The Fairfax County Public Library Board of Trustees has formally rejected additional beta testing of a new staffing model for the library system.
Library administrators had proposed beta testing a new staffing model at two libraries this fall, but the tests were halted after public outcry. The new model would have reduced the number of staff needed to run libraries and also would have made a master of library science degree an optional, rather than mandatory, criteria.
“The library rejects the beta plan, including the new job classes,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Willard Jasper (Lee District).
A report from a special library board committee said the board is not interested in revisiting the beta tests and will continue to seek public input on other ways the library system can cut costs while still maintaining services that the public values.
They also recommend that positions that have been held vacant be filled.
The board did recommend that the single-desk model in place at Burke Centre Library, which incorporates an aspect of the beta testing that combines circulation and information functions in one location, remain in place in order to continue to evaluate the effectiveness of that model for other small libraries in the system.
A second committee reviewed the library system’s book discard policy, something that raised alarm among county leaders after Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) discovered a recycling container full of books in good condition, including some popular titles.
“What I saw in those dumpsters was enormous waste,” Smyth said. “We cannot tolerate waste, and people do not like to see books thrown away.”
The committee recommended that the book discard process be decentralized and handled at the branch level. Further, it recommended that books not needed for circulation any longer should first be offered to Friends groups and then, if the Friends do not want them, they will be turned over to the county department that deals with surplus items.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors formally accepted the library board’s reports on Tuesday and, on a motion from Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D), asked that an additional $1 million in funding for the library be considered as part of the fiscal 2015 budget discussions.
Jasper highlighted the deep cuts the library system has sustained in recent years, as Fairfax County has struggled to balance its budget during the economic downturn.
Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) did not support Bulova’s motion because he doesn’t believe that the county will have additional money to invest in the library system and that some sort of change is needed.
“There is not more money to be thrown at this problem,” he said, thanking library director Sam Clay “for having the courage to put out a plan.”
Bulova said she believes the report rejecting the beta plan represents a starting point, and she expects that the library board will continue to evaluate options for improving the system in the future.