Thoughts From County Native and Arlington Public Library Director, Diane Kresh
Dear fellow users and supporters of the Arlington Public Library,
On Saturday, Feb. 20, the acting County Manager presented to the County Board the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011.
As with the other County departments, the Library faces serious cuts as a result of the historic economic downturn that has affected virtually every state and local government in the nation. The Library budget details can be found here: http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ManagementAndFinance/budget/file74864.pdf
The proposed budget would affect the Library across the board, system-wide in the following ways for FY 2011:
- The Library’s proposed cuts affect workforce—which translates into public service hours—and materials
- Seven permanent Library staff positions are to be eliminated and much of the funds for the non-permanent workforce—63 percent—is to be eliminated as a result of reduced public hours
- The Library materials budget faces a serious reduction resulting in, for example, no more music compact disks system-wide; no more branch periodicals
- Proposed cuts in children’s materials are not as severe as those for other types
- No Library fees and fines would be raised
- Each branch library except Glencarlyn and Cherrydale would lose one service day each week—Glencarlyn and Cherrydale branches lost those hours in FY 2010
- Reductions in branch hours will be done geographically so sections of the County will have a library open each day of the week; closures will be consolidated into full days rather than half days to simplify the schedule for the public
- Central Library would open at 10 a.m. rather than the current 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday and would close at 5 p.m. on Sunday rather than the current 9 p.m.
The proposed budget is now in the hands of the Board, with public hearings set for March 23 and 24.
As a department director, I will go before the Board at its April 10 session to review details and answer questions. Final adoption of the FY 2011 County budget is set for April 24.
Please use the comments section below to post your thoughts, questions and ideas. I always appreciate hearing from the people we’re here to serve.
It is amazing that Arlington is moving in this direction. For example, Omaha NE and Lincoln NE clearly have allotted more to Libraries. There say cd library, hours, staff amount puts Arlington to shame. This from a rural area. That is suffering the same tax issues that we are. Cutting staff and hours will only make the library a less attractive place to look for ANY services and thus push people to other avenues. Leading to further closing down the road because of lack of use and vitality of service.
Guess it's time to buy a Kindle.
Shelley Wade says
Hello Diane,The loss of a full day for a branch has an impact. In particular, it means there will be a day when the library isn’t available to students after school. Dr. Lolly Hawes, Principal of Oakridge Elementary, has publicly stated her concern for students who are ‘too old’ for babysitters from as young as age 10, and have no adult supervision and protection after school while waiting for parents to return from work. Glencarlyn and Cherrydale chose, assuming it was a popular choice, to have one morning and one afternoon rather than a full day lost. Presumably this was a compromise so as to be open every day, while recognizing that seniors and families with toddlers have already lost Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, so that the loss of both Thursday and Friday mornings would be too much.I recently was told at a Friends Of the Library meeting [after asking how volunteers fit into the many programs offered], that most programs were a mixture of staff and volunteers, but that ALL children’s programs are exclusively led by staff. It seems possible that by repurposing library employees currently engaged in ‘programs’ that could instead be led by volunteers, we could restore a half day to the branches, say 2pm-6pm Thursdays, so that Thursday mornings would be the only loss. This would allow all branches to be the same [except Cherrydale’s and Glencarlyn’s half Friday], an easier plan than the ‘rolling’ day off currently proposed. This goes to the very purpose of a library. I believe a library is meant to be a self-help entity available to all county residents- regardless of circumstance- while other county social resources are narrowly aimed at those who need, but cannot afford, them. The current system of Library programs using personnel for the benefit of a small number of random citizens came about during a time of bounty, and no longer fits the economy. This does not mean the programs need be discontinued. The Library can still provide a safe venue, rules, and materials, but should instead recruit volunteers as actual facilitators. For children’s programs, for example, the county school system has many volunteers who devote themselves to working with children and who perhaps have never worked with the Library because they have no interest in ‘processing books’. They could be recruited through the schools.I’ll of course be making this suggestion to the County Board, but hoped this way to get some feedback from both the Library and other Arlingtonians.Thank you,Shelley Wade
The earlier close time on Sunday for central library is pretty severe. That means that the total hours open at weekends, surely one of the busiest times, is going to be 11 hours. That's just crazy.
Julia Young says
I would much rather pay higher fines and fees than see wonderful library staff get laid off, or see the library reduce hours or reduce its materials budget. Many of the library's patrons are devoted users of its resources, and hopefully feel the same way!
Michelle Elwyn says
Cutting Library hours, the cd library, periodicals, job search publications, staff seems to me to be antithetical to the purpose of a library. There seems to be no cutbacks in the purchase of current dvd's and computers. What do you think is the purpose of a library? Moreover, In difficult economic times, a thriving, vital library system is even more essential. I, and I think many would far rather pay higher fines and fees than to have the library system gutted. Was any attempt made to survey library patrons as to their views on this?
