Library Considering Closing Crozet, Scottsville Branches

The Jefferson Madison Regional Library is looking at closing their Scottsville and Crozet locations, Hawes Spencer writes for The Hook. In a press conference yesterday, the chair of the Library Board of Trustees said that if Albemarle County cuts their budget by just 5%, the Scottsville library will get the axe; with a 10% cut, Crozet will fall, too. County staff has recommended that the library simply cut their hours to 40 per week (less than six hours per day), but board chair Tony Townsend objected, writing in a press release that “forty hours per week of library service is less than that supported in Virginia’s poorest counties.” Library director John Halliday says that it’s just not practical to cut hours more—the savings there comes from cutting salaries, and they can’t recruit competent staff on such limited pay and hours. The Crozet and Scottsville branches are only open eight hours a day, six days a week as it is. The library system has long needed to expand the tiny Crozet branch, the fourth-busiest branch in the whole JMRL system; instead, they may be closing it. Note that Albemarle is the only municipality in the five served by JMRL that’s planning on cutting library funding.

JMRL has been pretty patient in the decade that I’ve been watching them, quietly watching as their physical infrastructure crumbles, simply appreciating the funding that they do get. It looks to me like they just aren’t willing to take it anymore. The timing is tough for the two newest members of the Board of Supervisors, Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas, both of whom ran on cutting spending and taxes—given that the library already has pretty limited hours, relies strongly on volunteers, and has foregone essential maintenance for years now, mantras like “zero-based budgeting” have little to offer what is fundamentally a political problem. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle this, their first government spending test.

22 Responses to “Library Considering Closing Crozet, Scottsville Branches”


  • I particularly like this quote from the NBC 29 news article:

    JMRL Board President Tony Townsend used strong words when addressing the situation.

    “We’re calling your bluff,” he said.

    […]

    The library’s president says they will not have Albemarle dictate how its money is spent, especially when it comes to its hours of operation.

    The library is the wrong place to start any budget cuts.

  • Well that’s sure to improve real estate values in the affected areas!
    If these cuts do go forward, not only a terrible loss of community space but, I suspect a corresponding uptick in usage at remaining branches with no additional funding. Very sad indeed.

  • Or, rather than an uptick, a steady decline in the number of people using the library system at all as the hours grow more inconvenient and the collection degrades. For the reason’s you’ve listed, Waldo, I agree that the library board has little to lose by making a stand.

  • Are county property taxes going down? The JMRL system isn’t asking for a budget increase, just trying to maintain. Staff did not receive any raises last year and there won’t be any this year either. Libraries everywhere are seeing an increase in usage and thereby…lets cut their operating budget?

  • The county is trying to make up for a projected $6M revenue deficit, I understand.
    What infrastructure is crumbling Waldo?
    People have volunteered and contributed to libraries all over the country in a spirit of civic pride. Now is the time. Why not write the county or the library a check? Donate subscriptions to magazines or popular books? Why not park the bookmobiles? Perhaps the Friends can have a couple of bake sales?
    Now, how much money is the county talking about when it says a 5% or 10% reduction in its contribution? It seems ridiculous for people to start yelling and screaming when they don’t know the particulars?
    Somebody at the library mentioned they are having a hard time hiring people (yeah, right). Han’t local governments had hiring freezes for a while now?
    It is clear to me that this issue has only had a cursory look by the library board and is taking an irresposible stance early in the game of budget building. Amateur leadership.

  • What infrastructure is crumbling Waldo?

    The downtown library is a prime example. That building is terrible shape. It needs millions of dollars in repairs (and upgrades). The city has long, long neglected it. The Crozet library and Scottsville library are in rough shape, too, but I’m less familiar with those.

    Somebody at the library mentioned they are having a hard time hiring people (yeah, right).

    They’re having a hard time hiring qualified people. There aren’t a lot of people with library science degrees in Charlottesville who don’t already work for the library. And moving here for a $25k job isn’t a particularly likely event for qualified candidates.

    It is clear to me that this issue has only had a cursory look by the library board and is taking an irresposible stance early in the game of budget building.

