Snow Throws Down in Library Dispute

From the “Oh, No, I Know You Didn’t Just Say That” files comes Brandon Shulleeta’s article about Supervisor Duane Snow’s threat against the Jefferson Madison Regional Library:

If they can’t find 5 percent from each [library] system to reduce hours, to buy less books and keep all the libraries open and they’re insisting on closing one or two libraries, I would be in favor of not giving them any money — until they got those things figured out.

Yes, that’s right: if the library system closes the lowest-trafficked Albemarle branch to cope with Albemarle cutting their funding, Duane Snow wants to simply eliminate all of the county funding to the library system.

An explanation is in order here. JMRL is an intergovernmental organization, their existence premised on funding from four municipalities, with a Board of Trustees that governs the organization. The services provided to each municipality are a function of the extent to which they contribute to the JMRL budget. The Board of Trustees is made up of representatives who are appointed by each municipality. (In the brief time in which I served on the JMRL board, for instance, I was appointed by City Council.) There are three members appointed by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors: Gary Grant, Timothy Tolson, and Tony Townsend. These are the three signatories to the JMRL board letter to the county in which they explain why they’ll need to close the Scottsville branch, which, in brief, is because there’s nothing else that they can cut.

Functionally, what Snow is saying here is that he wants to bypass the board of trustees and manage JMRL directly and, if they won’t permit that, he’ll shut down the library system. Unless the rest of the BoS reins in Snow, then I wouldn’t dare guess how this standoff ends.

29 thoughts on “Snow Throws Down in Library Dispute”

  1. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it. While all other localities are funding JMRL at or above last years funding, the county has decided that library services and schools should take a hit when they service the neediest. Maybe the board should work for free that would save almost $90k. Maybe we should make developers pay their fair share. This is a critical time in the counties future and if we choose to cut library funding and school funding what will out future look like

  2. What I find most galling about this is that JRML’s attempt to deal with a funding cut like grownups—by cutting services—is met with a demand that they both accept the funding cut and maintain services. JMRL has been cutting hours and increasing their reliance on volunteers every year for many years now. There’s a point at which it’s no longer sensible to cut hours, and most logical to simply close the least-used branch. Duane Snow has apparently chosen to ignore the wealth of information about the extent to which JMRL has long accepted their funding shortfalls quietly, and is now insisting that they do what’s impossible, rather than what is fiscally prudent.

    Mr. Snow can either fund the Scottsville branch or he can accept the guidance and expertise of the BoS’s own appointed representatives. What he’s trying to do here only makes him look inexperienced. I don’t know if he’s relying on bad guidance from staff or if he’s shooting from the hip, but in either case, it’s not working out.

  3. Mr. Snow’s remarks certainly make him appear arrogant and insensitive to the needs of county residents. There’s a tone of “let them eat cake” in his words. Mr. Snow is affluent and retired. He can afford a computer and internet service. These library branches are a true safety net for residents to use computers for job searches, prepare resumes and apply for jobs (employers increasingly only accept applications online). Computer training, books and DVDs to learn new things and enhance skills are things the library provides that are DESPERATELY needed now. Any reduction of locations or library hours hurts residents who are most battered by the current economy.

  4. If the county cuts all funding to the libraries, wouldn’t JMRL simply close all county branches and invalidate the library cards of all county residents? Then Snow would be one step forward with his Republican dream of dismantling all public services and leaving them to private industry.

  5. Here’s what I don’t get: JMRL seems to be doing what businesses do all the time, and that is, they figured out where the inefficiencies are (keeping the least-trafficked branch open) and that’s where they’re cutting. Businesses under budget pressures do the same thing, right? They figure out which branch is the biggest economic burden to the overall organization, and they cut it. I thought people like Snow et. al. wanted the public sector to behave more like businesses. None of this bleeding-heart “but there are old folks in Scottsville who love going to the library and are scared to drive up to Charlottesville.” Isn’t that mushy-headed liberalism, to care about factors other than the bottom line?

  6. First of all, thank you for reporting on this story in this news feed. Second, thanks to all of those who have already made comments. I agree with what has been said and so I don’t feel the need to add much else. I will however add that I don’t understand why republicans want to cut taxes for the most valuable services in their own localities. I can see doing it on the state and federal levels where the money might not come back home, but here, in your own home, they only hurt themselves and their communities by cutting off resources to their local institutions. Libraries are major sources of communities. If the library can’t afford to keep a community center open, and cuts the one that doesn’t seem to be generating much community involvement, I can’t really see what the complaint it. As someone said earlier, he’s made his bed and now needs to sleep in it.

  7. If anyone has an arrogant sense of entitlement it is the library bureaucracy.

    How about this – zero base the library budget to $0, freeing up Albemarle taxpayers money so they and people from Fluvanna and Buckingham can pay user fees if they CHOOSE to visit the Scottsville library.

