Outsourcing the public library system in America?
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; It was almost two years ago that Nevada County Government took a serious look at outsourcing our public libraries as a way of saving money. Supervisors ended up bowing to public pressure to keep our libraries under local control, and adopting a reduced budget that the Friends of the Library helped craft. But the debate about and practice of privatizing public libraries continues across the nation.
A recent article in Stateline, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States which reports and analyzes trends in state policy, looked at the results of outsourcing library operations in other parts of the country. Titled and#8220;Outsourcing the local library can lead to a loud backlash,and#8221; the piece examines the practices and track record of LSSI, the only company in the nation, to date, which takes over management of public libraries.
Currently the fifth largest library system in the country, LSSI runs 68 branch libraries in several states. In some communities, LSSI has gradually won acceptance; other municipalities have been unhappy with LSSIand#8217;s practices, and have taken back control of their public libraries. Although the company makes promises about improving services and saving money, many communities choose to keep public control of their libraries and#8212; even if it means cutting back staff and hours.
The American Library Association (ALA), which has a policy statement opposing outsourcing, has developed a checklist for reviewing privatization proposals. ALAand#8217;s chair of the task force on privatization notes, and#8220;Thereand#8217;s a different standard of transparency and accountability between a public library and a private organization.and#8221;
A bill currently awaiting a Senate floor vote in the Californian State Assembly would require communities to follow a series of proscribed steps before outsourcing the management of public libraries. Das Williams, author of the bill, stated, and#8220;All of the things that LSSI or another company promises to the public for cost savings should have proof, and it should be proof that is presented to the public in a public meeting with adequate notice.and#8221;
However, Kyra Ross, legislative representative at the League of California Cities, believes that the bill would eliminate the outsourcing option: and#8220;The practical impact of this bill is to simply ban a city from contracting out library services.and#8221;
Read the full article at stateline.org.
and#8212; Pam McAdoo is with the Friends of the Truckee Library; she emailed this story to email@example.com.