    No way. I used to serve on the JMRL board of trustees, representing Charlottesville, back in 2002-3. I’ve been through the budgeting process. And I know John Halliday, the directory of the library. They’ve spent years trying to figure out how to squeeze every ounce of value out of their budget. The library board consists of very calm, clever, engaged people. I’ve served on a lot of boards in the last 15 years, and the JMRL board has the most involved, most hard-working, brainiest bunch of people of any board I’ve encountered. It’s totally out of character for them to take a public stand like this—I don’t doubt that they did a lot of homework before deciding to go public with this.

    Apologies for any typos or errors in thinking—I’m on morphine after discovering the wonderful world of kidney stones this morning. Big ups to the Martha Jefferson Pantops ER staff—those folks were great.

  • Waldo, I hope you recuperate fast. Don’t stay on that morphine long; it upset my stomach and I refused it after a day.
    There are quite a few people in central Virginia that have been downsized or are in semi-retirement (looking for work but unemployed or underemployed). Since I don’t know what the job is, I can’t speak to the qualifications; however, if they haven’t hired the person and they haven’t shut their doors they probably can do without that position. The city had to do without it’s new “housing czar” and doesn’t seem any worse off. They also had to do without a second Asst. City Manager, even when Gary O’Connell was out sick and the doors stayed open.
    I’ve had opportunity to work with John Halliday on a couple of occassions and Townsend’s words do not appear to be reflective of him. As you say, he’s had the wisdom to havigate his way through many budgets “without throwing down the gauntlet.” I think he realizes most importantly that the library system is not entitled to any tax payer money and therefore taking Twonsend’s attitude of “the county not telling me what to do” is not the way to advance the library’s case.
    “They’ve spent years trying to figure out how to squeeze every ounce of value out of their budget.” Yes, as it should be. “The library board consists of very calm, clever, engaged people.” I do not disagree. That is why I found Townsend’s response unusually provocative. I’m wondering if the board actually took a vote to shut down the two branches.
    Help me here, does the city onw the old post office/federal building or was it deeded to the library?

  • This is where things start to get interesting. You see the Republicans wanted to take control of the BOS under the guise of smaller government; however, with a 6 million dollar deficit they’ve got some really tough choices. For example, do you cut libraries and schools, or do you eliminate subsidies for developers?

    Take this guy for example. He is clearly ,not a farmer, and intends to develop the property by Miller School for residential use. The property is valued at $1,953,900 but thanks to the miracle of land use taxation, he’s only paying taxes on $147,300. So why are we shutting down libraries when some people aren’t paying their fair share? And yes, there still is a development plan pending review with the county, and with the potential of relaxed “business friendly” rules about development it might go through this time without regard to critical slope and streams buffers. Now take this example and expand it county wide, and you can see where all our money has gone.

  • Waldo, get off of that morphine as soon as possible. The best way is to just get it out of your life. Let me know when I can come pick it up please.

  • Quiet, people… I think Waldo has gone to his “happy place”.

  • Cville Eye wrote, “if they haven’t hired the person and they haven’t shut their doors they probably can do without that position.” How does that logic work? If they can’t find qualified candidates (with library science degrees) who will work for the salary on offer, and if as a result the library has had to load those duties onto other librarians who are not getting paid extra for picking up the slack of the unfilled positions, and if those other librarians are feeling the strain of carrying increased duties without increased pay, then there are costs to the library that perhaps cannot be borne indefinitely. In other words, just because the library hasn’t “shut its doors” yet doesn’t mean the staff isn’t under so much strain that they may lose yet more staff. Any organization can limp along for a certain period of time with overworked underpaid employees, but that doesn’t mean it’s sustainable indefinitely. My department at the university could probably make do if we lost 1/4 of our faculty mid-semester (“please, it’s a temporary measure in a desperate situation, please pitch in and take over these courses so we don’t have to cancel them”) but that doesn’t mean we can do it semester after semester.

    Note: I don’t know the particulars of the library’s staffing/hiring problems either: I’m just saying that your reasoning doesn’t work.

  • @Cecil, I never had any difficulty negotiating trafic circles in DC but I wonder if most Cville drivers can handle roundabouts in most sections of town. I wish the city would put in a trial one to see.
    As for overworked library staff. They do not get overtime andnd therefore do not work extra hours. If they are assigned new duties and the work is getting done, then I don’t understand why you would call that b eing overworked. I could see if they were digging ditches. For example, if a person is through cataloguing the videos and is assigned to shelving returned books or helping out at the check out desk how is that being overworked? He still will take his scheduled breaks.

