As government leaders across Northern Virginia prepare their budgets for fiscal year 2013, many are considering another round of cuts to libraries. One jurisdiction, at least, has chosen to buck the trend.
Arlington County is considering a plan that would add $605,000 and eight employees to the library system at a time when other jurisdictions are considering cutbacks. County Board member Chris Zimmerman says Arlington recognizes the important role played by the library system for a wide range of people.
"[Libraries] are one of the great levelers in American society that give everybody a fair shot," says Zimmerman."Once you have paid for a fixed asset, you've said we're going to have branch libraries and we're going to build them in different parts of the county, then it makes sense to me to keep them open as much as possible and make use of them."
Alexandria is considering a plan that would eliminate three vacant positions and hire part-time help to fill some of the gaps. Fairfax County has already eliminated $5 million from its library system and is considering a proposal that would reduce the budget by an additional $300,000. The budget debate comes at a time when libraries across the region are experiencing a steady increase in demand.
Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross says she is expecting to see a plan in the next few days to restore some of the hours and staffing that has been reduced in recent years.
"We've taken a meat axe, I'm afraid, to our library hours and we need to stitch those back together somehow. Shifting the chairs on the Titanic doesn't really do it," says Gross. "We need to make sure that what we decide is sustainable in the long run."
Gross says she expects budget cuts to libraries to be a key point of discussion during the budget public hearings this week.
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