War of words: Are private libraries best?

August 23, 2011

A bitterly-contested proposal to stem an emerging trend toward privatization of public libraries in California is undergoing myriad changes as it awaits action in the state Senate.

Those amendments to the legislation, AB 438, Das Williams (D, Santa Barbara), have local librarians waiting and watching, said San Luis Obispo County Library Director Brian A. Reynolds today.

“With this particular bill, I’m not sure what to do. It’s morphed several times (since introduction),” he said. “I just sent a lengthy report on it to (County Administrator) Jim Grant.” San Luis Obispo County officials have not adopted a position on the bill.

The bill stipulates that a city or library district intending to employ a private contractor to operate a library shall require a fair cost analysis; show proven savings to the taxpayers; conduct competitive bidding; verify proven qualifications of the contractor; assure no displacement of current employees; and require performance and financial audits provided by the contractor.

A number of California counties and cities have contracted recently with a Maryland company to operate. Community libraries now under contract to Library Systems & Services of Germantown, Maryland, include 35 in Riverside County; four in Shasta County; three in the city of Santa Clarita; and one each in Moorpark and Camarillo. Several dozen more are operating in Oregon, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas, according to the LS&S web site.

The shift toward private management of these libraries has alarming implications, according to the League of California Cities, a leading opponent of the Williams bill.

A League opposition paper asserted, “When local government officials contract out library services, they are doing their best to keep the library open. This legislation undermines this effort by dictating how and when public officials can contract out a service.” Also worrisome to opponents is a “further erosion by the state of local control.”

Proponents include labor unions, which sponsored a rally at the state capitol Monday and which claim the legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would provide taxpayers with “important information about library privatization efforts in their community.” Also, the bill would require “credible evidence that the community will benefit from privatization.”



  1. WiseGuy says:

    Notice how it is usually the people who have been blessed with so much, who have a home, food and loved ones and very little to worry about who are so quick to want to trash others and deny them things and complain, complain, complain. They are sick and a major part of the problem with our society.

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
  2. rogerfreberg says:

    Be honest folks, If we didn’t have public libraries , where would the homeless live? Hmmm, I wonder if a ‘private’ company operating a library could post a sign that said ‘no bath, no service.’

    There are a few libraries that have real books, the Library of Congress; but they are selling off some books too… I have one. Most libraries haven’t taken it to the next level… internet and librarians who speak Google Scholar… and coffee lounges…. they are still locked in offering Romance novels and cds and dvds…. and a place for homeless to sleep and bathe.

    So, please don’t defend libraries because they are a defacto homeless center.

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • WiseGuy says:

      Screw you, Freberg. Your bigotry against the “homeless” and public libraries is disgusting and harms our community and the very people who could use help.

      You are also misleading any naive readers here who haven’t learned that you are so full of B.S..

      The public libraries I visit in this county are wonderful and my experiences there are nice. Whether or not there are “homeless” folks there, I can’t say. I don’t judge and discriminate against people based on their domestic situation. If the libraries are helping “homeless” folks, what is wrong with that?

      But in no case I’ve seen would anyone buy a nut-case confuse a library with a homeless shelter.

      You’re so full of yourself Roger. You don’t have a clue how disgusting and sick you come off as. It’s always about YOU and what YOU think and who YOU approve of and who YOU think we should discriminate against. You’re sick.

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
  3. NuttyBuddy says:

    How is it our municipalities can’t run a library without a loss, yet some contractor is going to be able to run one well enough to turn a profit? I have a friend in Santa Clarita who says the library situation there is pitiful now, thanks to the contractor.

    (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Then they should find ANOTHER contractor.

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
      • tc says:

        There is one, and ONLY one private contractor in the country and that is LSSI. There is no competition for them and they are not accountable to the communities they serve, only the councils directly.

        (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
  4. abigchocoholic says:

    Library? What’s that? Do you find them in a corner of a museum?

    Going to the library when you have the internet is like hooking up the horse and buggy instead of hopping into the car. Like playing a record player when you have Itunes. Like driving around looking for a phone booth when you have a cell phone in your pocket. Like having a witch doctor tap a hole in your skull with a rock and sharp stick to let out the evil spirits instead of taking a few aspirin—-okay, that one went way too far.

    (-21) 31 Total Votes - 5 up - 26 down
    • librarycatz says:

      My goodness, but it’s been a long time since you’ve been in the real world, hasn’t it? The internet is a lovely place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’m sure it’s escaped your notice, but not everyone can afford the internet, or iTunes, although most have cell phones. They come to the library for internet access, music, videos, and yes, even books. They also come to have real people help them find what they need or learn what they need. Public library use here at least has increased rather dramatically over the last ten years, and I think it’s true generally across the United States.

      (13) 15 Total Votes - 14 up - 1 down
      • abigchocoholic says:

        And the reason we want people to go to the library to get free internet, music, cds and dvds is what again? The reason its a good thing that the government is supplying free entertainment is what?

        Why get a job when you can collect welfare, live in a section 8 home, get medicaid and then go to the government entertainment center and surf the net and take home free music and dvds?

        (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future”

          Ray Bradbury

          (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  5. winedude says:

    I’m not saying that Paso Robles has the ideal situation but there are less than four full-time employees of the Paso Robles Library. There are about 125 volunteers that do everything (like staff the Childrens’ Desk like my wife) that full-time employees used to do. The Paso library may not be open 7 days a week (closed on Sundays) but it is open 10 hours/day during the week and 7 hours on Saturday. Other, larger, libraries in the county should be open as much!

    (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
    • tc says:

      maybe you can have 96% of your employer switch to volunteer labor. That is ow LSSI operates for a profit margin too.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  6. r0y says:

    Duh… government cannot compete with the private sector unless it hamstrings it’s competition. So either we’re all “willing to do the job” or not. If we’re willing, then we can work for a private company that can competitively out-bid the government.

    Happens all the time in our state. Look at the Parks system; water, electricity, etc.

    I am always amazed when people are taken aback learning the government cannot run something efficiently. What planet have they been on for the past… ever.

    (-3) 25 Total Votes - 11 up - 14 down
    • WiseGuy says:

      So “rOy”,according to your “logic” you are implying that we should privatize our fire departments, police departments and our military and turn over your parks to Disney Corp or some other company that hopes to profit from letting citizens use public land.

      Why do you want to turn over so many public resources into the hands of private companies? Sounds like a giveaway to me.

      (11) 25 Total Votes - 18 up - 7 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      It’s the anti-capitalistic mentality. People are taught to hate the economic system which keeps them alive and well.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down

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