  • I see it this way: a salaried employee isn’t looking at a time-clock or breaks or overtime (salaried employees don’t get overtime–they just stay late), she’s looking at responsibilities. If she gets more responsibilities, after the organization has a talk about desperate times, temporary measures, everyone has to pitch in and help so the work will get done yadda yadda, then she’s a little more frazzled during the day, maybe she’s staying later every night, maybe she cuts her lunch break short. She can complain that she’s doing more than she was originally asked to do, and they’ll say “we’re sorry, but we’re all doing a bit more under these tough conditions” and then she can either quit or keep on. I worked as a salaried employee in an organization that was trying to cut costs, and the people who resisted taking on extra work and stuck religiously to their full hour for lunch and took breaks were clearly viewed as not the people to be advanced or rewarded. So you knew that if you wanted to be smiled upon, you would give up some of your own time (arrive early, leave late) to get the extra work done. I’m just saying that those working conditions take their toll, and to say that an organization that appears to be staying afloat with unfilled positions may not be able to maintain forever. You seemed to be saying that the mere fact that the doors hadn’t closed is sufficient evidence that there was no problem and the unfilled positions were therefore unnecessary.

    I think Cville drivers could learn to negotiate roundabouts — we’re no stupider than DC drivers. I think people just have to get used to them. I love the fact that there’s a roundabout at Hollymead Town Center — if you enter behind Target, by CVS, you go through it. I think it’s kind of a cool way to introduce Cville drivers to roundabouts, by putting them in shopping centers (though I’m sure that wasn’t their goal). I’d love to see roundabouts introduced in shopping centers and in other areas where people are already driving a little more slowly and there isn’t as much traffic. I too wish Cville and the US in general would embrace roundabouts — no left hand turns! no sitting and idling at stop lights! no red lights being run!

  • That sounds like it could be a good idea to have them in shopping centers to introduce then to Cville. I remember when Mr. Huja recommended to Council that they install two resembling a detached figure eight at Ridge/McIntire/Preston/Market/High but it didn’t go anywhere. I suspect that would have been a disaster, though.
    The two people I know that work at the main library say they never have been asked to come in early or to work late so I don’t think the situration Cecil described fits the downtown library. In all of the years I have gone into that branch I have never seen anyone harried or stressed.
    I once worked for a company that hired a consuling firm (recent college grads) to spend sometime observing the workflow of the employees and rewrite the job descriptions of almost everyone from mid-level down. We were aloud to apply for any of them or re-apply for the ones closest to ours. Surprisingly, staff was reduced the first year by 8% but more importantly we gained a new interest in our jobs because everytime had become stale and generally boring. I got to work with several other people than usual and learned quite a bit. In that case, taking on new duties renewed my interest in the job and helped my resumé considerably.

  • @ Cville Eye

    “As for overworked library staff. They do not get overtime andnd therefore do not work extra hours.”

    This is simply wrong. I work in the University library system (in Alderman Library). Many of the staff here are “exempt” (cannot receive overtime pay because they are considered “management” or “professional” employees). Many, perhaps most work more than a normal 40-hour working week on occasion or frequently. Neither of us have any reason to suppose that JMRL staff are any less dedicated.

    I can’t speak for people working at the Downtown Library right now but I know for a fact that in recent years, staff have quit work there because they felt that responsibilities were piling up beyond any reasonable load. I was given to understand that Library management was not to blame for this, that it was a matter of budgeting. Cecil’s description of the process seems pretty sadly accurate.

  • @A. Soroka, I’m glad you acknowledge that your experiences at UVA may be different form those who work for JMRL. I once worked at Alderman.
    Can you provide me with evidence that the JMRL staff are asked to work overtime? Also, just because someone has a degree in Library Science does not mean he is exempt from being paid overtime because is automatically classified as management or professional. Complaints to the Feds see to that. Your argument is anecdotal I know, but about how many staff members quit because ” they felt that responsibilities were piling up beyond any reasonable load?” I’m not asking for names or positions, of course.

