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.