First, I want to applaud the County Manager for several initiatives outlined in his message to the County accompanying the FY17 proposed budget. Among them are plans to consolidate recreation programs and web based services offered by both the County and APS.
Also under consideration are plans to scrap parking stickers and manage real estate records in one place. This is all good, as consolidation of services is the most efficient and least disruptive way to reduce costs.
Another proposed initiative, providing so-called library pop-up space, doesn’t fit that category. It would cost $250,000 while providing only temporary benefits to a limited number of county residents to be paid for out of one time funds (book 12, web 20).
Don’t get me wrong, I am a vocal supporter of Arlington Library. As someone who regularly petitions outside Central Library, I am constantly amazed at the steady stream of residents from other jurisdictions who patronize the facility. My guess is that half the people who frequent Central Library are from out of the County. Ditto for Shirlington Library.
Demand for Arlington library services is strong and growing. But the way to meet the demand is not to add yet another particularized benefit. A much better approach is to expand branch library hours.
Four branch libraries, including Aurora Hills, Glencarlyn, Westover and Cherrydale, are closed on Sundays. I urge the Board to open them seven days a week in FY17 and keep them open the following year if demand warrants it.
Establishing a new library even a temporary one requires additional overhead in the form of rent and administration. Extending existing hours does not. It’s time for the County to treat its library system as the invaluable asset it is instead of a neglected, four eyed step child. Seeking to expand services on the cheap will cost more in the long run.