  • @Cville Eye

    The whole point (which you’re ignoring) is that employees might -not- be -asked- to work overtime, but might do it anyway, out of fear of reprisal or because they believe strongly in what they do. I’m not sure what a degree in library science has to do with anything. I’m a professional in a library and I studied math. I’ll be happy to send you contact information for my communicants if, off-board, you’ll forward me yours, with your real name. Unless you can tell me how many are “enough” for you to take them seriously, the number doesn’t really make any difference, especially since I have no reason to suppose you will do anything with the information.

    Since I don’t know who you are and I’m habitually disinclined to carry on anonymous arguments publicly, I’ll leave it there. You’re welcome to the last word.

  • i don’t want to know your real name. What difference would it make. I don’t want to know you communicnts contact information. If I want to know, all I have to do is go into the library and ask the people that I know. And no, I’m not telling you my real name. It’s none of your business. So stop asking.
    “The whole point (which you’re ignoring) is that employees might -not- be -asked- to work overtime, but might do it anyway, out of fear of reprisal or because they believe strongly in what they do.” If it applies to employees of this library system, then I’ll leav e it at this: if the employee doesn’t like it, then he should find employment elsewhere. The library is not obligated to him and he is not obligated to it. If there is a shortage of people qualified to work in the library in central VA, then I’m sure he can find employment in other library systems where he’ll be happy.
    BTW, mathematicians usually base their conclusions up definition, axiom and theorems (the facts). You seem to be content to base your opinion on incomplete information, a bunch of maybes.

  • “if the employee doesn’t like it, then he should find employment elsewhere. The library is not obligated to him and he is not obligated to it. If there is a shortage of people qualified to work in the library in central VA, then I’m sure he can find employment in other library systems where he’ll be happy.”

    Thank you for that, Cville Eye, because it helps to prove my point, and disprove your earlier reasoning — employees WILL leave if they find the conditions too stressful for the pay. Which means that an organization that currently has its doors open but which is internally highly stressed might not be able to maintain operations under those conditions indefinitely.

    See, earlier you wrote

    “if they haven’t hired the person and they haven’t shut their doors they probably can do without that position”

    and my follow-up to that pointed out how your logic fails. The fact that an organization is operating at Point A in time does not prove that it can operate at Point B in time. As you yourself say, employees can quit if they feel overstressed and undercompensated. If they do quit, then when Point B in time rolls around, they might close their doors.

    So you see how your syllogism is flawed, yes?

  • Both of my statements are correct. We just don’t know if they apply to this specific situation. Are there employees that are overworked in our library system? Have their jobs become too stressful? Are there employees who have quit because of being overworked and under too much stress in our library system? We cannot conjecture that if the library system does not get the oney it wants, employees will be over loaded with work, become stressed out, quit, or continue to work in what many people would describe as an inhumane system. I inferred from the article that this may have been the opinion of the three trustees appointed by Albemarle County but it does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the library’s board or John Halliday. I’m not sure if those three trustees are qualified to speak for management. What should be happening at this point of the budget process for the library is going through the fact-finding process in order to present fact-based options rather than take an attitude of “all or nothing.” This is certainly not the first time the library has not received its request and it may not be able to get it for a number of years. Sale prices of homes have dropped considerably and, if our real estate assessors do their jobs honestly, the assessed values should drop appreciably and that source of ocal revenue should also drop.

  • Since the definition of conjecture is “to conclude or suppose from grounds or evidence insufficient to ensure reliability,” you, we, or anyone else may conjecture about anything you/we/they please. Misusing big words doesn’t help to make your case any more than failing to attend to the warnings of the spell check feature on this blog does.

    I’m still seeing Mr. Soroka as having had the last word. Well, Cecil did have a few extra spikes to drive home.

  • @the boss of me, Cecil doesn’t spike and yours are ineffective. Cecil exchanges ideas and experiences. Although, as you say, anybody can conjecture, nobody makes good public policy doing so. That’s why just anybody shouldn’t be in the position to establish public policy. And I really hope, from your attitude displayed here alone, that you’re not in that position either. If you are so concerned about filling in the library’s gap between funding and it’s proposed budget, why don’t you and other like-minded people send them a check? There’s nothing stopping you. Are you saying “conjecture” is a big word? Also, where is the spell checker on this blog?

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