The complete stonewalling from everyone connected with the Williamsburg Regional Library’s decision to deprive us of the library privileges we’ve had for the last forty years continues.

After sending a heartfelt plea to the library director, Mr. Moorman, and getting back a canned dismissal, I sent a second email to the entire board of trustees.

Here’s what I got back this morning:

Dear Ms. Bauer–

I assure you that this difficult but necessary decision was not
made lightly–and made with a great deal of regret.

Susan Geary, Chair
WRL Board of Trustees

News flash to all bureaucrats:
1. We’re not fooled. A form letter practically comes with a flashing yellow light on it and a siren screaming WE DID NOT READ YOUR OPINION AND HOPE THAT YOU WILL GO AWAY.
2. People who complain about an issue know each other. They discuss the issues. They compare responses. I had barely opened Ms. Geary’s email before three friends forwarded me the exact same response. More followed during the day.

I emailed Ms. Geary and the rest of the board of trustees back:

I would like the entire board of trustees to know exactly how unsatisfactory this canned response from Ms. Geary is. A number of friends have forwarded me the exact same response to their equally heartfelt pleas. None of us understand why it is so impossible for the board to explain exactly WHY a fee-based system for out-of-county residents is impossible. This should be public knowledge.

Let me ask yet again:

Why is it impossible for out-of-county residents to receive privileges in return for a fee? Almost every library system in Virginia offers this option. When we ask why this is not possible here, all we get it, “The circumstances are different.”

We are taxpayers. We pay sales tax in York County, James City, and Williamsburg. A LOT of sales tax. The library receives state funds; that too is our money. Our money is being used, yet a strange secrecy persists.

Please provide an explanation as to why a fee-based system is impossible for WRL.

We know that funding is low. WE ARE ANXIOUS TO HELP. We would like to be part of the solution. Yet we are being shut out, and the stonewalling on the part of every library official makes it seem as though something under-the-table is going on. We will not drop this until we find out what it is.

I would be happy to receive an answer which is not a form letter.


Susan Wise Bauer

A number of you have offered extremely helpful and practical suggestions in your comments; thank you! We’ll be following up on them. In the meantime, I continue to believe that the WRL board owes the public an explanation. A full explanation. A non-form explanation. If we don’t know what the problem is, we can’t act as allies; our only choice to to act as enemies.

Weirdly, the form letter sent out by library director Mr. Moorman seems to be mutating. Friends who received form letters from him yesterday and today got this version:

As mentioned in my memo to non-residents of the City of Williamsburg, James City County and York County which is available at library public service desks;” In an economic and political climate where the library has received budget reductions and looks at a future filled with uncertainty, it became evident to the Board of Trustees that to sustain financial support the library must restrict its circulation privileges to users who live in localities that directly fund the Williamsburg Regional Library.” In the above statement I would underline
political and sustain financial support.

For these reasons the policy was adopted and any options such as providing for non-resident cards for a fee are not under consideration.


Why does underlining change anything? Mr. Moorman, are you sending us a secret coded message that you’re not allowed to speak? Are you only able to send cryptic pleas for understanding? How can we help you get your message through??

Showing 8 comments
  • Tom

    I’m truly sorry this is happening. Our library is currently not a big part of our lives but we certainly expect it to be open and available to us – something we take for granted.

    Moving government on issues like this would be difficult in the best of times. I think you’re already on the right path. You and like minded neighbors have got to make the pain from without greater than the pain from within. Your blog is a good place to start. Have you considered flyers in mailboxes and postings actually AT the library? I think a community event with local media coverage would be needed here as well as – and I’m actually serious here – civil protest outside the library with signs and everything.

  • Amey

    I wonder if that comment about the underlining was part of a group edit (all of the board members working together on a response) and that someone was supposed to change the previous paragraph and underline certain text.

    With that in mind, I wonder if the note is becoming a passive-aggressive battle between the library and elected officials (who would be responsible for the budget reductions). I wonder if the Board wants you do contact the politicians responsible for the budget changes?

  • Dan

    I completely empathize with your situation and am on your side. Vague non-answers from “leaders” are very frustrating.

    In a democracy, getting numbers on your side is the way to win. Publicize the situation. I wish you luck.

  • Ann

    I know in some states in order to change funding sources for libraries require a vote of taxpayers – even simple user fee requires public vote (which is often voted down). Maybe other locations had these votes in the past but not this location. You would think that if this was the case, they would simply state it. It may be the library management doesn’t know what they need to do to change to a fee structure or they don’t want to put a vote on the ballot. Or they just don’t want to go to the trouble of figuring out what they need to do and hope the ‘trouble makers’ will go away. I would check your state law about fees/funding for libraries. It should be specified in your state laws.

  • Catherine

    How frustrating! I grew up in a rural area and rode my bike regularly to the bookmobile. I wish you the best of luck in your quest. Meanwhile, if you ever consider other options, our city library, the Enoch Pratt Free Library has a wonderful collection, rarely have I ever been unable to get something I needed, and is $50 for out of state residents (Maryland residents are free). You might be able to access at the very least ebooks through the Pratt, and possibly even ILL. We are so fortunate to have access to it.

  • Missy McKenna

    Hi – FYI – in Montgomery County, MD where I moved from 2 years ago has this policy for library usage:

    Who may have a card

    Anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Montgomery County, or who is eligible for a library card in Maryland, the District of Columbia, or Northern Virginia, is eligible to be an MCPL cardholder.

    We issue cards to everyone with official identification with their current name and address. Official identification includes things like a driver’s license, a check with pre-printed address, or a postmarked letter addressed to you.

    The card is free, and there are no age restrictions. Users do not need to apply for cards for each library. Your library card can be used at any Montgomery County public library. Also, you can use your card at libraries throughout the state of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia.

  • veggies

    Agree with Tom! I’m not usually a “protestor”, but I can’t think of a better cause worth protesting for than literacy and the rights of citizens to borrow books from a PUBLIC library. Worth standing in the cold with a sign, if it will get people’s attention. And definitely get the media involved. Also important to emphasize the economics of this on local businesses too. People who drive here to use our library also stop in at our local restaurants, maybe shop in nearby stores, etc.

  • A sympathetic friend

    Susan –

    I’m sure it’s frustrating to you and others getting what you perceive as a run-around and form letters. Having worked in political situations before, both local, state and national, I have one possible explanation: you are not being told the full story because to do so would be politically difficult for the library.

    Having followed the relationship between York County and its neighbors for more than 30 years, I think that this action is not aimed at you, New Kent, Gloucester, Surry, etc., but, rather, at York County. And it’s aimed at keeping them in the system rather than excluding you and others.

    Read today’s WY Daily article and I think you’ll see the broad outlines of the problem. For years some in the leadership at York County’s Board have tried to shaft those who live in the upper county. They don’t mind collecting the tax money from Hooters and Wal Mart, but to put $400,000 in the regional library system that more than 5,000 of their citizens use is something they try to weasel out of. I’m guessing it’s hard for the library to say that in public without making matters worse.

    As to paying a fee to buy a card, what would you be willing to pay for one? Would you and the 6,000 others affected by this policy change be willing to pay enough to offset the $400,000 lost to the library system if – and when – York pulled out? That would be $66 per person. If only half of you would pay, it would be $130, etc.

    Unfortunately, you and others are paying a different price for all this already.

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