Saturday, September 14, 2013

Books in dumpster distract from greater issue

Talk about a buried lead: A proposal to change education requirements and eliminate specialization of staff at Fairfax County Public Library in northern Virginia receives only a brief mention by NBC reporter Jackie Benson in a video report from a meeting of the Library Board of Trustees.

The impression of this report is that the sole preoccupation of the board and everyone present at the meeting was the library’s recent disposal of more than 250,000 books in a dumpster.

The camera pans past a protester’s sign reading, “We love our librarians,” to focus upon a sign reading, “Don’t take away our books.”

Relegated to nearly the end of Benson’s report is this quote from former college professor Mary Zimmerman: “Many people feel that because of the Internet, anyone can research anything. You need a librarian to guide you through these databases and you need someone who’s qualified.”

Yes, libraries need qualified professionals at all levels of library service, from support-level staff to librarians. But the way that libraries deliver this service may be subject to change.

Under the proposed model outlined in “Frequently Asked Questions” about the organizational plan, the library would use cross-trained employees to staff a single desk. Reduced staffing levels would be achieved through resignations and retirements.

The library also indicated that when hiring new staff, a Master’s degree in library science will not be a requirement but that the library will continue to hire candidates with advanced degrees. “We anticipate hiring those with management, education, technology and business degrees, as well as those with a library science degree.”

There is so much more to this story than library books in a dumpster.

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