Report a Threat to Libraries

Have you heard about a threat to an American library? Please let us know!


Showing 6 comments

  • Robb Farmer
    commented 2020-06-15 14:40:14 -0700
    Hello Everyone.


    My name is Robb, and I’m Director of Smyth County Public Library. There have been a lot of rumors, innuendo, half-truths, unsubstantiated claims, and misinformation spread about me and my library over the past year, especially on social media. To date, my staff, the Board of Library Trustees, and I have taken the high road and avoided responding to these allegations. We have continued to serve the public and focus on the good we do here on behalf of everyone. Social media is not an appropriate forum to air grievances, especially ones from public servants. I have said since I came back to Marion 3 years ago that despite the turmoil and problems our Library had undergone before I got here, that was in the past and we were going to face forward. My staff and I were going to serve and respect everyone, embrace new ways of thinking, respect our past and invest in our future at all three locations, not just the largest one. I trusted my new coworkers. I could see the commitment they had to our mission, how creative and talented and intelligent they were. I empowered them to try whatever they wanted to try and promised to help them get anything they needed to succeed. Their successes were SCPL’s successes. NO was never my first answer. I don’t believe in doing things one way simply because that’s the way they had always been done. I will NEVER do anything without a good reason and I will share that reason. I will respect anyone’s opinion, I will agree to disagree. My door was always open for my staff, the patrons, and anyone else who wanted to talk about my libraries, good or bad. I worked directly and regularly with the public in Marion, Saltville & Chilhowie. I supported youth services in every way. I attended programs and I gave programs. I encouraged diversity. I moved chairs. I cleaned up poop. I worked 7 days a week. I spent money wisely. I tried new things. I read stories. I dressed in costume. We refused to censor. We shared information, I honored the coworkers who retired or moved after long years of service. I made sure everyone who worked here was heard and appreciated, from student worker to department head. I gave credit to those who deserved it. I took blame even when I didn’t. I offered guidance. I accepted advice. We welcomed those who needed shelter. We acknowledged the overlooked. We were a team. We are a team. We mattered. If anyone doubts my sincerity and commitment to those principles, they haven’t met me, or are willingly blind.


    On Friday, June 12, the Budget Committee for the Smyth County Board of Supervisors posted the proposed County budget for fiscal year 2021. We had patiently waited over the past two months to hear what funding we would receive this year. As you know, the library has had County funding cut $210,000 over the past few years, most recently a 40000 cut for FY 2109. These cuts have severely limited our ability to operate at a reasonable level, prevented improvements to benefits, put necessary infrastructure upkeep and technology upgrades on hold, and hampered additions to our services, physical collection, and digital resources. The County justified our funding cuts both because the Library had substantial cash reserves and CDs at the time, and allegedly because allegedly cuts were necessary to meet an unexpected shortfall in funding the regional jail. The cash reserves and assets have been exhausted, and level funding last year required us to operate on a razor thin margin and survive on prepaid accounts we had with some vendors. Further, the failure to adequately fund the library was in violation of grant requirements for us to receive vital funding from the Library of Virginia. This has jeopardized state aid to the point that the State Library has informed us that “the Library of Virginia intends to withhold $167,000 unless funding is restored. The effect and possible repercussions of these financial straits have been clearly communicated in writing to the County, and the past two years, our funding request was $785,400 to move toward rectifying the deficiency. The Board of Supervisors are on the distribution list for monthly financial information prepared for Board of Library Trustee meetings. Further, as there were financial discrepancies revealed upon the retirement of our former Comptroller and the subsequent FY 2019 closeout, the Library has retained a professional independent accounting firm to clarify matters and help prepare this year’s documents. We have provided all financial information requested repeatedly, often in FOIA requests, by the BOS and its Chair, even that as seemingly insignificant as expiration dates on soft drink cans we had purchased. Also, we learned that the BOS Chair had private meetings with our accounting firm without our knowledge or participation.


    Because of the pandemic, we expected this year’s allocation to be less than what we had asked for and understood why it had not been proposed late in May. Strangely, despite the information we had provided throughout the year and the conversations with our accountants, Aaron Sizemore, the Interim County Administrator contacted me late in the afternoon on Friday, May 22 to say the Budget Committee had not considered our request, because they had not received our financial information. We provided all of the information once more on Wednesday, May 27, sending it directly to Mr. Sizemore with his confirmation it was received. On Wednesday, June 10, Mr. Sizemore contacted me again for even more financial information, including our cash balances, the FY2020 budget, our current budget status, and a draft of the FY2021 budget. As we had no new budget since we had no idea what funds we would receive, I asked Mr. Sizemore if I could assume level funding and he replied by email that we could. On Thursday, June 11, I emailed Mr. Sizemore the supplementary information the Budget Committee requested. He informed me late morning of Friday, June 12 that he had received the information and would give it to the committee.