As awful as they are, Arlington's cuts are extremely light compared to every other county in the area. DC is closing their small branches, Maryland librarians have been furloughed, making all library service unavailable for weeks at time, and Fairfax County libraries lost 300 part time people last summer and is cutting their work force by over 25% this summer.Shelley– I'm very concerned that you think that libraries need to stay open in order to provide free day care! Also, it's not practical to use volunteers for children's programming! A good program for that age require hours of training and prep work. Even more is the security concerns. The library can't afford to do background checks on all those volunteers!As far as raising fines– it won't cover this shortfall. The higher the fines go, the better people are at returning their materials on time.
I live in Alexandria, but go into the Shirlington library a lot. It already opens late on some days. I've never seen such a small collection of materials as I have since I moved to the Northern Virginia area. The Alexandria libraries are much worse, but Arlington seems to be headed in that direction. Libraries should be one of the last places to be cut. Our community depends on them, especially during these tough financial situations. I also used to work in my university's library. Our media center's hours were cut and apparently Virginia gives out money to libraries then tries to take it back in later months after the entire budget has been used. It's ridiculous and I've never seen anything like this before. I am originally from New York.
Shelley Wade says
In answer to the Anonymous who addressed my previous posting, I think you haven’t really thought through the ‘free day care’, or you wouldn’t be so dismissive. The Library has always been around after school and this is a sudden change for the community, particularly for the ‘awkward’ ages of low double digits. If we can reclaim that afternoon by diverting staff from extra-library programs, we should do so. In any case, the Library does not ‘babysit’. In fact I believe all children under 11 have to be accompanied by an older person, and no responsibility is undertaken by the County. This also goes to your belief that volunteers would need background checks. Families are not dropping their toddlers off, adults must stay for the story times. If there are programs for older children, the school system already has a solution to safety concerns: no child is ever left alone with a volunteer, and they’re always in a public (visible) place. Possibly a background check is done, I don’t know, but surely a simple computer search would suffice.And as for the ‘hours of training and prep work’: if the county is in fact paying for many hours outside the program time itself, we should stop immediately. Arlington already has a fine school system, including all-day kindergartens, county pre-schools and a Head Start program. These days we definitely don’t need the expense of the Library doing (or trying to- these are librarians not educators) the same thing. All we’re looking for here is the promotion of enthusiasm for reading.Again, this is not a matter of eliminating children’s programming, just using volunteers using Library materials in a Library venue with Library rules.
To help maintain the wonderful Arlington County Libraries we have, perhaps a annual user fee would not be out of line. We pay to use the recreational and adult education services, among other Arlington County Sevices. I would rather pay an annual user fee than to have property tax increases. Closing branches one day a week seems reasonable when they would be on different days–we do have a lot of choices here. When I moved to Arlington in 1991 I read that Arlington spends more per capita on the public library system than all the other jurisdictions in the Washington Metropolitan Area. We are very fortunate. Perhaps if those of us who can pay a fee, will does so, then those who cannot will still be able to use the libaries and will be in a position someday soon to contribute.
The library budget should not be cut at all. On the contrary, it should be raised. The Columbia Pike branch needs renovation (i.e., new chairs in the computer lab). The library is the best use of the taxpayers dollars. It improves the community in so many ways. Please reconsider the budget cuts.
Marianne G Petrino-Schaad says
I have followed both the state and county budget issues, and find myself shaking my head more each day. It seems to me that in times of a monetary crisis, one's vision can expand or contract based on many factors. I wish I could take every public servant involved in budget decisions, and make them watch Akira Kurosawa's classic film Ikiru, which the library possesses. I am sure if a person watches this film, the person's vision would expand, and the public would benefit. Here is the Wikipedia entry on this classic movie:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikiru
I recognize that every department needs to take a part of the pain of cutting services. However, I wonder why in this age of Netflicks, etc., DVD collections were not affected. Branches used to have extensive periodicals and newspapers. Now you won't be able to read The New York Times anywhere but Central. I'm personally going to be affected by no longer purchasing paperback books. I'd support a yearly user fee if it helps keep materials. In my view a library can cut everything except books and periodicals — its core business.
Diane Kresh, Director, Arlington Public Library says
Greetings and happy spring to you. Thanks to all who have left messages concerning the Library portion of the proposed FY 2011 County budget. We appreciate hearing from you, either in this comment section of the blog or in the suggestion boxes that are at Central and the branches. Just a reminder that the County Board will hold public budget hearings on Tuesday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 24. Both meetings take place at 7 p.m. in the County Board Room, located on the third floor of Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard. These hearings give the public the chance to address the Board with concerns and suggestions. The hearings will be shown live on the County's Arlington Virginia Network television channel and streamed on the AVN site: http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/AVN/AVNMain.aspxWhile we've received several comments regarding the proposed reduction in Library operating hours, there has not been as much discussion about the proposed reduction in new Library materials, such as periodicals at the branches and music on compact disk. If you have thoughts on the subject, we'd certainly like to hear from you.The budget process will be completed toward the end of next month and then we will use this blog and the Library website—among other communications vehicles—to let you know about changes at the Library that will begin with the start of the next fiscal year, July 1, 2010.Thanks for all the expressions of appreciation and support for Arlington Public Library. They mean a lot to us.All the best,Diane
Archan Ruparel says
Diane,Have you considered a two-part pricing setup? This used to be very common for public services in the early 20th century. Create a user fee but allow exemptions for those with recent unemployment paperwork, those on public assistance, students, etc. Those who pay in can get certain additional services, such as the ability to borrow more books at a time, online access, etc. Everyone else gets the core services of the library without the cuts to hours.
