Cut in Alexandria, VA, library hours not needed, says city staff memo. Also: Councilman Justin Wilson endorses LibraryCity’s national digital library endowment plan

March 2014 Update: Doesn't anyone learn? Alexandria's city manager is once again proposing reductions in spending on library books, as opposed to catching up with national averages.

JustinWilsonPhotoJustin Wilson, a councilman in Alexandria, VA, Amazon’s “most well-read” city, now threatened with a reduction in library hours, has shared a city staff memo saying that the hours cuts aren’t necessary. He says the library board will have the final say. Would board members challenge the memo? I’ll try to reach Board Chair Kathleen Schloeder for an answer. Meanwhile see page four of the actual staff document (PDF here).

Still definitely left open is the issue of funding for library materials, which, under the proposed budget so far, would take a $56K hit. Alexandria’s spending in this area is already considerably under national and state averages, so, if you live in this well-off Washington, D.C., suburb, speak out before the council locks up the budget in early May. In fact, the add/delete session on the library budget is tonight, and so far the cutters are winning. Immediate action from library advocates, please!

On another matter, Council member Wilson is gung ho on the national digital endowment concept LibraryCity has been advocating. “I think the idea of leveraging additional private resources for our libraries—both nationally and locally—is a wonderful idea,” he emailed me. “As you may know, the Alexandria Library system relies on donations from the Library Foundation, and the numerous ‘Friends’ groups around the City." Exactly! And the national endowment proposal is crafted in a way to help, not complete with, these essential local efforts.

In reply to my questions, here’s what Justin Wilson wrote tonight:

1) Ultimately, it's up the Library Board, but as detailed in the memo I provided, we believe they will now have the revenue they need to avoid the cuts to hours.

2) As a regular library user (along with my wife and young children), I share your support and concern for our libraries. Understand that we are significantly increasing taxes AND making a myriad of cuts throughout City government—in places I would never want to consider cutting.

Based on the draft Add/Delete proposals for tomorrow evening's Add/Delete work session, there is not currently a majority for restoring the $56k, but anything can happen as the Council deliberates.

3) Under State law, we do not have that authority [to impose a library-linked surtax on the most expensive houses]. All real estate must be taxed at the same rate. [Of course I hope that ultimately can be changed in time through legislative or judicial action when the political climate allows. - DR.]

4) I think the idea of leveraging additional private resources for our libraries—both nationally and locally—is a wonderful idea. As you may know, the Alexandria Library system relies on donations from the Library Foundation, and the numerous "Friends" groups around the City.

Thanks for the note. Have a good week. I'll keep you updated.

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