Library Remarks at County Budget Hearing

In honor of National Library Week, April 9-15, 2017, we want to share the remarks made to advocate for library funding at the Fairfax County Public Hearing for the FY2018 Advertised Budget on April 5, 2017. Fairfax Library Foundation’s Board Chair, Brian Engler, and Fairfax County Public Library’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, Karrie Delaney, each gave their remarks emphasizing the importance of continued public funding for the library. You can read each of their statements in full below.

“It’s important to mention that the children’s books and the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program are funded by the Fairfax Library Foundation. The Summer Reading Program and many other activities, including staff development, are supported by the Friends groups as well. We are thankful for that generous support by Friends and the Foundation, upon whom we heavily rely. But that reliance should only be for their support and not to supplant critical library funding.”

—Karrie Delaney, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Fairfax County Public Library

Remarks by Karrie Delaney, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Fairfax County Public Library

These remarks were provided by Fairfax County Public Library:

It is a privilege to be here today representing the Fairfax County Public Library. We are experiencing a renewed optimism at the library after a successful public engagement process in 2016. With that valuable data, the library is moving forward with strategic planning, to be prepared to serve the evolving needs of Fairfax County residents.

The library board is mindful of the challenges you and the county executive continue to face trying to fund the high quality of services residents expect from government while facing minimal economic growth, yet substantial and increasing human and educational needs in Fairfax County.

But of course it’s part of my duty to residents to represent their needs for library services. So I take this opportunity to let you know that budget cuts continue to render a toll on the library’s ability to provide the public a quality collection that is as deep as it is diverse and varied in both subject matter and format. Ours is a population with an almost unquenchable thirst for information and materials to support their complicated and busy lives. And they need library staff to help them navigate modern times.

Although emphasis is sometimes placed on the library as a source for recreational and leisure pursuits such as reading popular fiction—and certainly any leisure is an important part of a fulfilling life—library staff is dedicated to enhancing our community in ways beyond leisure. Reading for knowledge—to stay informed, to understand complicated topics of politics and the global economy—are also important pursuits. Our libraries provide spaces that allow residents to engage with each other in discussion groups and programs—connecting in person at a time when our technology pulls us away from each other. They also ensure everyone in the county can keep up and feel included in cultural trends—despite age or income—including social media, teen gaming, access to the Internet and other innovations and technological advances.

In addition, the library provides learning opportunities in STEM programs; demonstrating 3-D printing and maker projects and teaching coding and English conversation.

Another of the library’s most important community contributions is in early literacy. The library proves tools and incentives for families to reach early literacy goals. Ensuring preschoolers read 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is NOT as a mere recreational pursuit but because studies show that being ready to read before kindergarten is the foundation for academic success. Because sadly, once children fall behind they may never catch up.

It’s one of the reasons the library has such a strong and vibrant early literacy initiative featuring an annual Summer Reading Program in which 50,000 kids and teens participate each year. The library also distributed over 28,000 children’s books to day care and Head Start classrooms last year

It’s important to mention that the children’s books and the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program are funded by the Fairfax Library Foundation. The Summer Reading Program and many other activities, including staff development, are supported by the Friends groups as well. We are thankful for that generous support by Friends and the Foundation, upon whom we heavily rely. But that reliance should only be for their support and not to supplant critical library funding.

We must ensure the library’s core services continue to be funded by the general fund. The library is an essential government service for creating well-informed, caring and engaged communities and to support a workforce that now more than ever needs access to the latest and highest quality resources.

The library is both a cornerstone of democracy reducing barriers to information access as well as being a cultural asset that enhances the quality of life in the county. Where would we be without libraries? Without books? Without our welcoming spaces and our WiFi? We’re proud to have a place of honor in every community where the young and old and rich and poor congregate and are surrounded by books, newspapers, periodicals, digital resources and the expert staff sometimes necessary to help separate fact from fiction.

