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County board to consider more funding for library books in new budget

Fairfax County Public Library (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s next budget could give its public libraries a little more spending money for books.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (March 19), Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn proposed allocating an additional $500,000 in the upcoming fiscal year 2025 budget to Fairfax County Public Library’s book collection.

“The Library continues to be one of the most popular services provided by the county and our Library branches are a vital hub of community information,” Alcorn said in his board matter. “…We continue to face issues with meeting the demand for library materials even with the digital formats.”

County Executive Bryan Hill presented a proposed budget on Feb. 20 that increases FCPL’s funding by $410,027, partially offsetting a $1.2 million jump in personnel-related costs with cuts to the system’s operating expenses.

Planned reductions include eliminating a vacant management position, shifting to black-and-white public copiers instead of color ones, adjustments to the number of computers at each branch based on usage, taking over data storage from a third-party vendor and making FCPL’s quarterly magazine digital-only.

Overall, the county is budgeting just under $35 million in expenditures for the library system, most of which ($22 million) goes toward day-to-day operations at its 23 branches.

Alcorn noted that the county’s funding is supplemented by contributions from the nonprofit Fairfax Library Foundation and the Friends groups that support individual branches. The Friends of Reston Regional Library, for instance, donated $100,000 earlier this year to boost the children’s books collection county-wide.

However, funding for books and other materials remains inadequate “to meet the needs of our residents,” who sometimes have to wait months or even more than a year for popular items, he said.

With increased demand for popular and new materials, the Library must balance a proper allocation of limited resources for those items with the needs for materials in support of K-12 students, and ensuring that materials are updated, available in print, large print, audio and digital copies and in multiple languages. Additional funds to the collection budget will ensure that we are providing the resources our community demands from our Library and decrease the wait times so that people can access those resources in a timely fashion.

The Board of Supervisors agreed unanimously on Tuesday to add Alcorn’s proposal to its list of items to consider incorporating into the budget, which includes $3.83 million in not-yet-allocated funds.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity also asked county staff to find out why FCPL is only devoting about 10% of its budget to purchasing materials and whether that guidance comes from the county, the library’s Board of Trustees or the state.

“I think we do need to clearly invest in our library collections,” Herrity said. “It’s something our citizens like. It’s a basic public service we need to promote.”

Town hall meetings on the proposed budget are currently underway, with the Franconia District holding the next one at 6 p.m. today (Friday). Public hearings are scheduled for April 16-18, and the board will mark up the budget, including determining whether to add items like the library funding, on April 30.

A final FY 2025 budget will be adopted on May 7.

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