    After all, the poor schmuck that doesn’t choose to get run over crossing the street in Scottsville will get a “user fee” ambulance bill from Scottsville.

    I will now await the angry personal attacks in response.

  8. I will now await the angry personal attacks in response.

    Why would there be angry personal attacks? You’re obviously a libertarian who is opposed to government services of all sorts; you’re free to hold such opinions, although it’s healthy that you recognize that your opinion is a long way out of the mainstream of the American norm. Public libraries have existed in the United States since the early 1600s. One Pennsylvania town’s public library has operated continuously since a generation prior to the Revolution. This isn’t some crazy newfangled lihbhrul big gubbermint idea. :) Libraries are one of the very mechanisms by which the United States allows people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

    BTW, the thing you’re looking for is a “bookstore.” For the sort of government that you’re interested in, might I recommend Somalia? ;)

  9. I’m fine with people in the county thinking (and saying/writing) that there are better ways to make cuts in the county’s libraries than closing the Scottsville branch. I’m not fine with the assertion that library branches in other jurisdictions should be forced to cut services that are based on the funding from those same jurisdictions. Arguments that a Charlottesville, Greene, Nelson or Louisa branch should be affected by cuts that Albemarle county chooses to make really seem to miss a key point about the funding of JMRL.

  10. Oh, and this is important…it’s “gubmint.” I don’t know where you got that extra syllable. Probably too many books.

  11. Regarding the Scottsville Library as the “lowest-trafficked” library.

    Since the Library is a “not for profit” enterprise… How does the amount of “traffic” mean anything?

    It’s not like a “higher trafficked” library would generate more revenue.


    For the record I think Duane Snow’s comment “buy less books” proves he doesn’t get it and would be happy with a lesser educated population- the better to keep the proletariat in check.


    Compared to the rest of the JMRL system the Scottsville branch is very very small. Tiny even. It hardly has a competitive chance against the other branches.

    IMHO it seems to me that the main Scottsville library users are parents with kids, and better educated out of area transplants. The Scottsville Library staff makes every effort to create events that involve the community.

    Unfortunately too many non-transplants still view “reading” as an exercise in being idle (which is a negative).

    I once had a conversation with an area native who was proud of the fact that she didn’t have enough time to spend any of it “reading.”

    As someone who spends a majority of my leisure time reading I of course was appalled.

    Caveat emptor- I’m a Va native, but not a Scottsville native. Believe it or not there’s a distinction.

  12. Regarding the Scottsville Library as the “lowest-trafficked” library.

    Since the Library is a “not for profit” enterprise… How does the amount of “traffic” mean anything?

    It’s not like a “higher trafficked” library would generate more revenue.

    I think it’s meaningful insofar as it’s an indicator of a) the number of people who would be affected by the closure and b) the number of employees who would be affected by the closure.

  13. I am not in favor of closing any library branch. But if one absolutely had to go, I would choose Gordon Avenue. Why? Because its only a few blocks from the Downtown library(not to mention the UVa libraries). And it is small.
    Would be much fairer than forcing Scottsville residents to go all the way to Charlottesville to use a library.
    Know I’m letting myself is for responses from angry Gordon Ave branch supporters…
    And thanks Waldo for the bit of history on public libraries in the US. You probably know that a big “shaker and mover” for libraries was Benjamin Franklin.

  14. I must agree with Hollowboy, it’s seems that Scottsville’s loss of a branch would have been much impact of service to citizens then would Gordon Avenue. It’s as much about access as it is about use.

    How many internet opportunities are in the city vs. Scottsville.

    As I see the internet laying waste to the post office and forcing the end of Saturday delivery I have to ask how this effect JMRL. Is it better to offer more free access points or hang on to stacks of dead trees bound and cataloged?

  15. As a user of the Scottsville library, I am deeply saddened by the likely closure of the branch. Second to the James River, the coolest place in town! It serves as both library and community center, and will be sorely missed..
    I agree that Gordon branch users would have many excellent options nearby if that branch were the one to close . But my perception is that if Albemarle County chooses to cut their funding, that the library management believes that it is Albemarle County users who should suffer the consequences of the shortfall.
    The losers will be the usual – young, old, and poor who have least access to transportation.
    Watch for the Gordon Ave Book Sale during the book festival this spring, and support JMRL!

  16. People voted mr. snow into office because he said he would keep taxes low and eliminate wasteful spending. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If the library cannot take a 5% hit on its budget and still maintain its level of service to the community then it needs to be closed. I would like to see the gordon ave library closed as well as the library in the albemarle square shopping center. These libraries are close to the downtown library and the users of these libraries can take public transportation to get to and from them. Also, lets eliminate the bookmobile, a total waste of money.

  17. I was surprised to hear this during the meeting tonight:
    According to Larry Davis at the Albemarle Budget meeting that the JMRL pretty much HAS to listen to the Supervisors. If JMRL closes Scottsville, the County doesn’t have to provide any of the funding it provide for that branch.

