61.3 F
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
FairfaxSome payments to authors by library system raising eyebrows

Some payments to authors by library system raising eyebrows

Must Read

Speaking at Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) events has proved lucrative to a handful of authors.

Most writers who gave presentations at county libraries during the most recent two fiscal years earned three- or at most four-figure fees, but some banked in one hour what low-level workers might take home in a year.

In fiscal year 2022, the library system paid speakers a total of $102,000, including Laurell Hamilton ($22,500), Harlan Coben ($35,000), Eric Litwin ($1,250), David Grann ($10,000), David Heska and Wanbli Weiden ($5,000), Kate Mack ($5,000), Bob Shea ($500), Kaia Alderson ($400), Will Haygood ($7,500), Terry McMillian ($10,000), Ben Clanton ($700), Fawzia Koofi ($4,000) and Kayleen Reusser ($150).

So far in fiscal year 2032, library officials have spent $53,100 on four authors, with two taking home the vast majority of the total. The system has paid Ibram X. Kendi $22,500 (plus $2,000 for a moderator), Nikole Hannah-Jones $29,350 (plus a $6,000 contribution from the hosting organization, McLean Community Center), Joshilyn Jackson $550 and Rosemary Wells $700.


The fiscal year ends June 30 and “additional authors will likely be confirmed and hosted before the end of the fiscal year,” said FCPL director Jessica Hudson.

Hannah-Jones’ hour-long speech is set for Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. at the McLean Community Center’s (MCC) 383-seat Alden Theatre. The author, a New York Times Magazine staff writer and Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University, is best known for writing “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.”

Tickets to her speech, which coincides with Black History Month, were free and the registration deadline was Jan. 22. Many MCC and FCPL events are free of charge, said Betsy May-Salazar, the community center’s new executive director.

“This facilitates access for patrons who might otherwise be unable to attend due to financial limitations,” she said.

(Hannah-Jones last year appeared at a program sponsored by the Arlington County Friends of the Library, which paid her but declined to respond to a Sun Gazette request for the cost. That program, which was publicized by the Arlington County library system, drew a modest turnout at Washington-Liberty High School, as well as a few outdoor protesters.)

But Great Falls resident and frequent county-government gadfly William Denk, who views some of the speakers’ fees as excessive, contacted the library system about the payments to Kendi and Hannah-Jones.

“FCPL seems to be carelessly spending large sums of money on sole-source, un-negotiated contracts to pay authors to come promote their own books,” Denk said. “I thought it was at the expense of the author and their publisher to pay to promote sales of books.”

Most author events are contracted and coordinated by the library system’s administration, Hudson said.

“Some authors are contacted by staff, typically popular or local authors who we anticipate will be of interest to community members,” Hudson said. “FCPL also utilizes an online ‘Opportunities for Presenters, Authors and Speakers’ form so that community members can share if they are interested in presenting their book or sharing their expertise.”

When library officials coordinate with other county agencies and collaborators regarding such speeches, they hold event-specific discussions regarding cost sharing, staff support and communications, Hudson said.

Denk would like county residents to continue benefiting from authors’ speeches following their remarks. Kendi’s contract specifically forbade recording or rebroadcasting his remarks, he said.

“At a minimum, all these events, no matter the price, should be broadcast live on the [county’s cable] channel and recorded for future download by all residents, not just available to an elite few,” he said.

Denk has been a persistent critic of county policies, objecting to drag-queen story presentations at McLean’s Dolley Madison Library, the availability of explicit LBGTQ books such as “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” in local schools and placement of some of those books next to the Bible in a holiday display at Dolley Madison Library.

His outspokenness has come at a price. Democratic members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in February 2022 rejected a request by the board’s lone Republican, Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield), to appoint Denk to a county commission preparing for the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026.

Herrity thinks Denk’s position on library speaker payments has some merit.

“These aren’t small fees, they’re exorbitant at a time when our taxpayers are struggling due to inflation, rising county taxes and other fiscal pressures,” Herrity said. “I think this sends the wrong message and the funds would be better spent towards expanding library hours for the benefit of all of our taxpayers.”

- Advertisement -

Latest News

New School Board member receives liaison assignments

New Arlington School Board member Bethany Sutton has her assignments. School Board members on Feb. 2 are expected to approve...
- Advertisement -

More Articles Like This