The Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees voted Wednesday night to suspend a controversial pilot program that would reduce staffing, change the role of staff in the youth services/children's section and, over the long-term, replace librarians with "library customer service specialists."
An overflowing crowd of more than 200 people attended the meeting at George Mason Regional Library in Annandale Wednesday night—breaking out into cheers as the Board voted to suspend the entire proposed strategic plan for the system.
The Board of County Supervisors had passed a resolution Tuesday asking the library system to gather more input from staff and the community before reducing staff, consolidating help desks and hiring more staff that do not hold Master of Library Science degrees.
Despite there being more than 200 in the audience, only five were permitted to speak before the Board, per Board rules. All five speakers strongly criticized the proposed changes, which would start with pilot programs at the Reston Regional Library and Burke Centre Library.
"We are working under two assumptions: one is that our county cannot pay for a library service. We are the second richest county in the country," Kathy Kaplan, of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Association, told the Board.
Mary Zimmerman, the past chair of the Friends of the George Mason Library, said that the Master of Library Science degree provided specialized skills for patrons. She said that, as a retired history professor, she's seen many college students who don't even write term papers until their junior years. She questioned whether someone with an associate's degree or bachelor's degree would have the same type of research abilities.
"I really urge you to reconsider this beta plan. Because it will not serve the citizens of Fairfax County," she said.
But while passionate advocates of the library system have won more time, they may still have some work to do convincing casual library users.
Inside the library, Kristan Corsiglia browsed through shelves, searching for a good read. When told of the potential change in staffing, she asked, "What's the difference?"
What do you think - would the proposed changes negatively affect all, or just a select few library users? How do you think the library system should best deal with a shrinking budget? Tell us in the comments.
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