they still are getting complaints from constituents.
“People have sort of gotten used to it,” said Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence). “But it’s a matter that your nearest library is a community library and your child has a homework assignment and it’s a Wednesday night so the library closes at 6 [p.m.].”
In addition, the early closings mean the public meeting spaces housed at many county libraries are not available on those nights, Smyth said.
In addition to the public convenience issue, Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) said she is concerned about what effects the irregular hours are having on librarians.
“I’m very concerned about what that is doing to our librarians. … We’re making it very difficult for them,” she said. “It must be awful to try and figure out your family responsibilities and your job responsibilities.”
There is hope that at least a few library hours can be restored in the next fiscal year, and the Board of Supervisors is considering a slate of options for additional restorations.
Thanks to the increased use of the libraries’ self checkout systems, Fairfax County Public Library officials said in a memo to the Board of Supervisors that they could open the eight regional libraries for three more hours per week without any increase in the budget.
This would mean the regional libraries would be open on Monday mornings again. Right now they are opening at 1 p.m. Mondays.
For an investment of additional dollars, the county could “buy” additional library hours. It would cost about $324,000 to restore nine hours per week at the regional libraries, and as much as $1.2 million to restore 12 hours per week at the 14 community library locations.
Given that the county still is facing a tight budget picture for fiscal 2013, Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) said she would prefer to see the scheduling issues addressed as much as possible within the current budget. Smyth said she is continuing to weigh the issue in the context of other budget needs.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to adopt the fiscal 2013 budget on May 1.