Transcript from President's Time During 9/11 Board of Trustees Meeting

On behalf of the Samuels Public Library Board of Trustees, I would like to take this opportunity to share some information with the public to clear up some misconceptions that are floating around on social media.

Public-Private Partnership

The Library has been engaged in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in one form or another since its inception in 1799. One hundred years ago the ladies of Front Royal held a Silver Tea and the entrance to the event was a book. This is one way the collection grew. Samuels Library was granted status as a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit business in 1978 from the IRS with the sole mission to provide Library services to the citizens of Warren County and the Town of Front Royal that would otherwise be provided by the County. As a not-for-profit business we have always relied on other funding sources and private volunteer hours to keep costs down. (Last year we had over 8,000 volunteer hours)

The advantage of this type of partnership, like others a county may have for example; paving, tree cutting, waste removal or in this case, our Library, is that the government and residents get more bang-for-the-buck while saving taxpayers money. (There are 21 nonprofit libraries in Virginia.) The County isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations or inner workings of the businesses as it is out of its area of expertise.

Let's Talk About Accountability

We are accountable to the County government, and always have been, and more importantly to the citizens of Warren County that we serve.

To the County

Fiscal responsibility: Each year the library submits a fiscal year funding request via the Warren County Budget Preparation Form: Partner Agency Documentation Form. We have been doing this for years. This includes a line-item budget accompanied by reports and statistics reflecting the libraries accomplishments during the previous year. Library management gives a presentation, and is available to answer questions.

Representation: There has always been a BOS representative on the Library Board, it is written into our by-laws. Vicky Cook, BOS Chair, is the current representative. She has been on the Library Board of Trustees for two (2) years with full voting rights. She has received all the information in Board Packets along with every other Trustee. These documents include line-item budgets, updates about Library activities, and committee reports. Before Mrs. Cook, Delores Oates was the County representative. Before Mrs. Oates, it was Archie Fox and on and on… Full transparency and accountability to the County has been the foundation of our relationship.

Accountable to the Citizens

Every year we publish a Community Report showing the number of cardholders, visitors, programs held, items added to the collection, volunteer hours and more. Last year the Library recorded an increase in all areas measured.

The Library has curated an extremely well-rounded collection reflecting items of interest to ALL the citizens of Warren County.

In an effort to combat the continued misinformation being spread by library opponents, the following facts need to be expressed repeatedly:

  • There is NO pornography in the library nor has there ever been for that matter. Pornography is illegal.
  • Calling a book pornography because it includes a character or theme related to LGBTQ+ is a minority opinion and a scare tactic.
  • Some of the books in question have been on the shelves for many years going all the way back to the Villa Ave location.
  • We strictly follow the VA statutes and Supreme Court rulings. Removing books that have been falsely described as pornographic is discrimination and would expose the Library to lawsuits.
  • Any book that includes sexual content will be shelved in the Adult or New Adult section.
  • Parents can now opt-in for Limited cards that restrict access to older, adult or online items.
  • The Library has spoken to and heard from many parents who recognize that there are books that they wouldn’t select for their children but appreciate that it is the Parent’s responsibility to guide their child’s literary journey.
  • We trust our parents to navigate the collection.

The Library provides computers and internet access which is in constant demand. Meeting rooms are available for free to community groups, clubs, social services or nonprofits. Transparency is also the foundation of our communications with the public and so, all programs, events, policies, meetings and information about the collections are available on our robust website.

All Board of Trustees bi-monthly and committee meetings are public. Citizens have always been welcome to attend and every agenda has always included an opportunity for public comment during “Citizens’ Time” at the bi-monthly meetings.

As outlined in our by-laws, the Board of Trustees are all volunteers. We live, work and worship here and we come from the different magisterial districts. We pay taxes and vote just like every other citizen. We have been selected based on our experience to advise and guide the staff about the legalities and best practices of running the Library. The result is a Board with a strong mission and a track record of success.

It is not in the best interest of the people of Warren County to have Trustees randomly appointed without consideration of all the needs of the library. Appointments without expertise, historical context, or familiarity with library services is simply bad management.

So, What Has Changed?

This controversy first, foremost and in every way was brought about by a small group of Warren County residents who are disturbed that Samuels Public Library has a small number of books that have LGBTQ+ characters representing .05% of a collection of over 90,000 items. They want them removed and are exerting undue influence over a 45-year relationship between the Library and Warren County.

Our peaceful community is being torn apart over the division, the hateful speech, the shaming, and the deliberate misconceptions.

Let me talk about our staff for just a minute. As of today, our staff of 20, collectively, has 153 years of experience serving the citizens of Warren County. Often, they know you by name, have known you and your family for years, know what you like to read, have watched your kids grow up. They help you pick out a book, movie, or use the printer. They are kind, caring and welcoming. Some have worked here most of their lives. They are the heart and soul not only of this Library but also of this community. They do not deserve the slander or innuendos we have heard these last few months. Because of the threat to our funding they are in fear of losing their jobs, they are in limbo and that is a terrible place to be. What keeps them going is the support expressed by our patrons through notes, food, flowers and hugs. They are still hopeful. They are resilient and tell us that they do not want this library to change in any way.

What Now?

We have enjoyed a supportive working relationship with the County for many years, and in 2017 engaged in a Memorandum of Agreement with success. Once again, the County would like to us to engage in a new Memorandum of Agreement. We would welcome the opportunity to sit down face to face with the Supervisors and come to an agreement.

We have listened and responded to the concerns of the community by adopting new policies and reorganizing our collection. We now urge the Supervisors to open their many emails, read the petitions, answer the calls from the majority and listen to their pleas.  We respect that your burden is large one. You were elected to represent a County of over 40,000 people, which includes the Library’s 20,000 cardholders.

We are optimistic that this funding matter can be resolved without destroying this Public-Private Partnership that has worked so well and without changing our successful organizational structure as outlined in our Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. We look forward to working collaboratively with the county Board of Supervisors to restore full funding of the library.