You are asking the library to reduce its budget by $150,000 this year. Even though that stings, and our library system will sorely miss the position being eliminated, this cut does feel proportional to those cuts being taken by other agencies.

I’d like to close by pointing out that even with the high value the community receives, library services continue to be less than one penny out of every dollar paid by taxpayers (.7% of every dollar). We feel library staff have done a fabulous job of turning these pennies into gold.

Remarks by Brian Engler, Chair of the Board of Directors, Fairfax Library Foundation

Good afternoon, my name is Brian Engler. I’m a long-time resident of Fairfax County living in Burke Centre, and today I am here to represent the Fairfax Library Foundation as Chair of its Board of Directors. Thank you for this opportunity to express the pressing need for the County to provide essential budgetary support for the Fairfax County Public Library.

The Public Library is crucial to all members of our community—from small children borrowing their first books, to teenagers searching the Internet for school projects, to visually impaired citizens who rely on audiobooks, to neighborhood book clubs that meet in their local branch to discuss the latest and greatest novel. The Library is a key resource that provides all Fairfax County residents with easy access to the tools we need to get a job, to get promoted, to pay our taxes, and to be successful in life.

Yet the Library is an institution we often take for granted. We think it’s always going to be there for us when we or our neighbors need to use it, but because of the many budget cuts borne over recent years, the gap between library funding and actual need continues to grow.

A vibrant library system is essential not only for the education and edification of your constituents, but also for the continued long-term economic success and well-being of Fairfax County. The Foundation strongly urges the Board of Supervisors to fully-fund the County Executive’s proposed agency budget for Fairfax County Public Library and to make no cuts to that $28.4-million dollars. These funds are indispensable to ensure the Library has adequate staffing, access, materials, programs and services to accommodate the public’s demands.

Guided by the Library Board of Trustees’ three priorities that I remember as 3 Cs: Community, in particular localized programming; Communications, encompassing both innovation and access technology; and the continued, focused development of the Collection:

  • The Library responds to neighborhood, community and County-wide needs.
  • The Library provides access to information resources for all of our residents, connecting individuals and services in-person and online.
  • The Library creates safe and caring spaces where people want to be in order to learn or to engage one another, or their elected representatives, in civil discourse.
  • And, the Library provides cultural, educational, intellectual and recreational activities that the voters want and deserve at branches that span the County.
  • ALL costing your taxpayers less than 1% of the county budgeta bargain by any definition.

Many of our Foundation’s Directors represent the business community as do many of our Supervisors. We understand that careful management of limited resources is absolutely essential to attain the best results.  The long-term success of Fairfax County requires a highly skilled, well-educated, thoughtfully-informed, and competitive workforce. Our Public Library is integral to providing workforce-specific needs through educational programming at all levels, literacy and ESL sessions that welcome New Americans, job search capability, and very much more. Further, we know that we are more successful in attracting and retaining better employees—public and private—when, these employees and their families look forward to a high degree of enjoyment and satisfaction in their everyday lives. A sufficiently funded Public Library provides many sources of gratification through the wide variety of activities and services it offers. The return on investment of that modest Library budget in terms of the County’s economic growth and well-being is immense.

The Fairfax Library Foundation is the principal nonprofit organization committed to providing supplementary support to Fairfax County Public Library. We draw private funding from residents, businesses, Friends groups, foundations, and others in order to enhance Library services for our community beyond taxpayer funds alone.

While this supplemental support from our valued contributors enriches the library, it never can replace the solid foundation that the County delivers through public funding.

The Fairfax Library Foundation is eager to partner with you, with the Library Trustees and staff, and with all our Library Friends Groups to: help work through our economic challenges; sustain a strong Fairfax County Public Library through 2018 and beyond; and empower our dedicated librarians to fulfill the significant role they play in enhancing the quality of life in—and ensuring the long-term economic success of our home—Fairfax County.

Susan Harman, our Executive Director, is our point of contact. Thank you.


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