    At 5:00 pm on June 12, the Proposed Smyth County FY 2021 budget was officially posted. The budget shockingly defunded the Smyth County Public Library system completely, reducing us from an allocation of $660000 in fiscal year 2020 to $0. BOS chair Judy Wyant, along with fellow Supervisor and Budget Committee member Lori Deel have since publicly claimed that the blatant omission was because the Library, its Board, and especially I had not been transparent with the BOS and failed to provide information to them. These statements are patently false, but assuming that the Supervisors truly believe their claims, we are posting all documents and correspondence to resolve any misconceptions they and the public may have. We must assume that they believe their accusations, as otherwise it would provide evidence that their motives were intentional, malicious, and indicative of a troubling agenda against me and our Library. If indeed they believe there is information they still require, the use of $0 and not a more understandable, less inflammatory amount even if it was reduced to something like $560,000 to indicate their concern. Instead, this proposed budget will result in many questions, much concern, and likely intense scrutiny by the State Library of Virginia. It has put all library staff, patrons, and services at considerable risk, In short, the future of the library is in a vulnerable state, for it cannot survive should state funds be lost, even if the Budget Committee reverses direction. I implore you to talk to your friends, family and anyone else who values and appreciated what Smyth County Public Library means to all of us. We need all available allies to prevent closure or insolvency. We need to prevent the vital, vibrant, welcoming, caring, compassionate, entertaining, educating MODERN library SCPL is from regressing or vanishing. This isn’t about me, and it never has been. My people have worked amazingly hard and are the reason for its successes.They deserve for it to continue. You deserve for it to continue. All our patrons deserve it. Virginia deserves it. America deserves it. The world deserves it. History deserves it. No one deserves to take it away. If you believe in those things and what we do, fight. I sure as hell will.


    Robb


    Robb Farmer

    Director, Smyth County Public Library

    118 S. Sheffey Street

    Marion, VA 24354

    (276) 781-3008

    robf@scplva.net
  • Heather Talbot
    commented 2020-06-10 12:07:27 -0700
    La Crosse Public Libraries have been targeted with an immediate and abrupt 10% budget cut resulting in more than a dozen layoffs and a significant reduction in library services and capacity. This budget cut was published AND passed on the SAME DAY. No opportunity for input. Other, larger municipal department budgets were cut by less than 1%. Citizens are coming together to launch and immediate Advocacy Action Plan to fund our library system, but we need your help!
  • Deborah Bonet
    commented 2020-05-20 08:53:34 -0700
    The Richmond Public Library in Richmond, California is facing threats of service cutbacks, layoffs and branch closures. Richmond City Council is considering the closure of both branch libraries, termination of all part-time employees, abandoning vacancies and laying off at least 4 full-time librarians and library assistants. They are also considering turning library service over to the county which would provide only minimum (24 hours per week) service to a community of 100, 000 and result in even more layoffs. Richmond is a low income city whose population will be severely impacted by lack of access to Internet, technology and library programs. Council is considering these moves for a June 9th vote on the 2021 budget. They are threatening even more layoffs after that.
  • Patrick Sanders
    commented 2020-04-28 09:39:43 -0700
    Our library in Westland MI is facing a threat. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is facing a shortfall of revune income . Our mayor is proposing putting our library in deficit for the upcoming fiscal year starting in July 2020. Many our state could be adversely affected by this.
  • Elizabeth Coleman
    commented 2020-01-17 16:09:11 -0800
    I am contacting you to let you know that this bill is being proposed in the state of Missouri. If this bill passes it will be censorship by very small majority, it will result in voter suppression within it’s power, it places undue burden on librarians, takes control away from parents. Citizens should have access to materials, and not have others decided what is deemed appropriate. https://bookriot.com/2020/01/15/new-proposed-legislation-in-mo-to-censor-public-library-materials/?fbclid=IwAR2UmzY6eH9GR_yG0vq8E8hc7NV00Gto1YoJK4MGIAqjbhAZywGmtuMOXx8
  • Siobhan Champ-Blackwell
    commented 2020-01-15 16:12:58 -0800
    A bill in Missouri House if Rep is trying to create a censorship committee. See this article for details. https://bookriot.com/2020/01/15/new-proposed-legislation-in-mo-to-censor-public-library-materials/