Diane, I'm sure the reason you haven't heard much complaint about the reduction in purchase of CDs is that many people now download new music from various sources, not even bothering with CDs. So this might be a reasonable cut-back. Same with periodicals–so many are available for free online (although, I know, not all library patrons have personal computers, especially seniors and low-income patrons).Judy
When you siphon boat loads of US tax money to the banksters, there's nothing left to help state and county gov'ts. That's the real systemic problem here. Arlington County is doing its best under the circumstances.
This was the headline in a story in today's Washington Post online: "Gates Foundation Survey Shows Libraries Key to Getting Low-Income Populations Online." Please take good care of those computers and don't let be taken away from a community that needs them.Judy
joe lowry says
I read the Wall Street Journal, NY Times and USA Today at my branch library nearly every day. Good luck with that at the main branch where it seems the newspapers are gone seconds after opening. In addition, I read Business Week and The Economist every week to stay informed on world events as well as Kiplinger's Personal Finance and Money Magazine to stay abreast of financial news. To remove these from the branch libraries will create a huge gap in my information resources. The library needs to compile better statistics on what periodicals are commonly used and should be retained at the branches.
Shelley Wade says
Hello Diane,My suggestion is to change the Library’s Mission Statement, as a response to the current economy, to simply provide materials: not try to teach ‘culture’ or create a ‘sustainable community… with facilities for learning and discourse’.A very direct effect of the ‘Mission’ and ‘Vision’ statements can be seen in the Friends Of the Library. In January, the FOL voted to finance an increase in auditorium seating at Central, pay to provide Central with a coffee shop, and buy special materials for children’s programs, including video games (to ‘lure’ in teenagers, in hopes they’d stay to read. At least that was the explanation given). This was before the Proposed Budget was announced in February, but, disturbingly, after the December 8 Public Budget Forum Presentation. In response to my suggestion that the FOL stop using their funds for these purposes, the President told me they don’t make the decisions, they just pay for what Maureen Karl, the Library’s division chief for materials and technology, asks for. Ms. Karl of course, is simply passing on input from others. If the Library’s Mission instead was to provide materials to as many patrons as possible, the requests would presumably be different. But back to the Mission. Promote culture? Is there another metro area in the world with more free culture than Washington? Aurora Hills is closer to the Smithsonian than we are to Central. (Library staff committed to programs promoting culture and reading can still do so as volunteers, which should be easy to arrange, given the shift nature of the job’s hours. Of course the Library- all Branches- can still be a cultural and educational venue.)I can’t speak for other Branches, but at AH we already have a sustainable community. It includes schoolchildren who cannot (or whose parents rightly won’t permit them to) go to other Branches. Shirlington is a 55 minute walk from AH, even if you take the direct arduous route over Arlington Ridge and use the new Four Mile Run bike path. There are also seniors, people with disabilities (if you’re thinking paratransit, don’t), parents and other caretakers of preschoolers, and people who think it’s downright immoral for thousands of Arlingtonians to drive to pick a book off a shelf, when we already have an energy efficient system to truck those books to within walking distance.We need a Library that’s open every weekday, particularly after school, and at least one day on the weekend. The previous ‘unique collections and services’ Central had have been almost entirely eliminated by on-line references and materials tracking. For people using the Library as a library, Central is just another Branch. The current hours apportionment is outdated, and cutting hours ‘evenly’ from what we have now isn’t rational. Any argument that Branch patrons can get by with the hours provided applies equally to Central patrons, yet the hours now Proposed for the Branches would be unthinkable at Central. We’re not asking for more than we already have, but loss of a weekday is too much. Big Counties face a hopeless task serving all their citizens. Luckily Arlington still can. This is how we can be unique in these hard times. You and your staff became Librarians because of your belief in the importance of Libraries to the community. With current cut-backs in Human Services, the Library is the only social service the County can afford to give everyone.
I am a regular user of the library, and I appreciate the library. I mostly look at books. I am concerned about the proposed budget cuts. I fear that the hours reduction, as originally proposed, might be too severe. Although I could live with the changes you mention, I would be concerned about the library being less available. I hope that the hours are not reduced, or at most, perhaps the Sunday closing time could be made a little earlier (say, 8 or 7 pm). When you consider that most libraries close at 5 pm on Sunday, an 8 or 7 pm Sunday closing time still looks pretty good. I hope the hours otherwise stay the same.