    It’s pretty clear from what was read that JMRL may not move around funds as they wish and the supervisors are with they right and perhaps their duty to use County taxpayer funds for county branches.

  18. Jogger – I agree, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Why would anyone want their local taxes (which stay in your community) to be cut. That can only result in a cut to local services. Also, I’m sorry the Scottsville branch might close, but if more people use the Gordon Ave branch, why would they close the one that is being used? Lastly, libraries and librarians are good for a lot more than being “stacks of dead trees bound and cataloged.” If that is how people in Scottsville see their branch, then it is no wonder it isn’t being used more. Check out your library and get involved and see if it changes your mind on the dead trees. I challenge you to challenge your librarians with your questions.

  19. I would like to see the gordon ave library closed as well as the library in the albemarle square shopping center.

    Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, you’re advocating using city library funding to subsidize Albemarle County’s libraries? And you think City Council would let that fly?

  20. perlogik – You can read the Library Regional Agreement for yourself at:

    You tell me where in there it says The Library Board has to do what the Supervisors tell them. It’s up to the Board to decide Library hours, etc.

    The JMRL Board and Lindsay Dorrier have a plan to fix this mess – see

  21. JMRLFan you will excuse me if I take the county attorney’s word over yours. If JMRL wants county money they will need to listen to the board about what stays open if they want county money.

    Scottsville is staying open and the JMRL will have to accept that. Them that pays call the tune.

  22. I don’t think ANYBODY should take anybody’s word here, and that’s why it’s important to read the Regional Agreement for yourself.

    If Scottsville is staying open, then the County will have to pay to run it. That seems logical to me. If they don’t provide enough money to run it, then it will be closed. Also simple.

  23. The whole discussion got off on the wrong foot when somebody whose a county appointed trustee started threatening to close the Scottsville branch if the BoS didn’t restore the 5% cut without including the other trustees in the decision. Childish. Lines drawn in the sand. Of course everything will be resolved behind closed doors. As Waldo said, this is not the first cut from previous year’s allocation that the library systtem has had to withstand. I’m sure that trustee won’t be re-appointed.

  24. I don’t know where you got that information but you are 100% wrong. JMRL trustees cannot speak out on any Library matter (much less one as historic as possibly closing a branch) without at least a majority of the Board AND the Library Director voting on it. It is in JMRL’s online policy manual, and this is made very clear to trustees.

    Furthermore, two of the three Albemarle trustees (Tolson, Townsend) cannot be re-appointed anyway as they are in the second of the maximum of two four-year terms.

    Childish is NOT a word you should use to describe the JMRL Board of Trustees. Dedicated and hard-working volunteers is a better characterization.

  25. It sure looks to me like it’s not being resolved behind closed doors, and it also looks like the County blinked. They’re leaning towards the “Dorrier Plan,” under which the County would back off its planned cut to the library budget and leave the funding where it was last year. So maybe that trustee played his cards well? Because it seems to me that this reaction by Dorrier/the BOS is motivated by public anger at the prospect of closing the Scottsville branch.

    I find these comments by Dorrier to be interesting, in light of the proposed cuts to the education budget:

    “‘I believe [the Scottsville library] is a legitimate service that Albemarle County should provide,’ Dorrier said, adding that many Scottsville residents are middle-class or low-income residents who depend on library services, including the computers. ‘I think the library is a community learning center, and it helps during a recession,’ Dorrier said. ‘People who use the library … most of them are average citizens. They’re in the middle class that we talk so much about.'”

    The same could really be said about our public schools. It helps during a recession to maintain good schools, people who use them are average citizens in that middle class we talk so much about…I wonder Dorrier will vote to support the school’s budget by the same logic.

  26. Crozet resident thought of junking the JMRL is one worth a further look. I would rather take Albemarle money and fund Albemarle’s libraries. Let the central library fend for itself on city money. I no longer wish to subsidize Gordon Ave. I’m tired of the revenue sharing money not being enough for the city and they always seem to have their hand out for more

    They will be lucky not to see cuts next year. New JMRL board member will be more flexible then the current ones.

  27. @JMRLFan, No, the vote wasn’t taken by the full board until much later than Townsen’s staement to the press:No the vote wasn’t taken until March 1, 2010. It seems Townsend made his statement in January: Going to the press at this time in January without the board’s coming to a decision yet threatening to close possibly two branches is either childish or amateurish. I don’t care to pick since I don’t know the man.
    @Cecil, I think the operative word hear is the second one in the headlie “may.” I personally wouldn’t think that the BoS will send the message to every constituency of every NGO that if they can find enough supporters then they will get what they want in the budget. We will see how this plays out.

  28. The moral of this story is DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ IN THE PAPER. Or hear on the news, Or find posted on the web.

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