Library Moonspinners

Testimony to the Montgomery County Council

6 February 2003

by Paulette Dickerson

My name is Paulette Dickerson, I am Chair of the Chevy Chase Library Advisory Committee; I am also a member of the Silver Spring Library Advocacy Committee which is working towards an urban library for downtown Silver Spring, but I am here tonight to ask you to fund the staffing of Bethesda Library.

Libraries are an archipelago in a sometimes barren sea. They provide research, education, learning opportunities, meeting places, forums for ideas and ideals in the communities they serve.

The two most reliable predictors of academic success are parental involvement and voluntary reading; our library system helps people with both of these. Libraries help to start the education process for pre-schoolers, infants and toddlers; they give schoolchildren a place to find reliable data for homework or fun; they give many of the rest of us do-it-yourself knowledge, entertainment, tax forms and a myriad of other things.

When I first got involved in library advocacy, Neal Potter was the County Executive and Ike Leggett was the President of the County Council. It was the early 90's and due to a severe shortfall, the library director proposed closing branches to reach the Department's budget MARC.

Noyes Children's Library, Four Corners, Long Branch, Twinbrook and Kensington Park were considered for closure. Noyes was saved by a public/private partnership, Four Corners was closed and the others were given a reprieve by a combination of other cuts, public advocacy, County Council support and rosier economic times.

The Chevy Chase Library was being renovated at that time and was not opened for more than a year after the job was complete to save a bit more money.

The situation we are facing now is also the result of Libraries effort to economize--Since there were three libraries that were coming due for their twenty year renovations, the Library Department decided not to hire a staff for the new library at Quince Orchard when it came on line. Instead the staff from Twinbrook Library, which was due to close soonest, was tapped for Quince Orchard.

Each time a library opened for the past several years--Quince Orchard,Twinbrook, Long Branch, Bethesda--the critical path for opening that library included closing another and moving that branch's staff to the next, like a giant game of musical chairs. A game that meant that each closure lasted weeks or months longer than it needed to because it takes weeks of set up before a newly finished branch can open. As the work on each of these libraries approached completion, the staff from the next one in the line was pulled to do this job.

This game meant the surrounding libraries had to pick up the slack... to deal with library users from the closed branch. Before Quince Orchard opened, staff from each closed library would augment the neighboring libraries to help make up for that bulge of users...but not this time. This time Aspen Hill, Rockville had to service the Twinbrook overflow; Silver Spring, Wheaton staff had to make room for Long Branch patrons; Chevy Chase, Davis had to take care of Bethesda people as well as their own.

This game saved the County something like $200,000 per year in employee salaries and benefits, the cost of staffing Quince Orchard Library then, the cost of staffing Bethesda Library now.

When our children were toddlers, my friend Rebecca Trussell and I decided that we needed to have a creative outlet. We wanted to do something concrete in our time at home with the kids--besides changing diapers, wiping noses and reading Curious George for the thousandth time. We decided to learn how to spin yarn.

I can hear you asking yourselves, "What does this have to do with Bethesda's dilemma?" Well, I'll tell you.

The meeting rooms of the libraries are used for many different purposes from lectures to music and by many organizations. The Moonspinners, one such group, met at the Bethesda Library. They brought fiber, spinning wheels, drumcarders and patterns to the large meeting room once a month. They taught each other advanced techniques and taught newcomers the basics.

The first time I ever went to the Bethesda Library, fourteen or fifteen years ago, was the night that Rebecca and I attended our first Moonspinners meeting. We borrowed a spinning wheel and, starting that night, we learned how to spin and dye our own yarn.

Tonight I brought this shawl to show you. I knitted it almost entirely from yarn I spun, just one warm legacy of Bethesda's Library. Thank You.

Paulette Dickerson P.O. Box 598 Kensington, MD. 20895-0598
Private Citizen / Library Advocate

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Send comments or suggestions to:
E-Mail: "pdickerson (at)"
Paper Mail: Paulette Dickerson, P.O.Box 598, Kensington, MD 20895-0598, USA

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